Redesigning Bussiness

From Beyond Social

  • Iris Schutten
  • Deanna Herst
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    Each editorial is a collection of different articles, carefully selected to emphasize a certain issue, topic or theme. More about editorials or explore the selected articles of this editorial.


    'Redesigning Business' focuses on, and questions, developments in business models resulting from creative thinking. Can designers and artists such as yourself really make a change?

    Social design

    Social design is an emerging field of practice. As a design approach, it no longer focuses exclusively on products but instead proposes a (re)design of processes, interactions and relationships. As a response to developments and changes in our society, social design aims to involve participants and stakeholders within the design process, while focusing on societal issues such as bottom-up strategies and sustainability. At the same time, and from similar perspectives, new business models are emerging rapidly within our current economy. How can these worlds be brought together?

    Paradigm Shift

    The worldwide financial crisis, ongoing social transitions and the emergence of new technologies seem to have made old certainties redundant. New business models are emerging rapidly. According to the Russian Economist Nikolai Kondratiev, economic crises are always preceded by social revolutions. Think, for example, of the industrial revolution, the introduction of the automobile and currently the information age. What all these crises have in common is societal and economical change: other forms of labour, different organisational structures, new business models and new players in charge. If we consider the current crisis a similar tipping point, this could open up possibilities for creative disciplines as well as for businesses.

    Redesigning business?

    Currently, designers as well as entrepreneurs are exploring the potential of the sharing economy and the circular economy. In innovative projects such as 'Kickstarter', 'CrowdBuilding', 'De Ceuvel' and 'AirBnB', the basis of multiple value creation is formed by new and existing flows of money, local entrepreneurship, bottom-up strategies, social capital, open networks, energy transition and new technologies. Tools from the creative disciplines have proven here to be useful and necessary; design thinking and systemic analysis (the study of sets of interacting entities) make it possible to intertwine a wide range of parameters within a complex reality. This could lead to new and exciting business models.

    Utopian ideal or a future reality?

    Projects such as 'Disarming Design from Palestine' (an inclusive design label that presents functional products from Palestine, initiated by Annelys de Vet), 'Wikihouse' (an open source building toolkit by Joost Beunderman), the 'Biobased Retrofit House' (a project by Duzan Doepel that combines soil decontamination with social housing improvement) and the rapid emergence of decentralised and locally-owned sustainable energy companies (such as the cooperative 'Zon@School') show that redesigning existing business models seems promising. However, at the same time one may question how realistic these new models are. Will bottom-up initiatives eventually be absorbed by 'old' economical systems, as was the case with AirBnB? Can designers and artists really contribute to new economic models? Is this a utopian ideal or a future reality?

    Disarming Design from Palestine

    Explore with us!

    In this issue, we invite you to explore with us the following questions and issues: How are ongoing contemporary developments affecting and changing the way we do business? Which skills do designers, artists and other creative practitioners need to develop in order to change the way we do business? How realistic are these new models? Does changing business from a design perspective represent a 'mission impossible' or is it our only way out? How can we implement new business models through design?

    Masterclass on The Circular Economy, with Superuse Studios and Rotterzwam

    Masterclass on The Civic Economy, with Pink Pony Express, De Makers van Rotterdam, Isaac Monté en Hanako Lodder

    Masterclass on Gamifying the Circular, Civic and Sharing Economy, with Bruno Setola, Remko van der Pluijm and Arjen de Jong

    Masterclass on the Sharing Economy, with Marc Neelen, Ana Dzokic, Erik Jutten en Deanna Herst

    WdKA Redesigning Business Symposium in Maassilo Rotterdam, november 2014

    The first explorations within this issue have started at the masterclasses and symposium 'Redesigning Business', organised by the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam from November 17-21 2014. In this issue, you'll find proposals and projects that were collected during this event and work that was collected afterwards; within the different minors of the social practices of the WdKA but also work made by other experts and institutions; like the Ecolab from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest. Of course, this issue is never finished; it's an ongoing research. We encourage you to add new content anytime!

    Deanna Herst and Iris Schutten

    Social Practices

    Willem de Kooning Academy University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam



    This editorial is a further development of Issue #1 under the same name, which can be visited here.

    The first explorations within that issue have started at the symposium and masterclasses 'Redesigning Business', organised by the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam from November 17-21 2014. The masterclasses during this event were lead and hosted by: Jessica Bergmann (Pink Pony Express), Ana Dzokic (Stealth Unlimited), Arjen de Jong (Pervasive Game Design, Player-2), Isaac Monté (Sweatshop Deluxe), Marc Neelen (Stealth Unlimited), Remko van der Pluijm (lecturer gamification WdKA), Floris Schiferli (Superuse Studios), Bruno Setola (lecturer gamification WdKA), Mark Slegers (Rotterzwam) and Maurice Specht (De Makers van Rotterdam).

    Selected articles

    WikiHouse, an open source house design and construction kit. It's aim is to allow anyone to design, download, and 'print' CNC-milled houses and components, which can be assembled with minimal formal skill or training.

    23 October 2018 19:28:43 by Rümeysa Önal

    An increasing number of designers see the formulation of a business model as a design challenge in itself. As a result of the financial crisis and ongoing social transitions, old certainties have become fluid and new business models are emerging: business models in which the basis of multiple value creation is provided by new and existing cash flows, local entrepreneurship, social capital, open networks, energy transition and new technologies. An increasing number of designers and artists play an important role in the development of these new business models.


    25 October 2017 10:01:11 by Iris Schutten

    The field around "design" has recently shown a peculiar shift. In a short time, a multitude of designers – covering the total range of the design area, so it seems - have dedicated themselves to socially relevant problems. Currently, designers and artists are exploring barren areas in the neighborhood, architects are busy activating urban communities in buildings for the time being given up by real estate, spatial designers are again trying to 'match' social cohesion to urban districts or to tackle the bankruptcy of spatial planning with "process change", while numerous product developers promise to improve the world with pop-up stores. It's not that these pioneering design activities have never been undertaken before, but it seems counterintuitive to witness the emergence of such a "soft" approach, precisely in times of economic austerity, "rationalization" and disappearing culture funding. Or not?

    Illustration by Rachel Sender

    25 October 2018 22:07:23 by Rümeysa Önal

    On 20 November 2014 the Willem de Kooning Academy (WDKA) hosted an event on Redesigning Business in the Maassilo in Rotterdam. The central question was whether it is possible for designers and artists to develop new business models – a highly relevant topic for designers and non-designers alike in an economy that demands new ways of tackling old problems.

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    Jacco van Uden

    25 October 2017 09:56:19 by Iris Schutten

    The main goal of the Training Artists for Innovation project was to "develop a qualification and skills framework for artists working in business". The underlying idea is that while "there is considerable evidence of the need of business for the creativity that artists and creatives can deliver, there is a shortage of artists with the necessary expertise and experience." Enabling the artists to become more effective in the business domain, the authors claim, requires that these artists familiarise themselves with the language and the logic of business, and master essential business skills. I am uncomfortable with the instrumental approach of it all...

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    25 October 2017 10:05:47 by Iris Schutten

    In short, my work follows a simple formula: I find a symbol, I take it apart, and I reconstruct it to challenge its meaning. Needless to say this formula consists of numerous doubts, rephrasing and detours, but when all is finished and I look back at the process, it's more or less the same strategy that took me there (I hope none of my students read this, as I tell them to avoid this way of working).

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    Sandra Boer

    25 October 2017 10:16:08 by Iris Schutten

    "Do you want me to react as a person or from my position?" As an artist this might seem a weird question. How can you separate yourself? Is there a 'person' and a 'position'? Can you separate the artist from the person that you are?

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    Pieter Haasnoot

    30 October 2018 16:26:04 by Rümeysa Önal

    It is my mission to welcome exponential development technologies as sources for positive change and societal value. As I see it, recent developments towards radical transparency, empowerment of individuals, traceability and a collaborative network economy are reshaping society and leading to business innovation; one of my statements is 'small beats big'.

    Lennart Pieters performing

    25 October 2017 10:42:12 by Iris Schutten

    Poetic reaction to the Redesigning Business event: I got stuck although I thought I had found a steady rhythm

    that would perpetuate as if it was a sort of organism.

    I must be out of shape.

    Paul Rutten

    25 October 2017 10:55:16 by Iris Schutten

    It is a truism that our economy is in a state of flux. The past decades several concepts, indicating the way the economy has changed, have been coined. Service economy points to the transition from a state were goods are dominant into one where services are generating most value.

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    André Schaminée

    30 October 2018 19:40:48 by Rümeysa Önal

    Social designers seek to bring about systemic change, but how often does their work actually succeed in changing the workflow and mindset of corporations or public institutions?

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    Duzan Doepel

    30 October 2018 20:20:57 by Rümeysa Önal

    Giving shape to the process and the financing is just as important as the design itself. Duzan Doepel strongly believes that design can act as an agent for social renewal, and lead to strategies that contribute to a circular and inclusive economy. Circular in the sense of transforming energy, water, waste and material cycles into closed cycles. Inclusive in the sense of creating implementation trajectories that empower people who are otherwise removed from the labour market.

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    Joost Beunderman

    30 October 2018 20:21:51 by Rümeysa Önal

    In 2011 Joost Beunderman published the book 'compendium for the civic economy' in which he explains how the 'civic economy' represents another approach to entrepreneurship rooted in value creation, resilience and social entrepreneurship. He is interested in projects which make use of new organizational tactics, new ways of connecting and new approaches toward collaborative investments. I am convinced that the 'civic economy' is a real, vital and growing component of many local economies, actively contributing to community resilience, everyday innovation and shared prosperity.

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    Annelys de Vet

    25 October 2018 22:29:53 by Rümeysa Önal

    Recently Annelys de Vet has set up the project 'Disarming Design from Palestine'. This is an inclusive design label that presents functional products from Palestine, which provide an alternative narrative to what you might usually find in the high street. The goods are developed, designed and produced by contemporary designers, artists and students in Palestine and abroad in collaboration with local artisans and producers.

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    Photo by Nikolett Kustos, 2014

    2 November 2018 13:00:23 by Manetta

    In the summer of 2011 a group of dedicated students and young professionals from MOME EcoLab, the sustainability research group of Moholy Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest in Hungary, travelled to the remote Bodva valley, one of the poorest regions of Europe, to meet and help local Roma communities living in extreme poverty. The aim of the visit was to start a long-term social design project which would have relevant impacts. After four years of multiple failures, dozens of dead-ends and lots of work, the group is just about ready to understand "how to make it work".

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    29 October 2018 15:52:58 by Rümeysa Önal

    ONSbank is a unique type of cooperative bank which helps young people clear their debts and get their lives on a positive financial track. It's a combination of an alternative business model and an activation programme in which confession, reflection and action help change the behaviour and mentality that led to the creation of the debt in the first place. To become a client of this bank you first have to successfully complete a compulsory programme and find new work together with an artist.

    Eiland van Brienenoord

    6 December 2017 15:56:06 by Manetta

    'Doubt' as a central theme for the development of an island.

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    6 December 2017 15:51:22 by Manetta

    Sailing on the choppy waves of the financial crisis, various thinkers and designers are proposing a change of system which can give rise to new business models. We are witnessing the emergence of the circular economy, the sharing economy and the civic economy. The sharing economy as well as the circular economy is based on trust. What is the effect on business norms and ethics of this central role of trust? What are the real-life consequences of these new business models, which are still far from commonplace?

    Dinner at Stealth Masterclass

    31 October 2018 13:17:23 by Rümeysa Önal

    An increasing number of designers share their designs according to 'open source' principles. This way, they allow consumers to influence the making process by participating in the development at an early stage ('prosumers'), participating in the financing (crowdfunding, Kickstarter, CRWDBLDNG (a Blauwhoed and Space&matter collaboration) or participating in the fabrication ('manufacturing revolution', Fablabs, Bitcoin, WikiHouse). This raises questions about possible business models for a 'sharing economy'.

    Tropicana, a true aquatic paradise

    31 October 2018 14:42:58 by Rümeysa Önal

    New strategies such as the Blue Economy (Gunter Pauli) and Sustainism (Michael Schwarz and Diana Krabbendam) propose solutions to ecological, economic and social crises. These movements see local materials (waste products, local communities & expertise) as valuable assets, transforming linear processes into circular processes and valuing long-term performance over short-term gain. What are working business models for these types of reorganisations?

    First Beyond Social website front page

    21 November 2017 15:07:23 by Iris Schutten

    When Iris Schutten and Roger Teeuwen approached WdKA's Publication Station to co-develop a web-magazine for the Social Practices programme, my first thought was that a web-magazine was not very exciting. The image that formed in my head was of those 'web-magazines' that desperately try to resemble their physical counterparts, with clichés such as glossy looks, and turning pages, accompanied by the inevitable 'shhhs' sound. Yet, when Roger and Iris began to describe their ideas for the publication it was clear that they had something quite different in mind...


    29 October 2018 13:34:09 by Rümeysa Önal

    The intention of this lexicon is to better understand how social artists and designers can collaborate effectively with companies and organisations while working in a social practice. This list was created during the research project SOCIALDESIGNFORWICKEDPROBLEMS (SDFWP) and was called 'In-between language'. In-between language is language that is needed in order to create a shared space and mutual understanding within both worlds to cater to the specific needs of social art and design.

    More stacks

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