Designer interview: David Derksen

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In this interview series, we will enter into a dialogue with the designers we work with. How do they perceive the design profession? Where do their motivations and fascinations come from? How did the products originate that can now be found in the Vij5 collection and what influence has their education had on what their design studio looks like now?

First in line is David Derksen, who is able to convert a fascination for nature, natural sciences, materials, manufacturing processes, mathematical patterns and laws into products, working from his studio in Rotterdam.

Text: Anieke Branderhorst & David Derksen
Photography on location: Blickfanger
Product photography: Vij5

Arjan & Anieke: 'What do you think is the essence of product design?'

David: 'When we talk about the essence of product design, I think there are countless ways to design a product and there is no one right way. The different approaches and styles enrich each other.But time and attention during design and development is absolutely essential. Good designs are rarely conceived and developed quickly. I also believe that you can see that attention and love reflected in a design.'

The Copper Lights and Trestle Table, which are part of the Vij5 collection, are remarkably both further developments of his graduation projects at the Design Academy and TU Delft respectively.

David: 'The Copper Lights (and later Brass Lights) are based on my graduation project 'Copper Cabinet', a fragile cabinet for storing small valuable possessions, which I made using a similar technique. For the Copper Cabinet I tried to make furniture from thin copper by bending, folding and soldering. The design language I developed was later applied to the Copper Light series. Developing the Copper/Brass Lights into a product was quite a challenge. Never before had a lamp been made on the basis of etched parts with such sharp bending lines. The connections and tooling had to be specially developed.'

"Contrasting or, on the contrary, very harmonious material combinations add richness to a collection."

David Derksen

David: 'The trestles of the Trestle Table were originally designed for a lightweight tabletop that I developed for my Industrial Design graduation project. I wanted to design a table that would fit in with flexible workspaces. Therefore I designed easily movable and stackable trestles. Later on, these trestles turned out to be a good product on their own as well, so I opted for a plywood top with Forbo desktop.'

'I think that the Trestle Table and the Copper/Brass Lights both fit well with Vij5 because materiality plays an important role in the collection of Vij5. Contrasting or, on the contrary, very harmonious combinations of materials give richness to a collection and these designs play on that.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'Where does your drive to create come from?'

David: 'This is always a tricky question.. Inspiration, or the will to create, can happen at any moment. For example, I can see a detail of a building on the street and then really feel like doing something with it. But that is also possible in nature. I think these kinds of fascinations ultimately arises as a child. The place, the people around you, where and how you grow up all influence that. In the first place I find it important that people just like my products. But of course I hope that somewhere along the way they also start to see the same kind of beauty in the materials used, the construction and the kind of purity in which it is implemented, as I do.

David graduated in 2009 from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the direction 'Man and Living' and completed a master in Industrial Design at the TU Delft in 2011. His interest in materials and the beauty of manufacturing processes originated here.

David: 'During my studies at the Design Academy, I learned how to translate these kinds of personal fascinations into projects and designs. During my graduation project of the master Industrial Design, Bruno Ninaber was one of my graduating professors. He inspired me to make things and really look into the last detail of how things are made and detailed.'

After graduating from the Design Academy and during his master Industrial Design, David exhibited for the first time in Milan. Together with Vij5, among others, he showed his latest designs in a group exhibition.

David: 'I presented my Copper Lights there for the first time. As a result of this exhibition, I received my first order and thus had the necessary income to start my studio. I haven't stopped doing this until now!'

Arjan & Anieke: 'What does collaboration mean to you?'

David: 'Collaboration works best if you are different and complement each other. Then you learn from each other and you get better together. I also love it when I can trust someone with something because you know that they are very good at it.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'Which product by another designer would you like to have come up with and why?'

David: 'The Bourroullec's are not necessarily designers I emulate but for years now they have been at the top of contemporary (furniture) design. I think their recent projects for public space, including a fountain, a kind of pavilion, a bench with a flag, etc. are really fantastic. The models they made for these projects are a joy to behold and in the end they are actually executed. They are also quite constructive designs, but at the same time very playful.'

David's designs always start as a project in which he explores a particular fascination for a specific production technique with a material linked to it.

David: 'I try to express the beauty that I see in it in the purest possible way in a design for a piece of furniture, lamp or object. During the process I determine a kind of rules that the design must satisfy and I try to carry these out consistently. This often leads to somewhat constructivist, mathematical designs.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'In conclusion, which (life) lesson would you like to pass on to the next generation?'

David: 'Attention and love, for people and certainly also for products!'

Products from
David Derksen
in the
Vij5 collection