Last February 2020 was a memorable moment for me because I am very honoured to be able standing in front of their majesty King and Queen of The Netherlands, which I never imagine before. I was asked by Dries a program manager of Dutch Design Week to present our experience during collaboration project in Indonesia in 2018-2019 in the state visit programme held by Dutch Culture. Overall, we had a lot fun and interactive session in presenting.
We also showed their majesty and the audience about our project a bit and share our thoughts about the takeaways from the programme for around 5 minutes.
There are the clear differences in the design process, mindset of the designers, and cultural values of Dutch and Indonesian designers. Dutch designers like to think on a systemic level, they are very direct and their works are often future-oriented, while Indonesian designers are more focused on details and in their work tend to depart from the identity, cultural values, and traditions that are deeply-rooted in Indonesian society.
While the problems we face are not so different, the scale is. In Indonesia, the challenges are on a very fundamental scale, meaning they are still working on fulfilling basic needs for a big group of citizens. While in the Netherlands, the living standard is already very high and the Dutch system to tackle these questions is also organized better, resulting in problems on a smaller scale and more designers working on securing and improving the quality of life.
We also have different factors in designing solutions. In Indonesia, there are a lot of human and natural resources. A digital ride-hailing company like Gojek for example, can grow extremely fast by empowering Indonesia’s enormous population. Or develop sustainable packaging solutions, using Indonesia’s vast amount of natural resources like banana leaves and cassava, to replace plastics.
On the other hand, in the Netherlands, there are many technology-driven innovations, like the Ocean Clean-up machine, making an impact. And in the Netherlands it’s easier to make connections with organisations and stakeholders, as there is less hierarchy in the industry. It’s very common for people to just approach people for a cup of coffee, to explore possible collaborations or exchange knowledge, expertise or network.
Co-creation and curiosity are the key to success. It is not only our nationalities that add value, but also working with different backgrounds. Personally, when designing in Indonesia, I tended to focus on one thing and sometimes I got fixated. While Marleen, my design partner in What If Lab, helped me to find our blind spots in the problem which gave me more insights from different design perspectives. That made us innovate differently.
Working in this international lab we have identified some factors for success we would like to share:
1. We need to be in contact with local stakeholders willing to think differently, building a network of changemakers to make an impact.
2. There has to be opportunity in a project to go out of your comfort zone
, to become more open for innovation.
3. We need true collaboration with the people we are designing for. Designers should go out into the world and understand what people are thinking to co-create inclusive solutions.
What If Lab is one of the amazing programs that offer professional experience and cultural exchange. This is an anchor for us to keep moving forward towards building long-term solutions. Dutch and Indonesian design have different strengths in how we understand and solve problems, so the combination of those strengths will help us make better work.
This project has been a wonderful way to plant a seed for further collaboration in Indonesia, building a network of people and institutions that want to make a difference. We hope we can let this seed grow into more meaningful collaborations between our countries in the near future.
Vivian Maretina and Dries Van Wagenberg
Amsterdam, February 2019
See more info from Dutch Culture’s website