There’s a design thinker in all of us
Jan de Wit, @jmsdewit
I believe that the perfect word to capture the character of the HCI field in the Netherlands has to come from the Dutch language: “gezellig”. No English translation fully captures the feeling of it, but concepts such as coziness, joy, and comfort come close. Since we are such a small country, the community is very tight-knit and at the same time very accessible. There is a clear passion for acquiring and sharing HCI knowledge, with many Dutch universities and schools of applied sciences that offer HCI-related courses from various perspectives such as arts, computer science, industrial design, cognitive psychology and communication science. An increasing amount of these courses is taught in English to attract an international and multi-disciplinary group of students. After graduating, there are many opportunities to learn from other professionals through frequent conferences, hackathons, and meet-ups such as UXcamps. Traditionally engineering-driven companies such as Philips and ASML have long seen the benefits of taking design seriously, and have made it an integral part of their business. A big part of the Dutch HCI efforts focus on creating a sustainable and healthy society, by supporting research in fields such as healthcare, education, empowering society and sustainable energies. Some examples include Usono ProbeFix (continuous ultrasound), Lightyear (solar-powered car), Picoo (stimulating outdoor play for children) and Flow.io (enabling virtually anyone to make chatbots). These are all design-driven and user-centered start-ups, that are at the same time strongly rooted in academia. I believe the Dutch are generally very forward-looking, which becomes apparent in the openness to collaboration of all companies, schools, and hospitals I have personally encountered in my research. There’s a design thinker in all of us!