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Visionary: Renny Ramakers of Droog

renny-ramakers-droog
photo via The New York Times

“Reality isn’t static anymore. It’s not a set of ideas you either have to fight or resign yourself to. It’s made up, in part, of ideas that are expected to grow as you grow, and as we all grow, century after century.” – Robert M. Pirsig, Zen: The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,1974 , as referenced by Renny Ramakers, Co-founder and Director of Droog.

Recently, we introduced you to Droog, a conceptual design company located in Amsterdam. We mentioned the various facets of the company and how the Droog Lab is quickly becoming a globally known research hub that brings relevant solutions to its clients, and people of the world. Many of us live life hoping to one day start something that we can call our own. Few, actually go ahead and do it. After learning about Droog, I was particularly interested in the projects that this company is currently involved in, and was estatic when Co-founder and Director of Droog, Renny Ramakers, agreed to chat with us about her beginnings and her vision for the future of Droog.

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Vidafine: After some research, we discovered that you have a history background. How did you transition into global design from what you studied in school? What drew you to this particular industry?

Renny: After studying art history I reached a point in which I wanted to impact it. Art history gave me broad perspective and critical rigour that I combined with my ability to sense what is going on at the present. Together with the Co-founder of Droog, Gijs Bakker, we noticed a movement that some designers in the Netherlands were pioneering. We gave it a title and a presence that took off, and eventually became global.

Vidafine: Knowing about the past and how things ‘used to be’ definitely can drive someone to initiate change for the future. What is your ultimate goal for Droog?

Renny: I am quite ambitious and we have many plans… I started Droog because I found it necessary to present a new spirit in design. At that time this new spirit was based on a conceptual approach. Now, one can see this approach everywhere and as I feel it, it is time for new impulses. That’s why I started the Lab. But we are also trying other directions, and are working on other models. For instance, our presentation this past April in Milan, Saved by Droog, has opened up a new way of working (by treating unwanted products as raw material for product development) and we want to continue on this path. Ultimately, I want to express that Droog is not a design collective but a company. Our company is content driven but it also wants to make profit.

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Vidafine: Founding your own company is definitely a lifetime milestone. What’s your most memorable moment as Co-founder and Director of Droog?

Renny: One of the moments I will never forget is when we realized one day before the opening of an exhibition in Milan that the exhibition design prepared by a designer was not going to work—it simply did not fit in the space. We then made a new design on the spot, improvising with what we could get in the neighbourhood easily. It turned out to be a fantastic presentation. It was The inevitable ornament in 1998.

Vidafine: Wow! I guess being in charge really requires you to think on your feet! I’m glad everything worked out and the exhibit was a success! Other than designing products, Droog has also started a Lab you mentioned earlier. Tell us more about this great project; why you decided to start it and what steps do you/your team take to find relevant projects?

Renny: The Lab is a series of eight projects in which we go to a location to learn something from a place and translate it into something with broader value for contemporary design and society. I started the Lab because I found that design was focusing too much upon itself, that it was oriented too much around the designer’s ego, and around the object. At the same time, I was also reacting against developments which create a façade of sameness in the world, when in reality places are very different from one another. I wanted to set up projects that could pave a new direction for design. The Lab takes unique qualities of places as inspiration and translates them into something with global relevance. Relevance comes from an interesting combination of theme with place.

Vidafine: I think what Droog has in mind is precisely what people would appreciate. I think there are many great initiatives, projects and ways of doing things that are positive, happening around the world. What’s lacking is an outlet or organization that really helps to exploit those ideas. Tell us more about the Luxury of the North project (after all we are from Canada!). What are you hoping to achieve with it and what practical steps can the public take to help move the project forward?

Renny: We sent a team of designers to the Canadian North (Pond Inlet) to be inspired by the people’s way of living in extreme and remote conditions. They met with many locals ranging from a co-op store manager, to a high school teacher, a wildlife officer, a construction worker, and a kid fishing at 2am in daylight (they went during 24/7 hours of daylight in the summer)… Of course the North is faced with many challenges, but we also found many positive qualities—like the passing down of knowledge rather than wealth, seasonal behaviour that includes hibernation when conditions are tough, and the careful planning of imports (the ship only comes once a year). I hope the outcome will be a vision of a future city inspired by the ways of living in the North.

Vidafine: On the premise of collaboration, what are Droog’s goal for Droog al Arab? How are you looking to collaborate with the people of Dubai?

Renny: The outcome of Droog al Arab is an online platform for collaborative design inspired by Dubai’s ambition, Dubai as a hub for exchange between the Arab and non-Arab world, and its strong sense of hierarchy. The outcome met our goal of translating the qualities of a place into an outcome with broader relevance. In developing this concept we worked with locals, but the outcome is meant for anyone.

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Making a name for the Netherlands in the design space and presenting fresh ideas to the global world, Renny has created a company worth talking about. I’m excited for all of Droog’s upcoming projects, specifically in the Lab as it will affect us all. Thanks Renny for sharing your passion with us. Best of luck in the road ahead!

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