Dutch Design Foundation presents MISSION CLUB

27 October, 2023

“Change is a contact sport. An interplay between governments, the market and designers. A year-long process of seeking each other out, experimentation and even a bit of conflict. Change only works if companies dare to be open to it, and designers delve into those companies with full conviction.”


With those words, Martijn Paulen (Director) opened the launch of Dutch Design Foundations’ brand new Mission Club on Wednesday 25 October in Eindhoven, presented by Marsha Simon.  


The Mission Club is a place where inquisitive companies, governments and other organisations can get acquainted with the design community, and where, conversely, designers acquaint themselves with Dutch Design Foundation’s business network. This creates connections between organisations and designers keen to collaborate on urgent issues. This can be achieved in all kinds of ways: material studies, visualisations of complex issues, and even new forms of catering or process support for major strategic questions. Many Dutch Design Foundation activities come together in the Mission Club: What if Lab, World Design Embassies, expeditions and other avenues to enable the best possible matches to be made. 

Starting from a solid design brief

Martijn Paulen: “We see challenges on both sides. For companies, it is mainly the unknowns, being open to unproven processes and ideas. That results in a more unpredictable route than many companies are used to. On the design side, the challenge for designers is to commit to understanding organisations. How decision-making processes work, how to get people on board and how to ensure it all fits together. This starts with formulating a really solid design brief and we have a lot of experience with that in our programme What if Lab, for example.”


In front of a room full of joining and interested organisations, Maton Sonnemans (EY), Tabo Goudswaard (social designer, Geert van Bakel (Sweco), Emy Bensdorp (designer) and René van Geer (Secrid) were questioned on the importance of the power of design for organisations. They shared some insights and challenges from their own experience:

Maton Sonnemans: “We do a lot of projects where you wouldn’t normally expect a designer. By involving designers, preferably in combination with other experts such as scientists or economists, you add imagination to your own – often more traditional – perspective as management.” 

Emy Bensdorp (founder of Studio Claybens): “Finding the right words is important. Speaking different ‘languages’ and switching between them is sometimes difficult. If I’m already struggling with ‘how to explain it’ myself, how difficult is it to go to management or a government ministry. They look at measurability in very different ways than I do, for instance.” 

Tabo Goudswaard (creative lead of the Embassy of Safety): “The Ministry of Justice and Security is of course a world of rules and laws. Yet they also realise that design and manufacturing power are needed. But how do you do that in tandem? The important thing is to create an environment with processes and methods that provide reassurance; the collaboration itself is also a design task.”

Geert van Bakel (structural engineer Sweco): “We are now participating in a WhatifLab for the third year in a row and know the challenges that come with collaborations like these. As engineers and designers, we do have similar perspectives, only one has a more concrete approach and the other is more abstract. You want and need to bridge that gap.” 

René van Geer (founder and CEO Secrid): “We believe in design as a force for good and on the Secrid Talent Podium during this DDW, there are seven designers who really represent that, including Emy. She has to get out of her comfort zone for that, just like the others. Emy is working on bricks, but actually these are all designers working on changing the industry.”  

Following this, the participants shared their personal missions in smaller groups, and they explored how these missions could mutually support each other. For instance, a designer studying materials from waste streams engaged in a discussion with a major kitchen manufacturer about collaborating to make production chains more sustainable. Meanwhile, a social designer had a conversation with an energy supplier about energy poverty.


Participating in the Mission Club

Founding participants in the Mission Club include Rabobank, Vattenfall, EY, Renault and Catawiki. The Mission Club connects organisations to the network of designers by establishing connections and providing guidance on collaboration. In return, participating companies are asked for a contribution that supports the club and annually funds a project that advances young designers. The Mission Club can be found throughout the year in Eindhoven, but also next year in other locations in the rest of the country, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

If you would like to know more or participate in the Mission Club, please contact the team of Rosa van Dijk (Head of Development at Dutch Design Foundation and founder of Mission Club).