A look behind the scenes

Interview with industrial designer Robert Bronwasser by Viveka van de Vliet. Photography by Thomas van Schaik.

Robert Bronwasser offers a three-day look behind the scenes. His large studio on the Johan van Hasseltkanaal in Amsterdam North offers an almost unobstructed view of the IJ, despite the fact that there has been a lot of construction of late. Inside, during GLUE, you can see how the designer sketches and designs, and how that leads to products of which there are many examples in the studio: from a coat rack, table and sofa to crockery and the watering can. Not only can you see live how Robert Bronwasser works, but you can also see it in images and text: his book Enjoy Everyday Design will be presented during this event.

The book published by the designer himself is the occasion for a three-day programme with countless lectures by everyone who has contributed to the publication. The designer will give them a stage, including Thomas van Schaik, who provided the product photography for the book; Smel, the agency that did the design; and Robert Bronwasser himself will also give workshops about his vision on design.

Robert Bronwasser. Photography by Thomas van Schaik

The book also shows how lively and diverse the creative sector is in Amsterdam North: besides the printer and yours truly, all the creatives who worked on Enjoy Everyday Design work in this district. So, for creativity, you don’t have to leave the city, or even this part of town.

Even though Bronwasser is not originally from Amsterdam, he is an urbanite who needs the dynamics. In 1996, he moved to the capital because this is where it was happening, because the nightlife was flourishing, because he found inspiration there. In the past few years, he has been living a stone’s throw away from his studio and although he doesn’t consciously seek them out, he collaborates with many Amsterdam brands such as Qwic, Heineken and Palau. So, Amsterdam is in him in all sorts of ways.

Robert Bronwasser. Photography by Thomas van Schaik

Many others also consider Amsterdam to be a creative city, but it is rarely visible, according to Bronwasser. ‘The great thing about GLUE is that it combines all that creativity and you can look it up yourself, whether you’re a client or a resident, someone from out of town or a potential customer. For me and many other creatives in the sector, it is interesting that different disciplines are getting to know each other, seeking each other out and strengthening each other. And I also hope that this event will be a reason for residents to take a look inside designers’ studios, to realize the richness of all that creativity and how large the share of the creative sector is in Amsterdam. I hope it will lead to more mutual understanding and enthusiasm.’

Because people often don’t realise that the interior of a museum, the brochure at the dentist’s, the newspaper in the letterbox, or the posters in the tram and bus shelters have all been designed. And also, the fact that Heineken’s tap is in thousands of pubs around the world and a bicycle brand like Qwic is a commercially successful Amsterdam company employing more than a hundred people. 

‘Design is an essential part of our daily lives; you are confronted with it every day,’ says Bronwasser. ‘During this low-threshold event, it will be illuminated and highlighted. You can see what well-known and lesser-known creatives are behind these designs and how they design these things in their studios.’

Robert Bronwasser. Photography by Thomas van Schaik

The performing arts and museums are more strongly involved in the political debate about subsidies and the importance of the creative sector than the design world, because the discipline is so broad and fragmented, and many designers are also concerned with what they are good at: designing. Bronwasser: ‘I, too, am a designer, not a politician. But showing the economic value of design is my contribution to promoting the creative sector.’

And GLUE – which also fits in perfectly with our times – also contributes to this: you don’t have to travel to a trade fair, you don’t have to invest money, materials and energy in building up your stand before you can show your work to the public, and you don’t have to dismantle everything again. GLUE works the other way around: creatives just open their doors. The public can walk in, attend lectures, exhibitions, showroom and book presentations, and encounter small studios, hubs and makerspaces. There’s more than enough to discover.

Find the exhibition in Amsterdam