"If we as designers and consumers don't know anything about the product, we can't evaluate it"
AN INTERVIEW WITH SEP VERBOOM, FOUNDER OF LIVABLE
Rattan Daydreamer by Auping x Margaux Baert x Sep Verboom, Source & Copyright by Livable
Source and Copyright by Livable
Author: House of Eden
An interview with Sep Verboom, founder of the platform Livable, a next generation product designer who wants to raise awareness for social sustainability and critical design. He strongly believes in a design culture that equally benefits planet and society.
He uses Design culture as a process, to involve local knowledge and to communicate impact on people and planet. Sep's understanding of an object is resulting from his projects and the environment, rather than the design goal itself. That's why his Platform Livable empowers an attitude and facilitates a critical community with an extended view on society and design, beyond aesthetic and function.
Sep Verboom, Founder of Livable
1. Why did you found Livable?
When it came close to my final thesis, I had to decide on a theme. Everyone around me was looking for companies to work with, but I wasn't quite sure what kind of industry I wanted to work in. Therefore I made some research to get to know my interests better. Looking back to my first project now, I was super naive. I went to the Philippines and a whole new world was opened to me in terms of design. To say it in short: I managed to link local craftsmen with junk shops to develop new local designs.
It was all about collaboration and that was the thing, which became my point of interest: I was interested in linking existing knowledge and experience to create new things for the local people. So I asked myself, if I would want to spend all my life and career in a design office or a factory doing things for aesthetics and sales. Quickly I was very sure, that this was not my destiny. Therefore, the next years and all the following projects were kind of my master’s degree. My master project through real life experience. All these experiences helped me to understand this world better and where I would belong in it.
Sunglasses from Capis Oyster by Breezm x Sep Verboom, Source & Copyright by Livable
2. What does critical design mean?
Critical Design is taking into account all aspects of design. A lot of designers make their sketches, but most of the times they do not even really know where their objects are made. They do not know about the impact on the people and they are not even in contact with the ones, who make their designs happen. How can you be a good designer and how can you think about a final object, if you do not know about the impact, meaning where the materials are coming from or if people are suffering because of it. When you become more connected to the whole cycle, you learn a lot too.
The people working for your objects are usually masters and professionals in their field. That's why I listen, observe and talk a lot. My work as a designer is not the object anymore. I try to design the process and show the people what is behind it. So Critical Design means to be aware of and be connected to the work you do. If we, as designers and consumers, do not know anything about the product, we are not able to value it. As a result, we throw everything away, just because we don't care.
3. Livable Platform is divided into attitude, community, invitation. Whats does the pillars stand for?
The different projects and partners made me see the amount of opportunities we have. Working with all these different people gave me many new insights and knowledge. So I was searching for ways to share and improve certain methods of thinking and working. That's why we started to have workshops and lectures about projects we did in the past. Our work evolved from designing real life objects to more service-related design. Meaning that we no longer just designed products, we were spreading knowledge and raising awareness. That was the initial idea of the Livable platform.
Talking about the pillars: Attitude is a way of thinking, there are many ways of spreading and sharing your attitude. We provide a service where we focus on a mindset, which keeps a balance between the social, ecological and economical impact. Thanks to all the workshops, lectures and companies we work with, we created a community. Finally with our invitations we initiate a project or a subject and look for people to work on it. In the future, I hope this community will enrol and initiate projects by itself.
FAN lamp by Co-creative Studio x Sep Verboom, Source & Copyright by Livable
4. Livable co-creates in many different ways, can you tell us some examples?
Every project comes with another set of partners. I am never alone. There are a lot of people involved, which are not always visible. I do not believe that the concept of a star-designer has a future anymore, so that's why I am focussing on collaborations. Innovation is an important aspect too. In one of our latest projects we searched for companies and design studios in Belgium, who wanted to get involved in the development of new applications for bio-based material. This is our matchmaking approach and now we are working together to constantly evolve new ways of thinking.
Secondly, we need to start thinking more locally. A good example for that is the project we did in Peru. It was a project we did in the Peruvian Amazon, working with local communities that only work with certified wood from the forest. We then launched the collection, which was only for sale in Peru. We showed the collection in Milan and many people were asking us, why we were showing these objects here, if nobody could actually buy them. But they need to understand, that it does not make any sense to send tropical woods to the other side of the world, just to sell them and make money.
Project ONTketen - local bio-based material, Source & Copyright by Livable
Via exhibitions we further aim to connect with the consumers. Right now we are in Portugal, creating a documentary on cork, to share and highlight the ecosystem of this material. We are also going to have an installation where people can really experience the material. Especially now, with the rising environmental problems, the mindset of the consumer is changing. People are curious and trying to find new ways of thinking.
5. What is the future of the design industry
What we will see in the next five to ten years is that all those ideas and concepts will come to life. I think now we have experimented enough, to translate all the knowledge into action. So we will see more and more innovations and experiments coming into the market. As I am speaking from a designers point of view I am not sure if change will primarily come from the industry. Companies have investors and those are the ones, who decide the way forward in many cases. So it's important that we have neutral people involved, to elaborate and to steer directions in those boards. The consumer itself has the power to make a change by choosing what they buy, however that's only a little part I am afraid.