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Dutch conference promotes design as catalyst for social change
Mar 7, 2011

What Design Can Do, an international conference taking place May 26 and 27, shows design not as an aesthetic, but as a mindset for addressing social issues.
Photographer and art director Oliviero Toscani and Scott Stowell from Good Magazine, architects from MVRDV, fashion designer Monique van Heist and design agency Thonik will all participate in the activist conference.
An initiative from within the Dutch design world, What Design Can Do aims to provide an inspiring platform for an international movement consisting of designers, architects, fashion designers and social designers who work on solutions regarding shape, strategy or production methods on a daily basis from within their respective professions.

Designer Julia Lohmann developed an installation entitled ‘The Catch’ to raise the alarm on over-fishing (above). The clothing designs of Monique van Heist defy the rarely eco-friendly conventions of the fashion world. Johan Jonker and Pettie Petzer developed the Hippo Water Roller (below), a large water barrel with a handle for pushing, to enable locals to transport larger quantities of water in dry areas. Everything will be compiled in a Book of Great Ideas and Solutions that will be put together live and presented at the end of the two-day event.

Supporters of What Design Can Do include DutchDFA, Design Cooperation Brainport, Premsela, NAi, BNO and the Fonds BKVB. These institutions aim to stimulate designers to think about the social function of design. This is in contrast to the current image of design, which is still too focused on that attractive vase or contemporary sofa. What Design Can Do - which is set to become an annual event - will prove that this is an outmoded notion.

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