Job Smeets and Piet Hein Eek
ONE WEEK ABOUT Product Design by curator Toon Lauwen
As we all know, Job Smeets is a rebellious person. When I interviewed both Smeets and Piet Hein Eek for the iPad magazine ‘Ode aan Jan des Bouvrie’ in 2012, the character differences were surprisingly evident. Piet Hein Eek shows himself to be an optimistic pragmatist, whereas Job is the epitome of both thoughtfulness and rock-‘n-roll.
Both designers participated in my project because at the start of their careers they had taken Jan des Bouvrie’s business-like approach as an example. “Commercial thinking, however, was ‘not done’ in the ‘90s,” according to both Eek and Smeets, who – just like their contemporaries Richard Hutten and Jurgen Bey – were in the process of freeing themselves from the modernist spirit of the Academy for Industrial Design Eindhoven (from 1997 onward Design Academy Eindhoven).
Piet Hein Eek was the first who drew the attention. At the Biennale in Kortrijk in 1992, his well-known scrap wood cabinets, radiating common sense and immediacy, contrasted sharply with the sleek Italian and French design on show. The table chair with which Richard Hutten made his debut at the Centraal Museum Utrecht was, as a ‘conceptual’ comment, associated with Gerrit Rietveld. The S-Chair, an early design by Job Smeets, was a pastiche of canonical chairs from the design history: Rietveld’s Zig-Zag chair , Mart Stam’s cantilever chair and the Panton Chair by Verner Panton. Designs by Eek, Hutten and Smeets were included in the subsidized presentations of the label Droog Design which, thanks to a reference to the denominator ‘conceptual design’, benefited from associations with high culture. Commercial success followed.