Prioritising design as a value in the city
As a city, Eindhoven is already above the curve in understanding the value of design. But, as time progresses, it’s important to have policies and visions in place to build on and benefit from this status as a city. The goal of this project was to co-create a design vision for the city of Eindhoven that guides decision-making and implementation of municipal policy, to preserve and support this value through the year 2030. An equally important goal was to empower the Eindhoven design community with a shared vision that would empower them to take action themselves, together and in collaboration with the citizens and organisations of Eindhoven. The project was actively supported by the Gemeente Eindhoven, Dutch Design Foundation and Eindhoven365, and funded by the city hall.
Stby was asked to design a co-creation process and orchestrate the activities that would lead to a vision document supported and created by the design community. Having been connected to the design ecosystem in Eindhoven for 10+ years (e.g. through our creative director Bas Raijmakers’ professorship at Design Academy Eindhoven 2011-2019) but also an outsider to it (e.g. we are based in Amsterdam and London), made Stby the ideal candidate to take on this experiment. Citizen Assemblies were a key inspiration for us when we set up the open call for designers to take part in this programme of more than half a year. From the 60+ applications, we selected 25 design ‘ambassadors’ who represented a broad range of the designers and design organisations present in Eindhoven.
Co-creating a vision with the design community
Stby was responsible for designing the over six-month co-creation programme that resulted in a design vision for the city of Eindhoven. We organised co-creative sessions but also individual reflection and fieldwork assignments for each of the ambassadors, which included the applicants who were not selected and the personal networks of all ambassadors.
In the co-creation sessions, we looked at how Eindhoven acquired its prominent position in design, what the city should cherish and nurture as well as needs and opportunities for the future. Current issues that need action now to keep the design community strong in Eindhoven were equally important to us as future goals.
Even a city cannot do everything at the same time, so we projected three horizons: Now, by 2025, and by 2030 and beyond. These dates were chosen to reflect: the sense of urgency felt today, the governing period of the current city council which ends in 2025, and looking ahead further than the current political reach.
The knowledge generated from the ambassadors’ work in the sessions and their fieldwork assignments created the foundation for the writing of the vision. It was Stby’s role to analyse the content generated from the co-creation sessions and the fieldwork; we did this in a very transparent manner, using Miro to give every ambassador a step-by-step overview of the analysis, from their documentation to insights and opportunities all the way to the main statements of the design vision.
We worked with local writer, Renske Mehra, and local designer, Marc Koppen, to turn the vision into a cohesive, actionable and inspiring piece of writing with a design signature that is also easy to understand by those outside of the design community. The images that illustrate the vision were collected from multiple databases from Eindhoven design organisations as well many of the individual ambassadors’ archives.
Experimenting, deciding, learning and thriving together
The vision explores the current and historical relationship between designers and Eindhoven, diving into the kind of work designers do and how that can bring value to the city. It outlines how designers and the city can work together to build a stronger future for and with the citizens of Eindhoven by “Experimenting, Deciding, Learning and Thriving Together”, which is the core vision statement.
Experimenting, Deciding, Learning and Thriving Together
The design vision was presented as a printed brochure (available as a PDF) and a (shortened) website version, both available in Dutch and English. Alderwoman, Saskia Lammers, received the first copy at the launch event in June 2023, and the next day the mayor of Eindhoven, Jeroen Dijselbloem, celebrated the vision in a tweet. Equally important, the effort of this vision empowered designers in Eindhoven by strengthening their ties to each other and their city. The 25 ambassadors were proud of the clarity they achieved together, not only respecting but also leveraging their many different capabilities and perspectives.
The qualities that designers bring to the table can be extremely valuable when approaching complex societal topics, which cities today often have to face. When working together, both the fabric of the city and its design community can be mutually strengthened. Eindhoven paves the way for this type of collaboration, building a better city along the way.
Photos 1-4 by Bram Berkien / Photos 5 & 6 by Katy Barnard