Curator Maria Cristina Didero and Richard Hutten, one of the designers who was involved in Droog from te beginning, took the initiative to curate an exhibition as an homage to Droog’s 30th birthday. The exhibition ‘Droog 30. Design or Non-Design’ was first presented during de Salone del Mobile at the Triennale Milano and is from May 2 to August 27 on view at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Droog 30 includes a selection of the over 200 objects produced under the Droog umbrella within an installation of comments crowdsourced through social media. In this analog representation, the curators want to reflect on Droog’s impact on design while implicitly asking if such a collective influence would be possible within today’s digital landscape: ‘Droog was arguably the last of what might be considered a movement in design—a claim predicated on the fact that what soon followed was the rise of the internet and its decentralising effect on design discourse’.
For this occasion I wrote an Epilogue, which is now added to the exhibition.
Epilogue Our international debut in Milan was an adventure. Two individuals, who hardly knew each other, decided to join forces in February 1993 and make a statement during the Salone del Mobile in Milan. We drew up a list of products we wanted to present, we came up with a name and six weeks later we were in Milan with twenty-odd objects. We had no plan, no expectations whatsoever. All we knew was that we were coming with a strong narrative and fresh designs. But we were not sure how our humble show, with work by totally unknown designers – the term Dutch Design was nonexistent at that time – would be received in ‘High Style Design’ capital Milan. To our surprise, we became the talk of the town. Now that our show had turned out to be an instant success, we felt we should continue, and gradually Droog became an international movement.
Droog was never a collective in the strict sense of the word. We always wanted to involve new generations of designers, while continuing to embrace the designers of the first hour. Over the years, we collaborated with more than 100 designers inside and outside the Netherlands. Droog became a label for a collection of products carefully sought out by us. Our selection process was primarily based on look & feel and content. Never did we include ‘Will it sell?’ or ‘Can it be produced industrially?’ in our considerations. While a considerable number of products from the Droog collection reached shops, as many remained as prototypes or concepts. For us, that made no difference at all. Both found their way to international museums, especially MOMA New York and Centraal Museum in Utrecht.
Many resulted from projects we initiated. Over time, our presentations in Milan became thematic in nature. Droog addressed all kinds of topics, from human interaction, high-tech materials and downloadable design to overproduction and climate change.
Judging by the comments, crowdsourced by the curators of this exhibition, Droog is still inspiring. But movements cannot and should not last forever. Times change, new movements emerge.
With this exhibition, the curators raise an interesting question. Could Droog be the last design movement? Is such collective influence still possible in today's fragmented digital landscape? Nowadays, we see powerful social movements spreading digitally. Why should this not be possible in the world of design? Now that it has become clear that stuff – its production, transportation, and consumption – creates a huge, if not the biggest, environmental impact, the time is ripe for a new collective narrative that raises its voice and offers alternatives with visual impact. It is time for action. Digital media will do the rest.
Renny Ramakers and Gijs Bakker
Droog30 in Triennale Milano. Foto: Gianluca Di Ioia