me stuff

witkar2go (first posted 23rd of aug 13.)


this is a post i wrote as contributor to the amsterdam ad blog ‘something related to amsterdam’ column, originally posted obn the 23rd of august 2013…


For me Amsterdam is still a place where a lot of mad and weird people join forces and collectively come up with unconventional, surprising and progressive ideas that are (sometimes) way ahead of their time.

For example this story from the fabulous ‘oud amsterdam’ facebook page about the ‘witkar’ experiment at the height of the hippie era (1968); which nearly became a reality. Twenty five years later, of course, it has…

I recently took a ride in the ‘Car2Go’ bumper cars and was suprised that it was all a reasonably ‘ok’ experience. If I had a choice, however; I would definitely go for the ‘James Bond / Goldfinger / Thunderball’ vibe of the original one anyday.

this is a previous article (from the 14th of june) which i hadn’t yet posted: 1000 years of amsterdam

m / 26-08-2013 07:57 - tags: , , ,  

lifesize lego (first posted 5th april ’13)


this is a post i wrote as contributor to the amsterdam ad blog ‘something related to amsterdam’ column, originally posted on the 5th of april ’13…

lifesize lego

Like most new technology 3D printing provides easy access to previously impossible ideas and potentially allows everyone to create new things. Some of the ideas I have seen so far look promising, others less so… Like the American guy trying to establish an open-source weapon printing industry. Do it yourself guns to print at home… ready to kill, what a dreadful notion that is.

On a more positive note Amsterdam may be the first city to realise a 3D printed building this year (or next). Combined with other exciting modern techniques such as this, these could be the first steps in realising a genuine change to the way we build houses and who decides why or where this happens.

Count me in. More info here.

m / 06-04-2013 18:37 - tags: , , ,  

a thread of optimism (first posted 25th jan. ’13)


this is a post i wrote as contributor to the amsterdam ad blog ‘something related to amsterdam’ column, originally posted on the 25th of january ’12…

A thread of optimism

On a sunny day, somewhere in the mid 90’s I sat on a café terrace in Amsterdam and watched as two figures, a man and a woman (lovers?) floated by immersed in the water of the canal as they stared at each other intensely. Slowly the people around me began to notice them too and before long an excited, happy crowd had gathered to observe the two mysterious floating heads.

Not many people however, had noticed the guy stood further back hiding behind parked cars with a remote control panel in his hand and a grin on his face. The heads were fake and the artist obviously preferred to enjoy the positive effect of his work on people at a safe distance. I later learnt that the same man was responsible for another favourite ‘Amsterdam oddity’ of mine: the VW Beetle covered in animated christmas lights that suddenly appears every year in town, to the delight of most who come across it… No explanation, no message or ‘big idea’ just a weird and fun apparition on the streets guaranteed to draw a crowd and make you smile.

The point is, I have seen neither the Beetle nor the floating heads for years now, I miss them and wondered where they are. So I googled him of course… It turns out that the (American) creator Eric Staller left Amsterdam (after 15 years) in 2010 but still likes to draw the crowds with his optimistic and weird art, only now back in San Fransisco.


p.s. Eric apparently also invented the Conference Bike, which looks and sounds great on paper… that is untill you’ve seen a few of those dumb ‘beer bikes’ full of drunken tourists shuffling around town. So I have an idea Eric: how about we swap you all of the beer bikes in return for the one Beetle? Many thanks in advance…

m / 28-01-2013 09:05 - tags: , , , ,  

the cortical homunculus (translated)

i have finally got round to translating the piece on ‘tactile design’ i wrote for papier hier back in august, see below…


See this: the ‘Cortical Homunculus’ an amusing name and a fascinating depiction (or is it an infographic?) of the relationship between the body and the mind, or rather a kind of google maps of the senses. I stumbled upon it via Wikipedia in search of a definition of the term tactile. Exactly what does it mean?. Funnily enough Wikipedia didn’t have an answer, although i did find this piece:

Touch (in the tactile sense) is the ability of an organism to perceive (or acknowledge) pressure. This senses’ ability to perceive is called feeling.

Right, exactly…

Soon afterwards I realised that ‘Papier Hier’ is organised by a paper distributor. Antalis, a company that is highly connected to the term ‘tactile’. So I politely decided to look it up in an old (lovely, stale-smelling) dictionary printed on 60 grams rough uncoated stock and there it was; brief, clear and understandable:

“tactile: tangible, touchable” aha… I see

Tactile design. On the one hand a rather fashionable term in design circles since the past say 3, 4, 5, or 6 years. Also a term that has kept design book publishers pretty busy. In my opinion it is a term that can be rather broadly interpreted. Certainly in a field like design that is so susceptible to the winds of change, fresh ideas / visions and the latest ‘new black’.

Full disclosure: I am a designer and much of my own work also gets described (by others) in that fashion. Visitors, students and journalists always seem to be most preoccupied with those parts of my work that could be deemed to be ‘tactile’. Whichever way you look at it; it is definitely a phenomenon that is ‘in the air’ right now, of which more later.

Although when it comes to tactility, much like other trendy terms (such as infographics) there really is nothing new under the sun. Take for example, the renowned ‘boek van ptt’ created by Piet Zwart in 1938. He, in turn, was strongly influenced by the russian avant-garde and everything that was ‘in flux’ in the art world at that time. His book is, for me, a rare and admirable example of how a playful mind plus an urge to experiment can lead to innovation.

On the other hand the considerable interest in tactility, haptic design, revival of old & forgotten techniques and handmade work is a logical and easily explained shift in this digital age. Screens are playing a greater and greater role in how people come into contact with design. Separated from each other by a thin sheet of glass, perhaps we are aching more than ever for a tangible environment. Not just for rather shabby visual metaphors like fake e-book pages that ‘turn’ or cameras bereft of moving parts that say ‘click’ when you shoot.

We are searching for authenticity and tangible experiences, to once again use the whole spectrum of our senses. The world is becoming more complex and movement in one direction inevitably leads to movement occurring in the opposite sense. What i have noticed personally is that the younger generation (the so-called digital natives) are the most fanatical when it comes to finding new forms of expression beyond merely their (native) digital one. A noteworthy and highly interesting observation to my mind.

Newborn babies are fleetingly (almost) blind and instinctively forced into using the remaining senses: taste, smell and sound. In other words, it’s in our nature. Embracing other methods to express myself & learning new processes has at least in my own case lead to a richer, more playful, uncertain and exciting range of experiences. It has never been a question of being anti-computer, quite the opposite. Rather a question of making sure i have all of the available options at my disposal and making sure i employ them too.

Terms that come to mind when considering the word ‘tactile’:

• hands on, physical, sensory
• revealing & dissecting the process, a disregard for perfection
• playfulness, temporary
• more honest and individual work
• employing more dimensions, more depth
• more realistic, authentic, approachable, touchable
• celebrate humanity and imperfection instead of fearing them

Perhaps tactility isn’t just a question of touch but rather about our ability to ‘feel’. How something comes about, what it represents, our capacity for empathy and how we explain and share the things that matter with each other.
That would certainly feel good.

me studio, 24th aug. ’12

m / 03-12-2012 09:42 - tags: , ,  

mapping the dam (23rd of nov. ’12)

this is a post i wrote as contributor to the amsterdam ad blog ‘something related to amsterdam’ column, originally posted on the 23rd of nov. ’12…

mapping amsterdam

I recently came across three online projects, each mapping certain aspects of the city I call home, in its own specific way: Designer Hans Gremmens’ wonderful Amsterdamdam which collates the turbulent history of the ‘Dam’ into an intriguing visual story. A real-time map of the decibel levels (‘geluidsnet’) created by Schiphol Airport. Usually worst when we have strong winds at this time of year (forcing planes to travel straight over the city centre). And finally a project documenting lost or forgotten street names; which badly needs input if you happen to know of any…

m / 25-11-2012 12:55 - tags: , ,