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Translation by Anneke Maas

During Dutch Design Week, E52 will be introducing you to the festival’s Hidden Gems. Ten special designers who we feel are the stand-outs of this edition. A different Hidden Gem will enjoy the limelight each day of DDW. Today: Renee Scheepers (designer, researcher, founder Nul Zes)

What Designer vs researcher
By Renee Scheepers
Where Nul Zes, NRE-area

Renee Scheepers is actually doing too much to capture in this story. She’s a designer, once graduated with honors at the Design Academy Eindhoven. In addition, she’s a researcher, founder of Nul Zes, city ambassador and closely involved in the development of the NRE-area. During DDW, she gives an insight into her versatile work world. Here’s a preview – on the basis of four defining moments.

We thought: we want to be that established order ourselvesRenee Scheepers, Founder Nul Zes

Designing is investigating

During my time at the DAE, we were sent to the estate ‘De Grote Beek’, the terrain of the GGzE (Mental Healthcare Eindhoven) for an assignment. The assignment was short: go there and see what you can mean as a designer. That is interesting, I thought. We normally work with clear projects, with a beginning and an end. With an assignment that reads: make this or that. Now we were only given a context. You had to come up with the question yourself. It was a turning point. I realized I had to act like a researcher. How do visitors get here? What are the underlying interests? What ideas are there?

For my graduation, I used that view to look at an irradiation institute for cancer patients. What is coming at you? How do you process that as a patient? Research shows that good provision of information plays a part in the chances of survival for people with cancer. If you have trust in the information you receive, you often take better decisions.

As a patient, you have to wait a lot. In the waiting room, you’re looking at doors that are all closed. You start to imagine what is happening behind them. I have tried to break the ‘institute’. To make it more transparent. Also the radiation itself. What is that exactly? People often wonder whether it hurts. And whether they can keep their clothes on.

The result is the handbook Revealing maps of cancer care. It has changed several things in this institute. The way in which you are welcomed, the information about the journey you’re entering, the way of talking to patients. It is more empathic, without it becoming childish.

An own place

After graduating, I started Nul Zes. I have wanted to have my own place in Eindhoven for a long time. A nice work space with different people under one roof. Where we can just do nice things. Work, party, organize cabaret evenings.

In 2013, we started on the NRE-area. Nul Zes is a collective of designers with different backgrounds. We make a lot of use out of each other’s qualities.

Strengthen research skills

I still see myself as a researcher. When the DAE asked me to be a research associate, it was a nice opportunity for me to strenghten my research skills. As an associate, I contribute to research questions submitted by third parties. What we learn from that, also flows back into education.

My latest project? A project together with the water authorities and Woonbedrijf. The water authorities wondered how they could raise awareness around water. Residents play an important part in that. If you look at, for example, the number of medicines with which we pollute our water, there is still a lot we can improve. Through Woonbedrijf we came into contact to the residents of the district Geestenberg.

In such a process, I am aware of my role as a designer. I’m not a scientist, but I design ways to talk to people. Preferably a little playful and funny. From those conversations, I collect the building blocks for the research. For example, we found out that the district residents would want some more social contact. Even though, in the survey of Woonbedrijf, they invariably filled in they didn’t. Apparently they did want contact, but not through the activities that were currently being offered.

In Geestenberg, several things have been put in motion. Awareness, in this case around water, can’t be imposed. You have to discover it together. For example, we have gone on a water safari with a number of residents from the district who are in a mobility scooter.


These residents often don’t go further than their own road or the supermarket. So we went out with an area manager. I also went in a mobility scooter. He showed us a part of the Dommel that was under the rotten plants. Someone emptied his aquarium here, he explained. And he pointed out the tropical plant that was floating there. It makes tangible how we pollute our water ourselves.

Established order

Vacant sites in town are often temporarily filled with creatives. That is also how it started with us on the NRE-area. And when it’s starting to become fun, you have to leave. Make room for bigger companies, for the established order.

When the land on the NRE-terrain went for sale, we thought: we want to be that established order ourselves. Together with an investor, we’re soon going to buy our own space. We’re full of plans to make this property even more beautiful. And along with the other future NRE-residents we’re thinking about the further development of this area.

During DDW, you can already take a look here. Like every year, we organize something around the theme of the DDW with Nul Zes. And we like to badinage with that. This year, the theme is stretch. So expect a lot of stretching. And a search for the bar of the future.

The ten hidden gems of DDW came about in collaboration with Dutch Design Daily and curator Katja Lucas of DDW. Do you want to admire the hidden gems yourself? Every day, Urban Exploring Tours and KOGA bikes organize a special bike tour along the selected designers. Find out more here.

Translation by Anneke Maas