Dutch Design Week: putting the Netherlands on the map

Dutch Design Week 2022, currently being held in Eindhoven, will bring together designers and entrepreneurs from all over the world. What’s on this year’s programme? And what’s the significance of this annual event for the Netherlands? Dewi van de Weerd, Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation, is your guide to Dutch Design Week.

Enlarge image Dutch Design Week 2021: ‘Cabinet of Collaborations’
Image: ©About.today
Dutch Design Week 2021: ‘Cabinet of Collaborations’ exhibition.

What is Dutch Design Week?

Dutch Design Week is one of the biggest design events in Europe. This year, it will bring over 2,600 designers to various locations in Eindhoven, from fashion designers to architects and game developers – individuals and organisations that view global challenges from a design perspective. You can visit the event from 22 to 30 October.

Theme of Dutch Design Week 2022

‘The theme of this edition of Dutch Design Week is Get Set: We’re on a Mission,’ says Dewi van de Weerd, the Netherlands’ Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation. ‘We’re currently facing big challenges, for which we need big ideas. Challenges like climate change, healthcare, migration and energy. It’s time for people, governments and businesses to take action.’ Design plays an intriguing role in this process: ‘Designers are able to sketch future scenarios – and to think of innovative ways of dealing with them.’

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is very interested by the opportunities this week presents for international cultural collaboration. So that’s why Dewi will be there.

Enlarge image Dewi van de Weerd op Dutch Design Week 2021
Dewi van de Weerd, Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation at Dutch Design Week 2021.

What is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs doing for Dutch Design Week?

Let’s back up a bit: what exactly does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs do in this area, and why do we need an Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation? ‘In my role as ambassador I spend a lot of time out and about in the cultural sector, working with theatres, museums, festivals and events. Our embassies all over the world create new opportunities for Dutch nationals abroad, and bring people and businesses together. For example, we know what important festivals and expos take place in individual countries, and who you need to contact. We work to help Dutch people active in the cultural scene find their way around in other countries. So our embassies are real matchmakers, also during Dutch Design Week.’

A global cultural network

‘The Ministry of Foreign Affairs invites contacts from all over the world to Dutch Design Week,’ Dewi explains. ‘We select individuals of special interest to the design sector through targeted visitors’ programmes – designers, for instance, but also curators and museum directors. In this way we show the world what the Netherlands has to offer. And that leads to new international partnerships and opportunities for Dutch design abroad.’

‘A good example of this is Building Beyond, a mentorship programme for young, promising artists and architects from Africa. During their visit to Dutch Design Week they’ll not only find inspiration, but also the opportunity to share experiences during “speed dates” with talented Dutch counterparts. An appealing way of sharing Dutch expertise on an equal footing and of helping the creative sector in other countries to meet sustainability targets. Building Beyond is a joint initiative by the Prince Claus Fund and the Creative Industries Fund. Both are partners of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and work to promote sustainable development through culture and the creative industry. During Dutch Design Week I also talk a lot to Dutch designers, to ask how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could help them gain a footing abroad.’

Enlarge image Dutch Design Week 2021: ‘The greater number in numbers’
Image: ©Tommy Köhlbrugge
Dutch Design Week 2021: ‘The greater number in numbers’ exhibition.

How important is Dutch Design Week for the Netherlands?

‘The creative sector accounts for around 4% of all jobs in the Netherlands,’ says Dewi. ‘That’s higher than the global average. It means it’s even more important for the Netherlands to put our culture and creative industry on the map. That’s why Dutch Design Week is one of our flagship events: an internationally renowned expo. It attracts the crème de la crème of designers, both from the Netherlands and abroad.’

Dutch Design Week: the crème de la crème of Dutch and international designers

‘Dutch Design Week is a great opportunity for designers to share their creations with the world and to network internationally. But it also gives the Netherlands the chance to attract new ideas.’ An example: ‘Summers are getting hotter because of global warming. In some countries they build houses in a way that creates natural air circulation – without air conditioning. So our construction sector can learn from other countries. Innovations like these make Dutch Design Week enormously inspiring, year after year. I’m looking forward to being wowed by this year’s edition!’

Changes in our society

‘Through art and culture you can inspire people to reflect on the changes in our society. For example by making complex issues subjects of discussion. It’s even part of the Coalition Agreement, which pledged to “involve the creative industries in major challenges facing our society”. And the question of how to deploy the creative sector in tackling these challenges – issues like climate change, and access to water and energy – is exactly what Dutch Design Week will be focusing on.’

International cultural collaboration, all year round

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs works all year round to smooth the path of Dutch nationals seeking to break into international markets, and to exchange knowledge, opportunities, ideas and innovations with other countries. ‘In the Netherlands we have a strong cultural sector that likes to spread its wings abroad,’ says Dewi. ‘And we give them a helping hand.’

You can find more information about international opportunities at DutchCulture.nl. And do you want to know more about the work of the ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation? Follow @nlambassadorforculture on Instagram.