The department of Industrial Design grew rapidly at the end of the 1970s. The atmosphere among the staff members, most of whom were young, was downright dynamic, with an ideological struggle taking place on the principles of design. Many of the staff wanted a degree programme focused on commercial design practice. Others propagated the idea of the designer who would contribute to creating a better society, aided by modern technology. There were also groups of students who blatantly rejected both the high-tech route and the notion of contributing to a consumer society. Rather than doing their graduate projects at private companies, they preferred state enterprises such as PTT and Dutch Railways, although this dismissive attitude began to change in the course of the 1980s.

Designing for state enterprises or private companies?

Graduation project by Frans Joziasse, SM90 train cab, 1986

These different conceptions of design did not hinder the further professionalisation of the degree programme. In 1978, Industrial Design was split definitively into four. Technology (later Construction), Product Ergonomics, Design and Business Administration were already the research groups that represented the ‘specialities that are needed to produce an industrial product.” Gerard van Eijk was made the first professor of Business Administration at Industrial Design. The considerable size and growing prestige of the degree programme were reflected in the appointment of Professor Hans Dirken as rector magnificus of the Institute of Technology. The department’s growth was also reflected in its housing: in 1978, the faculty moved to a building on the Jaffalaan, while on the Drebbelweg a couple of large drawing halls at Shipbuilding were converted for design-related supervision.

The design staff, most probably during a visit to Emile Truijen’s holiday house at the end of the 1970s

With the development of different schools of thought, attention was increasingly paid to studying design in a scientifically robust way. Understandably, the dominant view of design had originated from engineering analyses, supplemented with knowledge from various fields. Scientific interest within the faculty, however, mainly developed from the social and life sciences. In design methodology, for example, there were attempts to use models to understand the specific thinking and actions of the designer. In the 1980s this school would grow considerably, and the presence of scientists such as Nigel Cross, Norbert Roozenburg and Willem Muller would ensure the international reputation of Delft’s integral scientific design programme.

Developing the science did not mean that design practice disappeared into the background. To a much greater extent than in other Delft programmes, most young engineers carried out their graduation project at a company or institution.

The faculty recruited quite a few lecturers from companies such as Philips and Van Berkel; they included Wim Groeneboom and Aat Marinissen, for example. During this period, the faculty also had a number of prominent representatives from practice in its midst. Ootje Oxenaar was known for his world-famous designs for Dutch bank notes and in 1978 became special professor for Visual Transfer and Presentation, while the graphic designer Wim Crouwel was appointed professor of Industrial Design in 1980.

Ootje Oxenaar at his desk and Wim Crouwel during a lecture given on the Oude Delft, c. 1979