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The Driving Dutch Design program has been in existence for five years and has already produced several successful designers. The program is an initiative of ABN AMRO, the Dutch Design Foundation (DDF), and the Dutch Designers Organization (BNO). The program was created in 2012 to help designers become better entrepreneurs. Through the DDD, fifteen designers participate annually in workshops held over eleven months to learn more about communication, funding and positioning. In addition, the designers get a personal coach from ABN AMRO for the duration of the program. Marsha Simon (BNO), Martijn Paulen (DDF) and Ilona Roolvink (ABN AMRO) look back on five years of Driving Dutch Design and take a look at the future of the program.




Why did you begin with this program five years ago?
“Entrepreneurship is in our DNA. We noticed that young designers make very beautiful products, but they have trouble with marketing and putting food on the table”, according to Roolvink. Paulen also noticed this problem. “We saw that designers were asking for support in the development of their professionalization, so we as three parties said ‘Should we develop a program to offer that professional support?’” Simon explains why BNO started this: “We have a very large network of designers, in all shapes and sizes, and also a large network of trainers and knowledge partners. I think that the association that DDF and ABN AMRO already had was fantastic. For us, as a professional organization, it is important that the quality of the field of work remains high. If there are many young designers who have difficulties in the beginning and make a lot of mistakes, it’s important that we reach those people, find them, and that they are led well in their professional field. Of course, it is also important to us to stay with the younger generation and find a connection with them.”

“The program has gradually become stronger through us, but also through the participants themselves who have also inspired and thought each time: ‘we could also take another step here.”Martijn Paulen, Director Dutch Design Foundation

How do you view the last five years of Driving Dutch Design?
Paulen is very positive about this: “You see that the groups constantly inspire each other, they want to do something better than the previous year’s group. At one point, one group came up with the idea of, for example, participating in Dutch Design Week. The following year it was a given that they would be involved. Now there is a film, a book, and a meeting with the business sector to whom they will pitch. So the program has gradually become stronger through us, but also through the participants themselves who have also inspired and thought each time: ‘we could also take another step here.’” Roolvink also sees that the program has grown. It is definitely successful. When we started this, we had to look for designers, and now, designers themselves come to participate in the program. The fact that word-of-mouth advertising is already inside the design world, I think is telling. In addition, we notice that the program is becoming more comprehensive and many participants are pleased that there is increased attention on presenting and pitching.  Also, there are now regular projects for designers, and that is of course why you do it.” Simon adds: “Across the field there has been more focus on entrepreneurship in the past five years. There is a reason that this program got off the ground. It is nice to see that designers learn to be entrepreneurial and that the corporate world is also coming closer to the creative world. Included in the program now are: an exhibition, a pitch presentation, and a publication. That was not the case at the beginning, but if you think from a designer’s perspective, it is a great idea to work on an exhibition. Because they themselves indicated that they wanted to do that and put their energy into it, it now has its place. The program naturally developed from the business world and is now more of a fusion of the two worlds.”


What is your expectation for the coming five years of Driving Dutch Design?
The ultimate goal of Roolvink’s is that the program no longer exists. “That sounds a bit crazy, but this program actually started because academies spent so much time on the creative side but far too little on entrepreneurship. That is improving though, that is what we have also noticed, but there is still a need for the program that we established. My ultimate goal would be that it is no longer necessary, that it is better incorporated in the training, which allows you to make use of the parties that are now involved, for example, by inviting guest lecturers or guest speakers. In any case, that it will be a part of the training.” Simon shares this hope: “I hope that it is no longer necessary because the academies themselves understand that it is an essential part of the training, whether someone is going to start for themselves or going to work in an office. Designers have been working for almost a year on an intensive program. I believe that if people are already becoming better prepared during their studies then they have enough time here and there to do a masterclass or workshop.


Following five years of Driving Dutch Design, we will feature two more interviews with former participants.

Photo credits: Jeroen van der Wielen