We live in a harsh world. Violence, hatred and uncertainty devour our present and can lead to a general sense of angst. Design is a discipline that deals with everyday life, reflecting on people’s needs and dreams and transforming them into desirable objects. It feeds on beauty, research and innovation, but also on psychology and social studies. How do young designers react to such an unwelcoming society?
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During the Dutch Design Week in late October, the city of Eindhoven, which usually keeps a low profile, goes through a radical transformation: it becomes vibrant, exciting and bursting with creativity. Design and art exhibitions are organized in every corner of the city, in particular in the old industrial area –Strijp-s– that once belonged to Philips. For ten days Eindhoven literally becomes the City of Cool.

Every respectable City of Cool has a school. In Eindhoven the School of Cool is the Design Academy, and that is the first place to go in order to answer our initial question. The Design Academy’s graduation show showcased an impressively large number of projects. During their academy years, the students choose to deal with different man-related matters such as communication, identity, well-being, public/private and mobility. By questioning and researching they develop answers to practical and emotional needs, blending them new technologies and innovative materials.

Reflecting on the lack of intimacy with the surrounding ambient, Sara Lundberg created Yaris, a soft fuzzy table lamp which changes the intensity of the light according on how you stroke it and pet it. As awareness of overproduction in the fashion industry grows, Julia Bocanet presents her Distilled Wardrobe: a few beautiful items with increased wearability, such as a pair of trousers that turn into a skirt when twisted. Still within fashion, but this time focusing on body perception, we find Debora Dax and her Ddress Transition, a collection of loose fitting garments especially created for M to F transgenders, carefully designed to emphasize their new feminine figure and to minimalize the discomfort of wearing clothes which usually have too tight shoulders, too short sleeves and too wide hips for a body that was originally the one of a male.
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Body perception is also the theme of Michèle Degen’s Vulva Versa. A small mirror that allows women to observe their vaginas in order to facilitate awareness, erase any sense of shame or indecency and to dismantle deeply rooted taboos caused by image manipulation and by the lack of a honest and intimate vision of oneself.

Sexuality is also the theme of the titillating exhibition For Play (on until November 13th), hosted at MU gallery in Strijp-s and curated by Sanne Muiser and Tom Loois, who look longingly at the spontaneity and inventiveness of genuine sex in a world dominated by commercial porn. The exhibition shows a selection of strongly evocative works, such as Digna Kosse’s Minimal Dresses, designed to adorn the bodies without covering more than a few inches of their natural beauty, and Jan Pieter Kaptein’s Fort Folly, a giant comfy bed for long playing acts.

But nowadays being a designer is not just about designing, it’s a real lifestyle. True to this concept, the young collective Popcore joined forces to bring design not just into people’s houses but also in their lives. Not only do they organize and curate their own exhibitions, but they also throw parties, promote other kind of artistic disciplines and generally contribute to make city life more thrilling. Their exhibition was hosted into the former concept store You Are Here.

At this point it is probably safe to say that we have the answer to our initial question: How do young designers react to such an unwelcoming society? With optimism.
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