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Top of the flops

Top of the flops

BNO Romeo Delta in Rotterdam

A large crowd turned up on Monday evening to hear three renowned designers talk about their design ‘flops’. All three had a different interpretation of the theme.

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Hidden fun

Gert Dumbar – founder and former managing director of Studio Dumbar – started out by showing us the deliberate ‘flops’ in the work of the studio, in the eighties and nineties, that were never noticed by their clients. His talk was a plea for some anarchy and absurdism in the design process. His view is that Dutch design is often a bit too serious. He called upon all designers to test the limits within design and to enjoy themselves while doing it; advising the need to ignore the marketing consultants. 

He picked a few examples from the rich studio history; including the small tear-shaped KPN logos that were used in the corners of eyes on the Nationale Toneel poster campaign. As KPN was the lead sponsor of the theatre, they demanded their logo to be on every poster. In the end, and in response to their demands, the logo was so miniature that you almost needed a microscope to see it. 

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Another example Gert used was the Rijksmuseum wayfinding system. The grid that was used as a foundation for the system gave it a very serious look as a whole; while in fact it was a complete non-sensical grid, containing random things like the name of the factory worker that painted it. For the Dutch Police the studio proposed that police cars would have a pattern inspired by prison bars and would also get one ‘golden’ hubcap. Needless to say this proposal was rejected: the police were afraid that this hubcap would be considered a trophy, and would be stolen from the cars.

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Say no to unpaid pitches

Next up was Edenspiekermann partner Edo van Dijk. He stated that the work he considers a ‘flop’ is the work done in creative pitches which is never used. He showed excerpts from three pitch presentations, for Skoda, Heijmans and Naturalis. While a lot of effort went into the pitches, they were lost and so the work was never implemented; being both a waste of money and of creativity. For Edenspiekermann this led to the conclusion not to participate in poorly paid or unpaid pitches anymore. A ‘pitch policy’ was created for such instances, in order to create a fair and workable process. 

In his talk, Edo described how he prefers to work in partnership with clients, which is hardly ever possible in creative pitches. He encouraged all designers in the room to refuse to do creative work in unpaid pitch situations as it is damaging the value perception of our work and the industry as a whole. The Edenspiekermann pitch code led to a lively discussion with a lot of designers in favor of it, but also some passionately against it. They claimed that for young designers engaging in creative pitches is one of the few ways to enter the design arena.

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Marketing guru bashes design

As was to be expected, design agency 75B had a very original perspective on the subject of ‘flops’. An actress posed as a marketing guru, using typically badly designed powerpoint slides as her visual aid. She used all marketing clichés imaginable to talk about the 75B book 'Arab Spring and Aaron Winter'. Fitting to her role, she found a lot of faults in the book, for instance pointing out the white cover as a huge mistake, as it would be easily soiled. This very amusing performance concluded a lively Monday evening in Rotterdam.

Would you like to know more about the Edenspiekermann pitch policy? Contact Edo van Dijk in Amsterdam or Pia Betton in Berlin.

Photographs by Hans Tak ( for Romeo Delta