STBY wins Rotterdam Public Design Prize

On the last day of January the Rotterdam Designprijs (decided by a jury) and the Rotterdam Design Publieksprijs (decided by public vote) were announced. Interestingly, both prizes went to product service systems rather than products, brands or even experiences. Both jury and the public favoured integral, holistic approaches of complex challenges societies and economies face.


The jury debate at Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam
The jury debate at Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam


The jury prize was won by ‘temstem’, an app for people who hear voices in their heads, to help them focus on something else: a language game on their smartphone. Reframing Studio designed the app, together with care organisation Parnassia. This collaboration is noteworthy: design and research are on an equal footing in this project, and integrated rather than separated. The two organisations co-created the app together, including patients in the process as well.

The same applies to the winners of the Publieksprijs (with 3662 votes): Edenspiekermann and STBY, with NS Reizigers (Dutch National Rail) and Prorail (Dutch Railways Infrastructure), for their Dynamic Boarding Information. In this project STBY collaborated intensely with Edenspiekermann. Each studio worked from their own strengths (research and design respectively) but never treated them separately. Instead both were always looking for ways to combine design and research. Edenspiekermann took part in the design research at the stations, and STBY was involved in the concepting workshops with both train travellers and different railway employees.


The winning team at the Boijmans van Beuningen exhibition
The winning team for the public prize at the Boijmans van Beuningen exhibition


Professor Caroline Hummels (Eindhoven University of Technology), who nominated both projects, said: “Edenspiekermann, STBY, ProRail en NS Reizigers demonstrate that close collaboration is needed to address the complex challenges of our society.” The dynamic boarding information is deceivingly simple in its appearance on a 180 meters long LED screen along the platform, yet complex in the four data streams it combines across companies and departments. The design research that led the consortium to this solution (also including an app designed by NS, which was not part of the nomination) built the bridge between the complex reality of the train system en travellers’ experiences, and the elegant intervention on the platform.

The result delivers great advantages for both passengers (get in to the train more safely and more likely find a seat) and the railway companies (run more trains on the same tracks because of quicker and safer boarding at station platforms). The live pilot of three months at Den Bosch station that started about a year ago was so successful that NS (National Rail) has now decided to implement the system nationally, in 5000 train coaches and with a total of 50km of LED screens at selected platforms, over the next two years. Not because behaviour on platforms will be more orderly, but because of considerable economic and safety advantages for travellers and rail companies on one of the most intensely used national railnetworks on the planet.

There are a few days left to visit the Rotterdam Designprijs exhibition of all nominees at the Boymans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam, until 9 February, and see for yourself how Dutch design is changing. Perhaps ironically you actually will look at objects (and photos and films depicting situations actually) in the museum, but these will tell you that to the unchanged importance of aesthetics and functionality, have been added design research, co-creation and product service systems as hallmarks of contemporary Dutch design. The debate with the international jury in Rotterdam left no doubt that the Netherlands is together with Scandinavia spearheading this development in design in the world.