Industrial design

The economic disarray that prevailed after the Second World War spurred the Dutch government to formulate an industrial policy. This naturally included a new kind of education on design, something that the minister also initially saw as part of a modern ‘civilising offensive’. At the request of the Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, several artistic and sometimes also radical progressive designers, including Mart Stam and Andries Copier, drew up plans for a programme to train industrial designers. This plan was supported by the minister in an economic-organisational sense, although not ideologically, and was subsequently presented to the Institute of Technology in Delft.

“Mart Stam and Andries Copier drew up plans for a programme to train industrial designers”

Architecture

Since the government’s first initiatives, however, the faculties of Mechanical Engineering and Architecture had had serious objections. Mechanical Engineering was concerned about artistic influence on technical education, whereas Architecture had an opponent to the new industrial future in the person of the architect M.J. Granpré Molière, who took his inspiration from religion. There were also proponents of ‘industrial design’, however, such as the traditionalist professor Frits Eschauzier, who specialised in interior design, and the modernist professor of architecture Jo van den Broek.

Joost van der Grinten

Frits Eschauzier had close ties with Philips, whose head of design, Louis Kalff, had himself trained as an architect in Delft in the 1920s. Kalff and the young Philips designer Rein Veersema had given a number of lectures on product design in Delft in the 1950s, enabling students to become acquainted with the new field. A promising architectural trainee at Philips, Joost van der Grinten, would eventually develop the new degree course in Industrial Design.

Joost van der Grinten using a band saw, probably in the attic on the Julianalaan.

Playing catch-up

Van der Grinten was familiar with the academic world and practice, the latter not only due to his short period at Philips, but also due to the family business, Van der Grinten, which manufactured photocopiers. When working as an assistant to Eschauzier, he had made a study of the various design courses in Europe, such as those at the Royal College of Art in London and the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm. His conclusion was that the Netherlands was behind the times in training modern designers, and that the country had to make good speed to catch up. His advice was not initially heeded, but after the intervention of several professors and at the insistence of a board member of the Institute of Technology, Kees van der Leeuw (the director of the famous Van Nelle factory), the young and energetic Van der Grinten was given a new chair, followed in 1962 by his appointment as an endowed professor.

Rein Veersema during his time at Philips