History of Design/ Droog Essay

Droog started as an experiment. In April 1993, Dutch design historian, Renny Ramakers and industrial designer, Gijs Bakker presented a collection at the International Furniture Fair in Milan, not knowing how the public would respond to it. A stark contrast from the high-art, sleek furniture displayed, their collection consisted of second-hand objects that were simple and whimsical. They called it ‘Droog Design’, which meant dry in Dutch, signifying its dry-wit. The collection took off and Droog design expanded greatly over the years, now having their own concept company and outlets in Amsterdam.

Droog design began as a social and cultural response to overproduction and consumerism. The design solution that capitalized the industry then was to come up with new products for problems to be easily purchased. Droog design, which holds sustainability as one of its core values, found this to be extremely wasteful. Therefore, their solution was a reorganization of what already exists. To them, it was about recombining, reusing or rethinking ways to further experience products. They took ideas from other styles and movements and mixed it along with their humor to create sustainable ideas that were truly Droog.

In a way, Droog’s ideologies draw a parallel to Postmodernism, a movement which was also a critique of over-consumerism. Wanting to break free from the functional objects of Modernism, Postmodernist products similarly had no definitive style and borrowed ideas from other movements, which they poked fun of using humor and irony.

Another movement which Droog design may share similarities with is Minimalism. Minimalism’s philosophy is to reduce a design to its most essential elements, embodying simplicity and showing materials in its true nature. It plays with the visceral feelings a product can create, evoking a strong sense of emotional experience for the user by utilizing sensory aspects. These are themes that can also be seen in Droog design.

For instance, in Jurgen Bey’s ‘Tree trunk Bench’, the design simply consists of bronze backs of chairs that are integrated into a fallen tree trunk. Placed in parks, this simple yet clever design blends in with the environment, making use of the nature around it to create seats for users. The tree trunk is shown just as it is in its truest form, without any sight of over-design.

Treetrunk Bench, Jurgen Bey, 1999

Another example to mention is Tejo Remy’s ‘Chest of Drawers’, a set of mismatched second-hand drawers that are given new timber carcasses and then tied together at precarious angles with a strap. In this piece, not only does it show the idea of reusing, it also explores the theme of memory and recollection. Remy himself had called this work, ‘You can’t lay down your memory’. Each drawer is uniquely scavenged and each houses its own individual memory. The visceral phenomena is evident here, from the visual qualities of each drawers-the different colors, the handles, every scratch, down to the scent we get as we open the drawers, all of which help in evoking the feeling of recollection.

Chest of Drawers, Tejo Remy, 1991

Apart from these features mentioned, there are also other characteristics that Droog embraces. In Simply Droog: 10 + 3 years of creating innovation and discussion, a book originally published by the Droog design firm to accompany their 2004 tour, there are namely ten main themes listed- Use-it-again, Familiar, not so familiar, Open design, Inevitable ornament, Simplicity, Irony, Body language(Tactility), Endless Contamination (Hybridization), Experience and Form follows process. Use-it-again, Irony and Simplicity are themes that were discussed earlier in the essay. As for Familiar, not so familiar, it tells of further exploring everyday objects by giving them a story through design.


Knitted Maria coffeepot, Gjis Bakker, 1997

In Gijs Bakker’s Knitted Maria, familiarity is explored with the inclusion of a cozy that is integrated in the coffeepot design.

For Open design, it deals with participatory nature; engaging with an audience such that they add onto a product. Inevitable ornament is about allowing decorative elements to cohabit with its functions. Next, Hybridization talks about the fusion of two or more functions or concepts in a single product, helping to save space and material, thus reducing waste. Tactility brings us back to visceral qualities, where it deals with materiality and the sense of touch.

Experience, which Droog design places high emphasis on, is about being able to interact with the product or a product that facilitates interaction with others.

In Nina Farkache’s ‘Come a little bit closer’ bench, it shows how interaction is created as users are able to slide along the bench and meet other people playing with the bench.

Bench ‘Come a little bit closer’, Nina Farkache, 2001. The seats are discs placed on rolling glass marbles where users can sit on and slide across the bench.

Lastly, there is Form follows process where Droog believes that the process of making a product to be more important than the result. This ideology takes away the control of the designer to create a desired outcome and gives birth to the accidental beauty of unexpected results.

While Droog design may not look like your regular high-end contemporary art, it definitely is eye-catching and thought provoking. Droog offers a fresh new perspective on design ideas, surprising the audience every time with its own witty take on products. It is no wonder that its first collection quickly gained popularity and extended across the world of design. Behind its humor however, there are layers of design thinking involved and deep values that Droog design uphold, thus making it such an influential movement.



Droog Design(2006) Simply Droog: 10 + 3 Years of Creating Innovation and Discussion, 2nd edn. The Netherlands: Uitgeverij 010 Publishers.

Droog.com (2018) (online) Available at : https://www.droog.com 

Studio International (2017) Simply Artful, Simply Functional, Simply Droog (Online) Available at: https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/simply-artful–simply-functional–simply-droog

The New York Times (2018) Is It Design? Art? Or Just a Dutch Joke? (Online) Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/30/arts/design/30droo.html 

Metropolis (2018) Modernist Minimalism and Our Relationships with Our Buildings (Online) Available at: https://www.metropolismag.com/architecture/modernist-minimalism-and-our-relationship-with-our-buildings/


Symposium Hyperessay / Social Networking

The 3 day symposium was one that connected the audiences to the performers and speakers through the use of third space. As I watched from the screen while the events unfolded live, it was hard to deny the sense of openness the symposium had demonstrated.

Quoting Marc Garrett and his D.I.W.O concept, the symposium reminded me of a point we’ve discussed in one of our earlier classes. Then, we asked ourselves-what makes a project D.I.W.O?  One of the characteristics we agreed contributed to D.I.W.O was an ” open-to-all” concept, where the artwork is available to everyone so that they could see it and add onto it.

With Adobe Connect, the platform provided that very open perspective. It allows anyone to see everything that is going on live, no matter which part of the world they’re in, what timezone they’re on. All they need was the symposium link and to log in, then the third space opens up to them.

As part of the guest audience, we didn’t just watch. We get to make use of the comment section to ask questions live and get our answers back almost immediately.  It also allows us to hold discussions with one another, either audience to audience or presenters to audience, sometimes even presenters to presenters-while everyone catches everything. This is the kind of “open-to-all” magic that a many-to-many space enables.

On the first day of the symposium, we listened to Maria X’s presentation on third space, then came the performance headed by Annie Abrahams where multiple collaborators from different parts of the world came together and gave a coordinated show. Here was when third space came into full use. It was fascinating to witness their performance as we know that they’re in different places, yet as they were on screen, they were essentially sharing the same space.

I recalled when the performance started, the comment section went into a frenzy. The audience started discussing and speculating on what was going on, some people started live commenting, typing out everything that was going on at the moment.

The comments as the performance took place on Day 1

Even towards the end, when one of the performers seemed to have lost the cue to exit, the audience took to the comment section to comment ‘Helen!’ simultaneously, making it one of the most delightful moments of the night.

As mentioned, this is only achievable due to the “open-to-all” nature of the symposium, allowing the audience to join in and contribute live.

This can also be said for the next two days of the symposium, especially on the last day, where we watched performances all the way from Chicago. After the performances, we as audiences could clarify our queries and get responses live even though we were miles away from the venue and it was nice to see the interactions between those here in Singapore and those around the world.

Questions for the performers on Day 3

The symposium was definitely a new experience for me and was a very interesting take from the normal classroom curriculum where I was able to learn through the third space.



Garett, M. (2014, February 12) ‘DIWO (Do-It-With-Others): Artistic Co-Creation as a Decentralized Method of Peer Empowerment in Today’s Multitude.’ Retrieved from: https://marcgarrett.org/2014/02/12/diwo-do-it-with-others-artistic-co-creation-as-a-decentralized-method-of-peer-empowerment-in-todays-multitude/


Micro project 2 / Research Critique 1

This micro-project was done along with my group members, Karen and Jiajun. Held in the classroom, we invited the class to interact with Karen, who has low self esteem about her body. Karen sits in the center of the room, holding a sign that told the audience to write what they thought of her body on the corresponding body parts.

In this case, Karen acted as the canvas as the audience wrote on her. The underlying message we were trying to convey was about body image which was inspired by Karen’s lack of self-confidence.

This is an art piece which fulfils several characteristics of D.I.W.O.

As quoted from Marc Garret’s article,

“It challenges and renegotiates the power roles between artists and curators. It brings all actors to the fore, artists become co-curators alongside the curators, and the curators themselves can also be co-creators. The ‘source’ materials are open to all; to remix, re-edit and redistribute, either within a particular DIWO event or project, or elsewhere. The process is as important as the outcome, forming relationally aware peer enactments. “


In our art piece, there was a sense of openness as the artwork and material was open to all in the room. Both the artist and audience became co-creators as the audience’s contribution was greatly needed to form the final piece and the process was important to see the how Karen’s body filled with comments over time.

If we were to compare this to traditional art, the audience paid a huge part in this piece as the artwork wouldn’t have been completed without the audience’s participation. On the other hand, traditional art can be done single-handedly by the artist himself at his own time.

There are similarities in our art piece to those discussed in the crowd-sourced examples. In Yoko Ono’s ‘Cut’ piece, the viewers each came forward to cut a piece of Yoko Ono’s garment and everyone who was in the room could see the art happening live. Similarly, our art piece allowed the audience to come up individually and write on our friend, Karen while everyone in class could see the comments live as they were being written.

The difference, however lies in the type of medium used, and the message that was given out. Our artwork spoke about body image, which was influenced by Karen’s self-esteem. Therefore, the medium and message differs as it is very much dependant on the artist’s own experience and narrative.

The process of our crowd-sourced work can be viewed here:



Project 3 / Impossibilities Of Being

In Project 3, we work on a larger scale as we play with sounds and visuals. For the final artwork, we were tasked to produce a 1-min video based on a place we’ve never been to.

With that said, I first started by listing 30 places I’ve never been to as a class exercise. My places included locations such as Disneyland, North Korea, inside a whale’s stomach and finally, Bermuda Triangle.

As you would know, I went with the Bermuda Triangle as I found that place to be mysterious and intriguing. That location has been long been an unsolved mystery and no one really knew what happened there. I thought this unknown quality of the place would allow many different possibilities on how I could express the place.

As for the medium, I thought of using photographs or moving images as I felt that those would be a better fit for that mysterious mood. I was also inspired by abstract and experimental films. I looked up experimental space films on Vimeo and those which caught my eye were:

Additionally, I also enjoyed an early abstract film,  Filmstudie [1925] by Hans Richter.


In those films, there wasn’t a clear narrative or story line. Instead, there could be shapes or forms to suggest something. There could be repetitive visuals and along with the sounds or music added, the films evoke some sort of emotions or feelings within the audience. I thought that an abstract, experimental style would be fitting for my location as it would be difficult for me to get actual representational shots of the Bermuda Triangle. I also liked that the film could be opened up to the viewer’s interpretation.





The background story follows a pilot as he flies over the Bermuda Triangle and enters another dimension. As seen, none of the scenes are actual representations but more suggestive.


  • Instead of an airplane, I thought of using clouds to suggest being in the sky.
  • The faulty compass would suggest being lost, or interference of the magnetic force.
  • A walkie-talkie shot suggest a frantic SOS call to the radio tower for help.
  • A black screen to create suspense as the pilot is teleported to the other dimension.
  • The next scenes would suggest the scenery the pilot sees at the other dimension.


  • For the clouds, there could be background noises as if one is really in a plane.
  • For the compass, I thought  of mimicking the sound of its pin moving by tapping on metal.
  • For the walkie-talkie, I wanted a reenactment  of a distress call, whereby the voice sounds as if it was transmitted over radio.
  • The black screen will be in silence to further add on to the suspense.
  • The other dimensional scenes will sound un-earthly and perhaps space-like.





For the sky, I simply captured shots of clouds and later took a fast-forwarded time-lapse of the clouds moving.

I bought a compass and came up with the second shot.

I ran into a bit of trouble for the walkie-talkie shot as I couldn’t find any suitable ones at toy stores. I had to think of how else I could capture that scene, I thought perhaps I could take a close-up shot of a radio, or take a shot of my home telephone, that’s when I explored the electronics of my home and found these.

I thought if I combined the two together and take from an angle, it might resemble a actual walkie talkie. So I did exactly that and here are first test shots-

And here’s what made it to the final cut


As for the un-earthly dimension scenes, I actually felt quite lost at first as they were quite abstract and I didn’t know how exactly I could portray them. I first tried to think of locations which might look quite alien-like. I also thought of using colouring or soap, or getting a lava lamp. However, I realised these were all time-consuming and I tried to think of a more time and cost-effective method. That was when I thought of playing with lights.

So I sat in my room in the dark and started playing with my torch light. I then realised I wanted coloured light in my composition and thought about getting coloured LEDs but me being a fairly broke and cost-conscious(cheapskate) student suggested me against that. Instead, I chose a more savvy method where I could shine my torchlight on a translucent coloured platform and achieve coloured lighting.

 the set up

In the dark

Achieving pink light

Also, while I was at the toy store, I found myself being drawn to this ball toy. It’s spiky and gives off pink/blue flashes of light which I thought I could use for my “alien” world.



but you might wonder where this red light came from when I’ve only mentioned white,blue and pink light. Well, it’s actually from what you might be holding on to right now.

It’s the light from a computer mouse. (more cheap filming hacks)

So I shone that onto the wall and on my ball toy and it helped to create a spookier effect.






As my shots became closer to the final thing, I started adding in sounds to enhance its vibe.

Here, I mimicked the pin by tapping against a metal ruler.

I got my brother to voice this scene for me and then I edited the recording on Audacity to make it sound like a radio transmission.

As the scene transition to dark when the pilot is transporting to the other dimension, I added this chilling tune found online for a build up to the suspense.


For the alternate dimension scenes, I used these two space-like background music from online sources to create the mood.


Lastly, I used the triangle I had at home for the final scenes as I thought the high pitch of the instrument would add on to the suspense and chilling mood of the other world. I also wanted there to be a rhythmic sequence to the end where it goes ‘ding’ ,’ding’, ‘ding’ and the screen goes black and there is just one loud final ‘Ding’ -ends.

I compiled the shots I took and the sounds into iMovie where I edited the shots, layered the sounds and adjusted their volumes accordingly to form the final video.






In the video, the first scenes before the pilot enters the other dimension showed a sense of irregularity, where the audience wouldn’t know what would happen next, giving it anticipation. Then, as the scenes ventures into the alternate dimension, there is more sense of rhythm and repetition.


In this composition, there is not much of a movement, most of the shots are actually quite still or slow. This is to add to the suspense and also to allow the audience to focus on what is showing on the screen.


For this piece, perhaps there was not much on causality as most of the audience did not know what to expect while watching the video. However, perhaps the frantic distress call or the suspenseful sounds I added could foreshadow the pilot was getting into some kind of trouble.


There was a restriction of keeping the video to 1 minute but I feel like this was a piece which could have been better if it was longer since it was a much slower film.



I thought this was a really interesting project which allowed me to think out of the box as I did a lot of experimentation with all the camera angles, props and sounds. I also had fun sharing my process with the class.


Project 2 / The Subverted Object

In this project, we move on to semiotics as we attempt to creatively change the meaning of a given object.

And the object I was assigned to by luck, was the Banana.




Here’s my final work:

For Task 1, we were to capture the object as it is. For the first picture, I chose to capture the shape and structure of the banana. I shot it from a lower angle to show how the banana  branches out in a bunch. For the second photo, I added a bit of human touch and familiarity by capturing me eating the banana. It is a close-up shot as bananas are usually found close to the person.  The picture also shows the banana by itself instead of being in a bunch, as well as the parts of it- the flesh and the peel. The third picture plays with focus as I try to showcase the texture, colour as well as the stem of the banana, thus being a close up shot.

The whole series shows the banana as a bright and vibrant fruit, associated with a positive mood.

Task 2 is where I attempted to capture the cultural aspects of the Banana and subvert them. In the first picture, it shows one of the banana peel’s culture as a slip act. Banana peels on the floor often mean someone is going to fall and are often associated with comedy and embarrassment.

In the second picture, I subverted its context by turning the banana peel into a skating tool instead. The message here was that since the banana peel is so slippery, why not use it as skating shoes? Here, the object is subverted as the banana peel is now no longer just a useless skin of a fruit that would cause falls, but an actual sports item.

As for the third picture, (disclaimer: No photoshop went on in this picture except for the b/w filter, you can see it under the process below)

The subversion here lies in changing the vibe and colour that come with the banana. As mentioned earlier, bananas are usually associated as bright and comical. Now, what if they turn dark and serious? In this picture, the bananas are seated in a sports car on a road and the picture has a dark, gloomy, film noir mood, giving the bananas a ‘gangster/mafia’ look. Also, another subversion is playing out as further explained in Task 3.

This poster is actually a subversion of two different concepts combined. First was the film noir concept that I mentioned earlier, the second subvert was on the quote itself. The phrase ‘Going Bananas’ is usually meant for someone going crazy. Now, what if I took it literally to mean that the bananas were actually going somewhere? And that was how this poster was created. By using this subversion, I gave human life to the bananas as they are now the drivers instead of fruits. I made this picture into a portrait so as to resemble a movie poster, and the quote was included to look as if it was on the road.


The Process

Here are some other test shots from Task 1 and 2 as I attempt to capture the bananas in its environment and culture from different angles.

Now, we move on to the subversion process which I feel is one of the most important aspect of this project.

Before I can think of how to subvert the meaning of a Banana, I first have to find the original meaning of it, also known as Denotation.

Here’s a mini mind map I did regarding bananas.


Also, here’s a brainstorming exercise I did in class where we combined action words with our object. With this exercise, I found that my object becomes personified, something I would like to try out in my final shots.

I also used templates that can help to come up with ideas, namely the Removal Template, Replacement Template and the Redefinition Template.


Key ideas from Replacement: Giving the Banana a dark twist.

Key ideas from Redefinition:

Taking Banana as a ‘slip-act’ to the next level.

The phrase ‘Going Bananas’ can have a different meaning.



From all the brainstorming I did, I came up with a few concepts to try out.

I then did some test shots with the concepts I came up with so as to compare them.

These are from Concept 2, which is to take slip-acts to the next level. In ‘Banana broom’, Banana peels are no longer the slippery waste that lie on the floors but the cleaning tool that cleans up the floor.

‘Skating Bananas’ was explained earlier and eventually chosen.

As for concept 3, I pondered over how to carry out this idea of Bananas going somewhere. I first thought whether I should show them leaving through a door, making it seem as if they were walking, have them carry luggages or should I place them in public places taking the transport as if leaving somewhere. However, I found that hard to execute as the bananas don’t have ‘hands’ or ‘legs’ to show off the idea of ‘going’. Just as I was thinking of whether I could add hands to the bananas, I suddenly thought, why not put them in a car so that it seems like they were driving off? That way, I don’t have to show hands and legs. And as I was expanding on that idea, I thought I could combine concept 1 and concept 3 together, so that its a ‘dark bananas going somewhere’ theme.

And there you have Mafia Bananas. For this theme, I stuffed the bananas into a toy car and shot it the rooftop of a car park so that it resembles a road.

I also experimented with different colour schemes to create that ‘film noir’ look. I tried desaturating the picture, b/w,  and finally decided to go with a black and white filter but keeping the bananas still slightly yellow for a more interesting composition.

The final shot that was chosen was a picture I personally like a lot as it came really close to what I had envisioned. For this concept, I experimented with different angles and scale, and even tried slanting to create a more dynamic effect, but what I had in mind was a portrait back view of the bananas in a car with nothing but the road and the sky, as if they were going on a dangerous road trip.

I finally achieved it by trying out different locations at the car park. The only way to capture the road and the sky without taking the barriers surrounding the car park was to put the car on a slope and take the picture from behind it.

Here, I experimented with different locations but was blocked by flats and rails until I found the perfect slope and angle.

Personally, I found this combination of concept 1 and 3 to be the strongest out of all as I felt that the usual context of the banana was totally changed in this subversion. The play on the phrase ‘Going bananas’ also gave an extra kick in the composition and was therefore chosen as the final poster.