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The road to the Graduation Show

No Dutch Design Week (DDW) without the Graduation Show, the exhibition where graduates of the bachelor's and master's programs at the Design Academy Eindhoven present their final projects to the general public.

Welcome to the endless halls of the Campina site. It's a bit cold here and still empty, except for a few people. Like Marcel, the janitor of DAE, who walks through the building at a fast pace, keeping a close eye on every visitor. Occasionally someone passes by on a skateboard, an aerial work platform slowly moves to the next hall. It is silence before the storm. 50,000 visitors from here and abroad will come to this place very soon.

A floor plan lies in a bare space at the front - soon to be the entrance of the Graduation Show. A large sheet with different color blocks and the names of all 181 graduates. Who's work will be placed where is something that has been thoroughly thought through. This year, the projects will not be presented by department but around themes and research styles. In the currently empty halls, we meet with three of the graduates. How do they prepare for the Show? And what is it like to show your life's work to the international design community?

Graduation Show

Paul Coenen | Borders of assembly

'Am I ready? Yes, I am', says Paul Coenen with a smile. The recent graduate seems well prepared for the Graduation Show and life after school. 'I can't wait to really get started as a designer.' He finished his graduation project this summer but decided to make some last-minute changes to his work for the show in Campina. 'A few small adjustments that probably no one will notice, but important things to improve for me.'

The show marks the end of his student life and the start of something new. In recent years he has deliberately gained experience in other design studios to see with his own eyes how to run a studio and present yourself at the big trade fairs. He has worked with well-known designers such as Lex Pott and Studio RENS.

At the Graduation Show, he will show a series of furniture pieces that initially look simple. That's exactly where he dedicated most of his time to. 'I like it when you can see how something works without being covered or hidden away. How something looks is the consequence of how it is made.'

Usually, DDW is a week full of parties, says Paul. But this time, he will let them pass by. He will be entirely focused on the Graduation Show. 'The business cards have been printed, and just before DDW, my new site will be launched. I'm ready for it.'

Graduation Show

Gijs de Boer | Probably an ATM

There is a slight difference between presenting your work to your teacher and classmates or to 50,000 people, says Gijs de Boer. During the Graduation Show, he will show a slightly modified version of the ATM machine with which he recently graduated. Gijs walked an interesting path before entering the design institute at the Emmasingel. He started off at the TU/e with Industrial Design but kept searching for more reflection on the role of technology. He went to Twente to study the philosophy of technology. In terms of content, precisely what he wanted, but in terms of form, a difficult one. 'In the end, all your ideas come together in a text in Times New Roman.' At the Design Academy Eindhoven, everything coincided. Even though he is still looking for the right medium for his projects. 'In my graduation project, I also show two videos. But is video the thing I want to present myself with? I struggled with that.'

In his application letter for the DAE, he recalls, money was already a topic, and now two years later, it is the central theme of his final project. 'Money always needs trust. It fascinates me how that trust is designed. Banks used to sit in imposing buildings with large columns. Nowadays, a bank is an ATM, a device with a neutral appearance.'

'An ATM radiates that everything is under control. Probably to gain trust, but it is precisely this that evokes mistrust in my case. Money and institutions are never completely in order, let alone neutral. We play a collective game together to make the system work. Why not show that? To me, that feels more honest.'

He talks about his project while posing in front of the camera. 'Actually, this is a bit fake too, of course', he laughs. He picks up his phone and pretends to take a selfie. To his college friend Colin, who is watching the shoot: 'Colin, is this consistent with my project, now that I'm posing as if I'm not posing?'

Colin Keys

Colin Keays | Soon all this will be picturesque ruins

Colin is a member of the curatorial team of the Graduation Show, together with director Joseph Grima and Daphna Laurens, Tamar Shafrir, and Nienke Helder. They came up with the idea of presenting the works along with different themes and narratives this year, guiding you through the exhibition. In all the hustle and bustle, you would almost forget that he will also be part of the Graduation Show this year. Colin graduated from the master's program this summer.

He is one of the few who knows all 181 works. He says that complex projects often show a shift in mentality in how designers respond to what is happening in the world. His own project is about gentrification and the diminishing of queer spaces in the city. In an old shed in Woensel, which will be demolished at the end of the year, he curated five different 'acts', archetypal clichés associated with upgrading neighborhoods. First, he put in a gay bar, then a café full of avocados, and then he converted the place into a super clean Airbnb. 'This project responds to issues of gentrification, of what is lost, and raises the question of who really owns the public space.'

Colin says that the Gradation Show is always in the back of your mind when working on your final project. Although it doesn't necessarily have to be. A project can have a life beyond the Graduation Show. He smiles: 'But an abandoned milk factory on the city's outskirts is the perfect place to talk about gentrification.'