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Visualizing the Invisible: Design and Creative Culture in the Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Term Offered: 

Approximate Dates of Instruction: 
June 23, 2014 to August 22, 2014
Application Deadline: 
January 31, 2014

Join us at an INFO SESSION for this program on Wednesday, January 29th at 6pm in the CHID Lounge!

The Netherlands is a country, literally, by design. Located below sea level on the stormy North Sea, the Dutch have been forced to defend themselves against threatening floods for centuries. Engineering technology of the twentieth century combined with Dutch design ingenuity produced one of the largest construction efforts in human history, the Zuiderzee Works. Out of this massive redesign project, not only did 580 square miles of fresh land emerge, but also the redesign of villagers’ identities in former fishing villages, the integration of a new province into the country, and all the building and urban planning projects a new province requires. Geography, identity, and politics are intimately entangled with design in the Netherlands.

For the Dutch, most things connect to some sort of design mentality. A Dutch approach to design is never simply about form or function; what motivates Dutch designers is the constant demand for creativity in facing complex social, economic and cultural problems. Intimately engaged with its surroundings, the Dutch design sensibility tends to “remix” existing elements to produce sustainable hybrids and craft a particular quality of life. In the last three decades, Dutch design has emerged as an internationally recognized force. Its influence and appeal stems from a unique combination of its experimental and innovative qualities, its numerous prestigious design academies (Eindhoven, Gerrit Reitveld Academy, Utrecht School of the Arts), and its strong governmental support for new designers, and a rigorous marketing plan. The Netherlands thus provides a unique landscape on which to explore innovation and creativity on multiple scales: geography, architecture, urban planning, furniture, fashion, food and agriculture, communication, product design and typography.

Following the Dutch model, our study in Amsterdam engages with design at multiple levels. Working with local artists and designers, students will visit studios and museums in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht; they will study the history and witness the contexts, materials, concepts, and applications of Dutch design. Students will attend local lectures and events at Foam Lab and Hotel Droog, and enter the contemporary discussions on design. Students will then use this design experience as a lens for thinking about other fields that incorporate design such as philosophy, literature, science, and technology. Reflecting on the role of humans as designers, students will be encouraged to locate themselves within a design mentality and to engage with design as knowledge. Finally, students will wrap up their immersive experience in Amsterdam by creating their own design projects. These projects will be tied to specific designed spaces in and around the city of Amsterdam and will creatively reframe those spaces in order to address a specific design problem.

  • CHID 471A: Design Ecologies (5 credits)
  • CHID 390: Colloquium in the History of Ideas (5 credits)
  • CHID 471B: Survey of Dutch Design (5 credits)
Fulfills Requirements: 
CHID Cultural and Historical Engagement
CHID 390
I&S Credit
VLPA Credit
NW Credit
Total Program Fees: 

*Note that the fees stated above do not include some additional costs, including, but not limited to: airfare, Study Abroad Insurance (about $42/month), and personal spending money. Remember that these costs will differ by program. Be sure to read our Fees, Financing, and Withdrawal information for details about the fee structure and payment schedule.