zgdw nizozemska


a Dutch approach to societal challenges

An exhibition reflecting on the topic of  ‘Resilience’ by Dutch design curators Marleen van Bergeijk and Lisa Hardon for Zagreb Design Week 2021.


As partner country in Zagreb Design Week 2021 we reflect on this year’s theme ‘Resilience’ from the perspective of Dutch design. The concept of ‘Dutch Design’ has become known all over the world. It started in the 90s, when the movement and brand of Dutch Design took off as a reaction to the traditional design culture of that time. Characteristics of this now iconic movement are the conceptual, experimental and innovative approach, often with a humorous twist. Led by designers Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders, Jurgen Bey and Tejo Remy they paved the road for a more unconventional approach to design.

Fast forward to 2021. In the past 30 years, the important societal questions have shifted, in the world and in The Netherlands. This has influenced the playfield of design too. When we look at design from the standpoint of solving problems, it can be stated that the problems that need solving have changed. The world is facing globally complex challenges that relate to climate change, sustainability, inequality and social tension. We are experiencing the limits to growth and its consequences in real life. As a result, an important element of responsibility, activism and acknowledgement of these complicated challenges has entered the field of Dutch design. Dutch design nowadays reflects these ideas of social and environmental responsibility, and designers use their creative power to address bigger issues and offer possible solutions. Thanks to international collaborations and exchange of knowledge, this mentality in design has shifted to ways of designing that reach far beyond the Dutch border. In the 21st century, the new Dutch design is social. mooi!


The Dutch word for resilience is ‘veerkracht’. This literally means ‘the force of a spring’ and refers to a spiral shape. When it’s pressed down there is increased tension. Upon release it will bounce back up with forceful lightness and flexibility. A beautiful metaphor for when times are challenging: the force downwards fuels our urge and creativity to bounce back.

But bouncing back is not something that can be done overnight. The road towards resilience consists of many turns and stories. It starts with a shock, a throwback, when things are turned upside down. Then, in the eye of the storm, suddenly a load of creativity is released which unites people in solving the problems together. At the same time there is grief and pain, while people want to ‘go back to normal’ as soon as possible. But what is normal when everything has changed?

Impactful times force us to take a step back. Before we move on, we must pause and reflect to see the opportunities that lay ahead. Only then we can decide what we leave behind,  which valuable elements of the past we keep and which innovative new ideas we implement for the future. By combining what once was with the curiosity of what will come, we can use the power of resilience to build back better.