by Britt Berden




We’re living in a rapidly transforming world. Now, after more than a year of the New Normal, it isn’t that New anymore – remote working has become the norm, digital conversations the usual, and virtual exposure normality. Covid has accelerated these new technological behaviours, rituals and collaborations – many of them outlasting the pandemic.

After a year of staying afloat in a world that has been in constant flux, and will continue to be, the second Dutch Invertuals Academy is a fact. It followed up from a time where the world was able to rethink, to re-envision what would happen if we started to see clearly again and arise with a sense of purpose – defining what Truly Matters.

The new technological behaviours are what made this such an inspiring journey –  it was why it was possible again for global like-minded people to meet in one space – new kind of conversations were shaped – new connections were realised – and new opportunities were explored. A new group of 15 designers, curious and enthusiastic, have expanded their horizons and what it means to create a community virtually.

I’ve had the honour to follow the second Academy closely and moderated group sessions in this comprehensive six week academy; filled with lectures, workshops and ongoing dialogues. With my background in future forecasting, I’ve been interested in seeing how we as humans can anticipate future needs and how through design we can create a better future collectively, and that is exactly what Dutch Invertuals Academy is about. 

> Asia
> North-America
> Europe
> Africa

We travelled (digitally) across the globe. Critical questions were prompted; is design a catalyst for change? Should designers be activists? When is something man-made and when natural? What does designing locally mean in a global world? How can objects reveal identity? In the Academy, we’ve tackled these questions through ongoing dialogues and experimentation

Wendy: ‘The process is more interesting if the results are not concluding, we keep the dialogue going about what really matters’.

A collective energy and drive has grown over those six weeks; comfort levels raised, conversations got louder, our four walls got wider; references were deeper and analysis sharpened.

Not the end result but the process, experimentation, methodologies and dialogues are what has made this Academy invaluable – the interplay between Local <> Global, Anthropocentric <> Nature-centric, Growth <> Degrowth and the value of collective thinking

Local –


The Academy has opened up the conversation on how local knowledge exchange can help us overcome global challenges.

We’ve seen the pandemic being a reminder of the fragility of our planet, we’ve realised how interdependent we are from one another, but increasingly, how local gets priority over global. I’ve seen a deep appreciation and empathy for locality from the designers, whether that was through collecting found objects based on colour or materiality, or fascinations by a local resource that revealed the complex global systems that keep this material in harmony. It is that constant dialogue between Local and Global that keeps designers afloat.

Wendy: ‘The academy really has given us insights and a personalised outlook of what is important worldwide, it has been an open space to discuss problems and challenges globally, but on a local scale’

– Naturecentric

The designers have shown us an increasing level of respect and empathy to uphold for inhabitants across the world – to allow post-anthropocenic ideas and biocentric principles to flourish.

Within the Academy, we’ve looked at the journey of a rock, how ants can create unimaginable architectures underground and how slime molds have mimicked the Tokyo rail line systems. Trying to uncover how human and nature are in a constant dialogue with nature to optimise and finetune to create a symbiotic relation.

The designers have been focussing on design being a catalyst for lasting change, for action, as a starter to raise bigger issues. They realised new and urgent approaches to our material usage were needed, perhaps not putting people at the centre.

Or perhaps putting people at the centre, they have revealed what it means to be human. Nina van Bart, one of the lecturers, emphasised on this ‘What really makes us human and connected, is stimulating the sense of touch, being trusted and generous and they are important factors to create objects and space to improve our wellbeing’.

This also resonated with one student, Maya, who explored indigenous gestures of making which resulted in a deep understanding of material and our connection to it: ‘Reflect on what our relationship with matter is, not as designers and creators, but as humans, encouraging the experiencing agent and the object to engage in a dialogical process, and maybe remember how certain stone, space or texture brought unexplainable joy’.

It has been the reconciliation through our senses and connection with nature in this ‘New Normal’, that has made us relate and empathise with the natural world, and understand our role in it.

Growth –

The Academy has given a glimpse of a mentality change, designing with the end in mind and a deep exploration of how the ending of one life can be the beginning of the next.

Anastasiia decomposes materials by utilising the earth’s temperatures, giving back to nature, while Lise repurposed found relics from the 19th century. In Kento’s work pieces are fragmented and slowly uncovered, ultimately revealing how objects are made and decomposed – with the bush fires in Los Angeles as a starting point.

All the designers have reinforced the benefits of finding collective solutions to global problems, realising that only together they can grow. It has opened-up conversations on how to reinvent, re-think and reconsider our place in the world. All striving to reach the same goals and create a sense of unity – all to be admired in this digital exhibition.

Wendy: ‘It’s really unique to show the digital exhibition, it’s a proof of existence of the pieces made and it’s a tool to keep the discussion on-going about what really matters. In its true form and raw tactile edges of the works, we wanted to keep it digital, embracing the digital realm and the physicality and tactility of the digital’.

Now, cautiously optimistic waking up from that world in merely the digital space – I want to invite you to explore this frozen moment in space, revealing the dialogues we’ve had and how this will be the start of something more to come..

This is not where it ends, this is where it starts..


Fuutlaan 12b
5613 AB Eindhoven
The Netherlands
+31 (0)40 – 7502401

Curator/Creative Director

Business Manager




Dutch Invertuals B.V.

K.v.K. 68191111
VAT. 857338572B01
Bank NL66ABNA024.78.58.137

Thanks to

Bram Vanderbeke – scenography
Edhv – graphic design
Invertual network – tutors & lecturers
Julia Veldman – documentary
Julian Ellerby – moderator & article
Laura Houseley – copy designers
Mark Brand – web development
Raw Color – campaign visuals
Roos Pollman – sound design
Schimmel & Schweikle – 3d visuals

Supported by

Brabant C
Cultuur Eindhoven