Friday, October 9, 2009

Designer of the Month: Droog

Week 2: use it again

To me, the design that typifies the Droog aesthetic to me is Tejo Remy's 1991 'You Can't Lay Down Your Memory' Chest of Drawers. Maybe it's because it was my introduction to Droog, and maybe it's because I think this work is such a great combination of cool piece of (somewhat) functional furniture, funky design object, and statement on consumerism, but it's what I think of when I think Droog. Made from used drawers encased in new maple casings and held together with a jute strap, this design plays on the ideas of memory, consumption, functionality, and today's theme of "use it again." With his work displayed in that original Milan Furniture Fair exhibition, Remy was one of the original members of Droog, and his designs typify the new aesthetic of economy, simplicity and responsibility that was in direct opposition to the "hangover after the exuberance and excess of the 1980s."[1] As Gareth Williams explains in his essay "Use It Again," from the Simply Droog exhibition catalog:

In the early 1990s a new morality was observable in design. It was no longer sufficient to design attractive or efficient products. The materials and manufacturing processes also had to be sustainable and as environmentally friendly as possible. Moreover designers felt it necessary to make overt statements about the environmental credibility of their objects.[2]

'You Can't Lay Down Your Memory' Chest of Drawers, by Tejo Remy, 1991. Used drawers, maple, jute strap. Courtesy of the the Museum of Modern Art.

For the designers at Droog, recycling was both an ethical and aesthetic consideration. Of course, recycling and reusing as a design aesthetic has taken on many forms in the hands of different designers, and this is as true for Droog as any other group of individuals. While designers such as Remy reused materials, waste or objects that were deemed obsolete, others were reusing design ideas to create new objects.

Doormat 'Hommage to Gerd Arntz' in hare and hippo shapes, by Ed Annink, 1993. Coir and PVC. Courtesy of

Ed Annink's 'Hommage to Gerd Arntz' doormats took the idea of repurposing, making use of the fact that Gerd Arntz’s statistic pictograms were free of copyright, to put an already-conceived-of design to a different use, turning these shapes into doormats.[3] In addition to reusing this design, the doormats themselves were made from the recycled materials of coir (coconut fibers) and PVC.

St. Petersburg Chair, by Jurgen Bey, 2003. Existing chair, foam, glass reinforced Polyester. Courtesy of Droog.

This tradition of reusing and repurposing has continued to play an important role in Droog designs through the years, such as with Jurgen Bey's St. Petersburg Chair. Developed for the Dutch Room in St. Petersburg, Bey took antique, worn-out chairs and covered them with layers of fiberglass, a silkscreening some of them with a flower pattern.[4] Bey's designs, which find new worth for formerly obsolete objects, are his way of both literally and metaphorically healing the objects - he helps them to find longevity by giving them a new life - imbuing them with emotional or symbolic appeal.[5] As Williams goes on to explain about this concept of reuse in design:

What are we to learn from the frugality and prudence of recycled design objects? They are exercises in 'making do and mending' and as such they are indictments of our wasteful ways. They are not luxurious, but neither are they particularly functional. Perhaps it is their modesty and the humility of their execution that is their greatest lesson. They are polemical objects that dare us to keep consuming wastefully.[6]

These objects, though functional, weren't created for a purely functional purpose. Rather it's the aesthetic that these Droog designers found important, using design as their soapbox, as a vehicle for change.

[1] The Museum of Modern Art online,, (accessed October 5, 2009).

[2] Gareth Williams, "Use It Again," Simply Droog: 10+3 Years of Creating Innovation and Discussion, (Amsterdam: Droog, 2006), 25.

[3] Ibid., 30.

[4] Ibid., 33.

[5] Ibid., 28.

[6] Ibid., 31.

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