A few words with the polymath powerhouse behind Dutch industrial-design giant Droog.
If the Netherlands’ 20-year stranglehold on wry, eclectic, and perpetually well-wrought design can be laid at any one organization’s doorstep it’s the one belonging to Droog. (Sorry, Design Academy Eindhoven.) And together with cofounder Gijs Bakker, Renny Ramakers has seen the powerhouse collective debut icons like Marcel Wanders’s Knotted chair and Tejo Remy’s chest of drawers. But a new pair of initiatives from Ramakers—who, when not guiding Droog, works by turns as a curator, author, art historian, educator, and critic—looks more toward the company’s bright green future than its punchy past.
“Design does not only manifest itself through products, interiors, graphics, garments, or buildings,” says Ramakers, “but also through tools, services, scenarios, new business models, and other ways of engaging with society.” The two top-down initiatives are examples of the new social engagement: Droog Lab began in 2009 and is an incubator for multipartner global design projects, while UP, which launched in late 2011, is an economic model for bringing materials otherwise headed for the rubbish heap back into production. By sourcing deadstock goods and delivering them to designers to create something utterly new, UP extends a material’s life cycle while bringing more creativity and value to market.
Though Ramakers concedes that at the outset Droog was far more focused on products, the same brand of boundary-pushing navigation of the material world has always been at the company’s core. “For me, it’s all a part of the same story: facets of an exploration of what design can do.”