Hans Robertus

Hans Robertus was born in 1952 in the Netherlands. He graduated from the Academy for Industrial Design in Eindhoven in 1978. He began his career at a small consultancy firm but eventually joined Philips Design in 1990 where he initially worked on professional broadcasting products. He was later titled Design Manager of the Professional Product Design Team in Eindhoven, and in 1999 assumed the position of Senior Studio Director for product and communication design teams at Philips Design. As of this year he is also the director of Dutch Design Week.

hans robertus dutch design week philips

You have been part of the Philips Design team since 1990, and have been working as Senior Studio Director since 1999. How has this experience changed you as a designer and in the way you approach your work? How has it enriched you as a person?

I have designed things with a great deal of passion and I still take pride in one or two of my designs. But I soon had to acknowledge that within a large-sized studio such as the one where I work, only a few designers are truly unique. This is genuinely humbling. Now I am not afraid even to say that I am not a designer after all. My talents lie in the organisation around it. By doing so I’m following my heart and instincts rather than just my brains. I feel very fortunate to work with so many different, enthusiastic and inspiring people working in industries, governmental environments and knowledge institutes.

From your biography we see that you have graduated from the Academy of Industrial Design Eindhoven in 1978. What is your relationship like with this city? How does it relate to your role as the new director of Dutch Design Week?

I was born and raised in Groningen, a beautiful and historic city in the north of the Netherlands. I came to Eindhoven in 1973 to study industrial design at the design academy and I still live there. Eindhoven is a typical “industrial city” dominated for years by companies like Philips and DAF. Especially Philips which controlled the city to a large extent. They literally built and organised the city and services around the company. Because of this industrial identity you could say that Eindhoven is less beautiful as the more traditional cities in the Netherlands. But there is another side to the story. The fact that Philips is moving its production facilities to other places in the world creates unique possibilities for the city to rethink about the infrastructure of the city and to build new facilities in line with the needs and wishes of the inhabitants of today and tomorrow! In the context of the rise of the creative class in general and the focus of Eindhoven on technology and design in particular, this could be considered as a very luxurious position!

Due to its technological and innovative capacities, Eindhoven is also known as Brainport City. In your opinion, what is the future of this project? What is your thought on expanding this idea onto other cities?

I’m not thinking in terms of “a project.” In my point of view it’s about creating physical and non-physical environments around the DNA of this city, those being Research and Design. Although you can’t copy that to other cities on a one-to-one basis, you can copy the principles and the process to other areas. I will give you an example: In the Eindhoven region the collaboration between the government, the knowledge institutes and the industry is very well organised. We call this way of working the triple helix. Other cities benefit a lot by understanding the principles behind this and by translating this to their own environments.
Coming back to Eindhoven: Eindhoven should become a trial ground for experiments on the axis of technology and design, involving the city’s inhabitants and users directly in the development of products and services that will improve the quality of life in the city, for instance - Philips’ Shoplab. This highly futuristic shop is situated on the High Tech Campus and is part of Philips Research. In this “laboratory” all kinds of new technologies are used and tested that are aimed at making the shopping experience more enjoyable. We have tried to find ways of relocating this type of experimental installations to “real” environments, and we have succeeded. I think the idea of using Eindhoven more as a “living lab” ties in very well with the region’s DNA.

hans robertus dutch design week philips

By succeeding John Lippinkhof as the new director of Dutch Design Week, you will simultaneously continue your role as Senior Director of Research, Development & Innovation at Phillips Design. How do you feel about taking on such a massive project and dealing with double the responsibility? What is your secret recipe to approaching the challenging sides of life - both professionally and privately?

I briefly hesitated before accepting the directorship of the Dutch Design Week, but it soon seemed to be a logical step. The synergy between my different functions eventually tipped the balance for me. As a founding member of the board at the Design Platform Eindhoven, I had witnessed the development of the event from up close, and I think I can add something to it. I don’t have a secret recipe, I guess that it should be the fact that I simply love my work.

In an interview for Dexigner.com, you have stated that as new director of Dutch Design Week you aim to "bring Dutch Design to the next level and build goodwill for this excellent export 'product'." What will be your primary strategy at bridging the Dutch design community and the industrial sector? How do you plan to export this on a pan-European or even global level?

Over the past seven years we created a strong platform for the Dutch Design Week. What we have is something wonderful and pure, and we should not alter it. But so far it has been very much an exhibition. In my humble opinion we have not tried hard enough to sell the products. We have not made enough of an effort to link it up to what it was intended for: for companies to do something with them. I would like to see us succeeding in strengthening the link with the market by making it clear to smaller and mid-size businesses how design is fundamental to their businesses. The Dutch Design Week showcases some wonderful ideas. These ideas have to be able to land somewhere. Ultimately the designs should reach their target groups. This is why it is important to have some people with a technological background or a background in business looking in over our shoulders. Boffins and designers should start finding each other at an early stage. The dreamers are sticking together for too long.
During the Dutch Design Week we organised a workshop with representatives from Dutch embassies, the ministry of economical affairs and designers to discuss the material embassies are using to promote our creative industry abroad. That is one of the examples how I believe we could stimulate the export our capabilities.

hans robertus dutch design week philips

Philips Design along with its 8 branch studios in Europe, the USA and Asia Pacific is one of the largest and longest-established design organizations of its kind in the world. It also boasts a creative force of some 500 professionals, representing more than 35 different nationalities. How exactly does this cultural and disciplinary diversity leverage in building radically new design?

That’s a tough one. I don’t think anyone could give an exact answer to this question.
Philips is a global company developing products and services for worldwide markets.
It’s logic and essential to do this in a multicultural context. Maybe even more important is the fact that Philips Design is a very multi disciplinary organisation, meaning that next to a wide scope of different designers there is also a large group of human behaviour specialists that are represented. People like anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists are studying socio-cultural changes that help formulate the starting points for new products and services.

Much of your work deals with innovation as a concept on a daily basis (you have initiated projects such as the Creative Conversion Lab). According to you, what is the most important factor in innovation?

The Creative Conversion Factory is a meeting point where inventors, manufacturers, and investors can transform promising technological ideas into viable products. In fact we talk about an open innovation initiative. Brilliant ideas can sometimes arise in the wrong place or at the wrong time. They do not fit within the corporate strategy, or their inventor is unable to find the right partner to turn it into a market-worthy product. We think this is a great shame. The Creative Conversion Factory offers these ideas a chance by allowing several parties and different expertises to look in on the process from an early stage. I am surrounded by people who are on all kinds of committees, who write all kinds of reports and create all kinds of vision statements, but not enough concrete things are happening, basically. Things are not progressing beyond the stages of ideas, planning, and drawings. I think it is a great challenge to give these concepts a tangible form. We are succeeding quite nicely at doing so within the CCF. However, we do realise that working together within a company can be complicated and we’re very sure that cooperation between different companies and/or institutes is and can be far more complicated. What we’ve learned so far is the fact that it’s important to really take the time to understand each others starting positions and objectives. Next to that, be sure that you have the right people on board to cover the legal, financial and marketing communication issues.

Based on your experience, what words of advice would you give to someone who is only starting out in the field of product and communication design?

Believe in yourself, learn to communicate your ideas to different people, learn to create real insights and open up your mind for others. In the end: The nowadays da Vinci is an alliance [Stefano Marzano].

hans robertus dutch design week philips

Intervju: Vasilije Perović i Ivana Srdanović


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