Dutch Design Week is renowned for future thinking and concept-driven design projects, making it one of our top design events of the year to visit. This year’s exhibit revolved around something that’s top of the agenda for everyone from governments to brands: designing for a better world. The Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, and there’s no better tool to accomplish this than design. This was the criteria that drove the speaker line-up for Antenna – a platform curated by Design Indaba featuring the world’s best graduates – and was also illustrated in the diverse projects featured from Design Academy Eindhoven in addition to the independent studios on show.

Pearlfisher’s Futures team has selected the stand out projects from the week, featuring the creatives we believe are the thought leaders in their field and who brands can be inspired by, covering topics that range from food and beverage to modern love.

Driven by extensive research into how food affects the brain, this collaboration between Eatelier and Chef PIPPENS explores the relationship between happiness and food. In pursuit of a positive state of mind, the beautiful dining experience and sensorial exhibition presents, demonstrates and educates diners on the positive effects of food. With consumers increasingly conscious of personal wellbeing, food and drink brands can tap into this movement by exploring how the things we eat can support positive mental, emotional and physical health.

Speaking at Antenna about “The Arctic Commons”, Gavin Zietz proposed concepts that create an inclusive economic zone in the Arctic. His manifesto shows the equal benefits for joint nations in a circular and empathetic system, rather than striving for control of the region. By recognising the profit in shared benefits and a more people focused stance to expansion, brands should increasingly involve residents and businesses in the spirit of co-creation to foster a local sense of ownership and responsibility to create solutions for whole ecosystems, rather than individual brand profit.

This immersive audio experience demonstrates the role of design in promoting equal human rights. Each exhibit was developed through an individual and international partnership between a human rights activist and a designer from Foundation We Are. From future scenario planning for kids growing up in unequal environments to educational tools for empathy, this beautifully curated exhibition invites designers and brands to play important roles in our world.

Through elegantly simple design hacks, this trio of designers has been adapting standardised Ikea designs for polyamorous relationships, challenging the design industry to keep up with modern conceptions of love. Translated through food, furniture and product design, they call on brands to become more inclusive and understand the more transient definitions of modern multi-faceted identities.

‘Catch of the day’ by Björn Steina utilises leftover fruit waste to create an alcoholic spirit prolonging the ‘best before’ date to infinity as “alcohol over 23% can never go bad”. As well as providing an innovative way to fight food waste, the open-source distilling machine allows others to recreate the concept across the globe. This project invites brands to think about incorporating circular and shared systems within their production processes, as well as sharing their innovations for wider societal benefits.

  • Ukubutha: Social architecture in South African townships

Nicole Nomsa Moyo has developed a circular piece of self-sustaining architecture motivated by seeing the unsafe and unhygienic toilets in South African townships. The incredible structure can be built by the surrounding communities and not only enables access to safe toilets but harvests water, fertilises the soil and controls wind channels. This shows how investing in blue sky innovations cultivates whole communities, creating lucrative self-sustaining collectives.

  • DEEP: A zero-waste fast-fashion collection

This fashion collection has been made with zero material waste, as it has been created entirely on a computer. Designed by Amber Jae Slooten in collaboration with The Fabricant, their hypnotising animated videos take the viewer through endless ethereal digital environments. Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by Dutch Invertuals and FranklinTill, the pair discussed how the future of fashion need not be irresponsible, and how physical desire can be shifted to dematerialised virtual expression, ultimately reducing the production of wasted objects.

  • An I: An artificial intelligence platform that guides you on a journey of self-discovery

Camilo Oliveira’s A.I. concept emphasises the importance of self-reflection and contemplation by allowing you to have conversations that you wouldn’t like to have with anyone else, serving the individual rather than dictate decision making. “The saturation of daily life with digital technology has changed the way we see ourselves, generating existential crises, anxiety and disconnection…taking care of yourself constitutes not only a principle but a constant practice.” Today people want considered design that empowers us respects our human intuitions and emotions.

  • Poco Apollo: A computer’s audio interpretation of the moon

Halldór Eldjárn has transformed 14,228 NASA Apollo photos into music by creating and utilising an algorithm that allows a computer to interpret the images and create generative music. The result is a bespoke song for every photo, allowing viewers to have a serendipitous experience every time they click on the platform. In a world of digital noise, this is an excellent example of how creatives can break away from predictable online environments to create poetic experiences and capture serendipity.

  • Algae Lab: An algae-based alternative to plastic

Winner of the New Material Award 2018, Studio Klarenbeek & Dros and Atelier Luma, have developed algae-based biopolymers. Although numerous projects resource algae, this uniquely balancing aesthetic beauty with commercial functionality – the material has been 3D printed into beautiful iridescent objects and proved to be suitable for injection moulding, becoming a viable alternative to traditional plastics.