Monday, 4:30pm
15 July 2013

Set the controls for the heart of Dutch design

Open Set summer school tackles autonomy within design culture under the theme of ‘Commonomy’ – with a special offer for Eye blog readers

Design summer programmes offer many enticing reasons to participate, not least of which is the chance to learn from renowned design professionals while gaining new perspectives and experimenting with new design approaches, writes Linda Kwon.

Open Set, which takes place next month, is a Dutch graphic design summer school that offers just that with an added feature of flexible participation. The two-week programme consists of three workshops and the option of either doing a single workshop or the full, two-week intensive course of three workshops – in addition to studio visits, lectures and a final critique. The programme will take place from 19-31 August 2013 in Breda, Netherlands at the House of Visual Culture.

Wasted Pleasure by Sum Ping Sibyl Lai and Yin Lau Ho.
Top: e-Utopia group (left to right) Artem Stepanov, Sofia Evans, Dário Cannatà with tutor Thomas Castro (right).

IMG_1286.brighten crop

Breda, Netherlands.


According to Open Set founders Vlad Butucariu and Irina Shapiro, Open Set will explore the boundaries of the design profession while enabling dialogue and debate among young designers. This is reflected in the range of instructors teaching on the programme, with workshops given by Jonathan Barnbrook (see Eye 15), Jan van Toorn (see Eye 2), Martijn Engelbregt, Petr van Blokland and Catalogtree. Lectures will be provided by Max Bruinsma (editor of Eye from issues 25-32), Geert Lovink, Casco and Ekim Tan.

Petr van Blokland leads the typography workshop.


The theme for Open Set 2013 is ‘Commonomy’, a term which questions autonomy and its social influence within a culture where everything is designed. The role of the designer will be examined along with the influence design plays in social change and cultural, political and technological development. The programme will also explore current forms of critical and socially engaged design.

Video interview with Max Bruinsma about Open Set 2013 theme ‘Commonomy’.

The first Open Set was held last year with the theme of utopia, which looked at design and utopia within a broader socio-historical context. Max Bruinsma, design critic, editor and guest lecturer at Open Set, wrote in the Open Set Catalogue essay about ‘utopia as agency’. He describes the necessity of utopia as a ‘principle of action, as a “fore consciousness” of a deep longing for a future that is not yet realised’.

Image from the Manifesto on Digital Recycling project by Adrien Borderie, Vlad Butucariu and Irina Shapiro which equates digital trash to analog trash. They called for the visual shredding or decontextualisation of image files in order to allow them to be reused.


The 2012 Open Set catalogue, available online, includes an archive of the projects as well as a transcript of the group discussions led by tutor Thomas Castro, Lust co-founder, interrogating themes of meta design, systems, senses, predicting behaviour, design as thought, source / author / production / distribution and the future of design.

Thomas Castro with students at Open Set 2012.


The programme has attracted participants from across Europe and as far as Russia, China and Australia. The course is structured so that participants have the opportunity to work on individual and group projects that culminate with a critique and a conference.

Yin Lau Ho (right) presents her work to Max Bruinsma (left) and Jan van Toorn (middle).


This year, Open Set has created a special offer for an Eye reader to win the chance to participate in one of the three day workshops for free, with a choice among Jan van Toorn, Martijn Engelbregt or Petr van Blokland. In addition, a €100 discount is available for any applicants to the full programme. A portfolio is required to enter the single workshop contest or to apply to the full summer school; more details can be found on the Open Set website. Be sure to specify whether you are applying for the full two week workshop or entering the contest to win the chance to participate in a single workshop. Mention the code EYE-OPNST2013 in your application email to [email protected]. The application deadline has also been extended to 22 July for Eye readers. The winner of the free workshop will be announced via the Eye twitter and facebook pages on 24 July.

STOP PRESS: The winner of the Open Set free workshop competition is Jura Afanasjevs from Dublin, Ireland. Eye and Open Set would like to congratulate Jura Afanasjevs, whose portfolio was selected from many talented entrees.

Participants at Open Set 2012 taking part in Petr van Blokland’s ‘Design Game’ at St Joost Art Academy.


* Petr van Blokland, among many other things is the designer of Proforma, Eye magazine’s principal text typeface from issues 21-71.

See ‘Go with the data flow’ in Eye 85 about Dutch studio Lust, cofounded by Thomas Castro and ‘The designer unmasked’, Gerard Forde’s profile of Jan van Toorn in Eye 2 .

Linda Kwon, designer and writer, London

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.