Lecture Notes: Gijs Bakker drops the science

Gijs Bakker

Last night @nstroup and I attended a lecture by Gijs Bakker, renown Dutch jewelry designer and founding member of Droog, at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He presented a retrospective of his work and Droog’s, and it was inspiring to hear a design icon casually reflect on his experiences.


The presentation was very loose, with Bakker displaying 2 images at a time and discussing whatever occurred to him. He spoke about many excellent pieces, including Large Collar, 85 Lamps, and his ever-popular Peep Show Wallpaper. The projects often turn on beautifully simple ideas. This works out to be completely annoying, as everything seems brilliant in a way that you should have thought of. Baker also spent some time on a few lesser known aspects of well-known projects. For instance, I was unaware that the “gym” at the tiny Hotel Droog was comprised of stair labels delineating the calories burned during ascension (approximately .0002 per step).


And, yeah, I did kind of start a highly influential and lucrative design collective back in the 80s, when the economy of the Netherlands was a shitpile. So there's that.


Throughout the talk, Bakker often returned to one idea: “Don’t have a plan.” Flexibility clearly allowed him (and Droog) to work with many exciting people and technologies. However, the subtext of that statement, evident in both the volume and quality of the work, was that “effort is required.” Additionally, as @nstroup pointed out, Bakker clearly has an innate sense of salesmanship that surely helps him convince others that his crazy ideas just might work.


Overall, a great lecture, which Bakker concluded with an unexpected final thought. At the time it was said off the cuff, but it revealed a great deal about the apparent simplicity of his work: Simple can be good, but don’t forget: it can also mean ‘stupid.’