For the better part of a year, our team of 13 immersed ourselves in Dutch design culture. 3 months were spent studying Dutch culture and history, 2 months were spent traveling and interviewing in the Netherlands, and the next 4 were spent editing films, designing an identity, and coding a website to house all it all.
For the best viewing experience, please go directly to 2019.sfudutchdesign.ca
dutchDesign is an ongoing field school for filmmaking, research, and reportage. 12 senior design students, including myself, and 1 dedicated instructor from Simon Fraser University studied, lived in, and filmed our experiences in the Netherlands. Through 16 interviews with prominent Dutch designers, 14 reflective experiences, 2 short films, and 1 website to contain it all, we attempted to make Dutch culture fleetingly visible.
In order to guide our design decisions and to also establish our goals as a collective, we first created 3 key principles. These defined us a collective, and acted as beacons whenever we strayed from the project path.
Be unapologetic, take risks and stick to it.
Embrace ambiguity, let the work and the designers speak for themselves.
Bend the rules. Pique curiosity, and prompt exploration.
Derived from these principles, we also created 3 key interaction guidelines for the website and content: glanceable and explorable (easy to digest at a glance), evoke the feeling of tactility or texture, and preserve individuality of both the designers we interviewed and ourselves.
Upon arriving at our website, the large white dots are the first visible items to load in. This was done as a subtle call-to-action and to pique user curiousity. If the user then hovers over a dot, it reveals a glimpse of what to expect from the designer interview inside.
We showcased both sides of the field school experience: the films, and our own 2-month journey across the Netherlands. To achieve this, we used a a calendar as a visual metaphor, and a simple toggle. The dots are laid out in chronological order, descending from top-left to bottom-right, encouraging exploration, and avoids holding one experience or interview as more important than another.
Our field school team and website is but one of many that came before us. To show our deference, we created a dedicated page that directs users to the websites of our predecessors. Similar to the dots on the home page, we surfaced their individuality upon hover, and was based on a visual metaphor: book spines on a shelf. Seeing each of these teams side-by-side was also meant to punctuate the magnitude of the legacy we were contributing to.
While we were in-field in the Netherlands, I was one of the primary interviewers and researchers, coordinated the b-roll team and photographers, and took furious noted during filming. After we returned to Vancouver to edit and create the website, I was the lead content strategist and copy writer for the website, ran all of our social media, and also assisted with editing and crafting several of the interview narratives.
In terms of metrics, our videos were watched more than 2500 times put together, our social media following tripled in size (from ~200 followers to 385 on Instagram), and thousands of unique visits to our website from all over the world.
In terms of what I got out of the experience, hands down, this was one of the most rewarding experiences from my time at SFU. My excessive appreciation for the em-dash has only increased, and I had complete ownership over my role, which allowed me to stretch my capabilities — I'm used to working in teams of 2-6 where there is a lot overlap of roles and work to be done, so a team of 12 was a great opportunity to focus my skills. I am incredibly proud of what my team and I accomplished, but also humbled and grateful for the opportunity.