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In the rush hour of aesthetics

She is considered one of the most important designers in the Netherlands. Renowned brands such as Magis, Cappellini and Iittala are her customers. But Ineke Hans is not only interested in beautiful design. As a designer, artist, visionary and professor, she commutes between her studios in Arnhem, London and Berlin. What drives them? Innovative materials, exciting production techniques and the future of design. Welcome to the rush hour of aesthetics!

Interview: Silke Roth

Ineke Hans, how would you describe your job?

Ineke Hans: I am a product designer. But to be honest, the name is not entirely appropriate. The focus of my work has always been designing furniture and products. These can range from chairs made using injection molding to objects made from mouth-blown glass. For both public and private spaces or for social projects. But in recent years the question “What do we really need in our world when we have so much of everything?” has become more and more present. In 2016 I started a new project called “Salon”. It deals with the future of products and designers. Basically panel discussions that I ran in my studio in East London and exciting debate evenings that took place at the Victoria & Albert Museum.


Has your work changed as a result?

IH: Oh yes, the focus has changed and my world of inspiration has changed. I now organize critical design exhibitions and see the world of product and industrial designers from other aspects - including negative ones. I am now more interested and involved in product typologies related to the future of living. I also started a professorship at the University of the Arts in Berlin two years ago. I teach Design & Social Context there, a very exciting task.


Sounds like little work-life balance. What does a normal working day look like for you?

IH: Ooh˘… (laughs) A difficult question. Every day is different. I travel a lot for trade fairs, to visit customers or simply because I'm invited to give lectures. There are days when I just write, organize and answer emails. Then there are days when I develop new designs or experiment with technologies and materials. I have a studio in London, I moved to Berlin last summer. I'm on my own there, but I still maintain close daily contact with my assistants in Arnhem.


Do you have any hobbies?

IH: Not really. Honestly: I love working. Some days I even forget to eat lunch in the studio.


Where do you prefer to work?

IH : In my home office. I hate rigid guidelines and formalities.


What do your studios look like?

IH: My Berlin studio is still a construction site and urgently needs some craft work. It's much smaller and lonelier than the studio in London. You would know it as “low key”, but it forces me to focus and I don’t get distracted. An important point for me! My studio in Holland is very large. I estimate 480 square meters, with a large workshop where I can work on metal and wood. To be honest, it looks a bit like a flea market. All sorts of objects that I work on, that I find interesting, or just things that need to be stored accumulate there.


Whether you are creative in Arnhem or Berlin – how do you work?

IH: Basically, I always look at people's behavior, what requirements arise from it and what necessities there are in their living space. Offices have changed. Flexible working hours mean that furniture is no longer the most important thing and many are moving their desks home. Sofas and simple furniture for meetings are much more in demand than complex overall solutions for large areas. I also find it exciting that the younger generation is much less interested in owning things. They prefer to live in small houses, integrate smart solutions into their household and order online. These are all factors that influence my work and that I take into account. I like working with technologies and production methods that are not yet common.


What are you currently working on?

IH: We just finished an interior project in Amsterdam. A boardroom with new chairs. There we tried to give this very classic, seating room a different look. It's a completely new type of chair and I'm very excited to see how it's received. I hope we can soon implement the designs with a Swedish manufacturer.


What responsibilities will designers have in the future?

IH: We can no longer afford to just produce new things; we are part of the production chain and have to set priorities. We are very good problem solvers, but instead of wasting our energy on designing new, trendier things, we should focus on content and projects. Design more sustainably, reflect much more and weigh up the impact on society. And of course create products that really make sense. Enforcing something like this with the customer might be our most difficult task.

View into the studio of Ineke Hans | Portrait Ineke Hans © Lennard Heijer

The interview was conducted by Silke Roth and first appeared in the stilwerk magazine “Inspiring Spaces” 2020.


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