Survey by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and BNO reveals impact of Covid-19 pandemic on Dutch designers

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Survey by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and BNO reveals impact of Covid-19 pandemic on Dutch designers
Three chairs by Gerrit Rietveld, from left to right: Aluminum chair, 1942-1943, prod. Gerrit and Wim Rietveld; Military chair 1, 1923, produced under the supervision of Gerrit Rietveld; Eerste Model (First Model) (prototype), 1927, produced under the supervision of Gerrit Rietveld. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo: Peggy Janssen, styling: Heidi Willems - PURE styling.

AMSTERDAM.- The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam teamed up with BNO, the professional association for Dutch designers, to ask over 100 designers how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted their professional lives both in terms of content and earnings. The survey brings to light the precarious yet resilient position of the designer.

The Covid-19 crisis is heavily impacting the Dutch design community. Of the designers who participated in the survey, 45% reported losing over half their sales during the first three months of lockdown. More than 50% of designers expect to see a sales drop of between 25% and 50% in the long term (up to 2021), and over 20% of designers anticipate an even greater dip in sales. More than half the designers surveyed feel that the support measures provided by the Dutch government are insufficient. A large number of designers said that they had received no support at all.

79% of designers taking part in the survey are convinced they can help to give people a sense of togetherness and connection during the pandemic. Not a farfetched thought – after all, designers are trained to solve problems and to respond to challenges with their innovative designs. In the exhibition From Thonet to Dutch Design, which opened today, the Stedelijk Museum digitally features an array of designs created in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Here Comes the Sun, a picnic blanket designed by Paul Cocksedge, allows people to enjoy each other’s company and still observe the suggested two-metre social distance. In their response to the pandemic, Van Eijk and Van der Lubbe designed screens to separate office workstations and several designers such as Jenny Sabin (Sabin Lab) and Norman Foster created practical designs for 3D-printed face masks, that everyone can download. The lockdown also brought an end to countless social activities. Even after restaurants reopened, people were afraid of eating out. Mediamatic designed Serres Séparées, a resourceful concept utilising little greenhouses so guests can enjoy a corona-proof dining experience.

Rein Wolfs, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: “Our initial survey results show that the creative industries are also feeling the impact of the current situation. Yet at the same time, designers are coming up with all kinds of innovative, novel solutions to meet the challenges we’re facing today. Because of this, the Stedelijk believes that it’s important to share the results of the study, and to turn the spotlight on a number of ingenious and timely designs created in response to the corona crisis.”

Madeleine van Lennep, director of the BNO: “We’ve been monitoring the effects of the pandemic since March and endorse the poll’s findings. Because it’s part of numerous chains and practices, the design profession is cyclical by nature. We have been and are lobbying for more realistic support packages, but above all underline the importance of concrete assignments, of work: the best proof of the relevance of a profession that offers phenomenal potential.”

The survey on the impact of the pandemic on Dutch designers is part of the exhibition From Thonet to Dutch Design, 125 Years of Living at the Stedelijk, that opened on Saturday 25 July. This exceptional presentation highlights the Stedelijk Museum’s celebrated design collection. Over 300 objects, many of which are icons of design history are featured, including a Thonet sofa from 1849, the acclaimed designs created by the Wiener Werkstätte, The Amsterdam School, Scandinavian design, the advent of plastics in the ‘60s, the colourful Italian Memphis designs of the ‘80s, and the successful school of Dutch design, which emerged in the ‘90s. The survey into the impact of the pandemic on the design community is the final chapter of the exhibition. In addition to the results of the survey, the display also highlights a number of designs, some in digital format, that explore solutions to the pandemic.

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