Designer Dialogues: Studio Mieke Meijer

The creatives of Sectie-C, an Eindhoven based design hub, initiated BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE, a magazine that portrays different creative makers in their workplaces while interviewed by colleagues. What fascinates, inspires and drives them to do what they do? Especially for ddw.nl, BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE edited the interviews into interesting short stories. In this episode, we’re visiting Mieke Meijer and Roy Letterlé of Studio Mieke Meijer.
Roy Letterlé en Mieke Meijer
Anniek Mol
What are you working on at the moment?

Mieke: That is a secret, actually.

Roy: We signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so we can’t say anything until the project is presented or published by the client.

Does this influence your work directly? You share this building with many other studios.

Mieke: It’s a matter of trust and is not as though we keep everything behind a locked door. We are also working on projects that are not so secret.

Do you produce your products yourself?

Mieke: Yes, for the larger part we do because of the complexity of our designs. Our products are not easy for producers due to the amount of parts they are comprised of. It is not always practical, but it is our signature. Our projects are based on the premise of scalability. Our work is made out of systems and a repetition of parts.

Roy: We get asked a lot to make smaller or larger versions of our products. We take this into account from the beginning of a project. We want that our work has a future and that it can be multiplied.

Close-up Studio Mieke Meijer
Anniek Mol
Is that a conscious design decision?

Mieke: Thinking of a new idea demands a lot of energy. So if we create ideas that we can spread out over a variety of objects, we can also spread out our energy.

Roy: The reason for this is something Maarten Baas said in an interview: “In Milan and Eindhoven everyone is chasing the next big project. Everyone is supposed to create two amazing projects a year and hardly anyone takes the time to fully develop an idea.” For us, that was the moment to take a step back. We’ve created a good portfolio, but can we get more out of our projects? We often create three or four versions of a design. It is actually always unfinished.

Repetition is a big theme in your work. Where does that interest come from?

Mieke: Our aesthetic language is derived from principles and construction. We never grab a white piece of paper and think of a nice shape.

Roy: In one way or the other it only gets interesting for us when you place two things together. How are you going to connect them? For instance the ‘Frameworks’ cabinet; one segment isn’t interesting, but it gets interesting when you repeat it. There is beauty in quantity.

Close-up Studio Mieke Meijer
Anniek Mol
How do you two divide your time between playground projects and projects for clients?

Mieke: We do ‘bread projects’ to live from and playground projects for personal development. Money is less important then. Sometimes we know from the beginning that we wouldn’t stay within the budget, but we still do the project. The ultimate goal is to intertwine those two types of projects. We are managing to do that more often.

Roy: Every playground project translates into a sellable product at some point. The ‘Space Frames’ originated from a playground project. We wanted to stack light on top of each other, like construction elements, and let it react on the architecture of the space. A lamp doesn’t have to be a loose thing hanging from a wire. We developed this project into a system and a client came along who saw its potential.

Mieke: I like it a lot when people see new applications for our work. Then we can collaborate with them. Although, I don’t know what I would say if someone would ever want to put purple light in the ‘Space Frames’.

Of course you want to use your own design qualities.

Roy: Exactly. Open questions lead to more interesting answers.

Mieke: We’d rather get the question: “I want to get upstairs” than “I need stairs”.

Roy: Open questions are more fun for the designer, but also for the client. People need to trust the signature of a design studio. We would never make boring stairs. That is just not us.

Mieke: I can remember something Ilse Crawford said during a lecture: “Trust equals risk”. People find it hard to take risks. I always find it brave when people take a chance on us.

Close-up Mieke Meijer
Anniek Mol
I have the impression that your work leaves a lot of room for the user to apply it within their own context.

Mieke: If I’m not mistaken, someone also wrote that about our work that we like the user to find his or her own way with our products.

Roy: Yet a lot of clients want us to answer questions like: ‘This is the space, how would you do it?'.

So you provide a certain consultation?

Mieke: We do that often.

Roy: From London we got the question to make twenty ‘Space Frames’ arches. Then they asked us how they should be positioned. We decided to just go to London because when we’re on location things get done very fast. Only our proposal needed to go to a hundred or so people before we got the go ahead.

Mieke: In those cases it’s very important to have an ambassador within such a company who keeps the project going.

Roy: You need someone who takes the project past the finish line.

Do these ambassadors find you or are you actively looking for them?

Mieke: Most of them can be traced back to encounters during presentations we did in Milan or during Dutch Design Week.

Roy: As designers we finance our own projects and presentations, but we can only do that to a certain scale.

Mieke: The scale of the installation in London was too big to be financed by us. We needed partners for that.

Roy: The transition to projects in the public space, like this one, is very interesting for us.

The full interview with Mieke Meijer and Roy Letterlé can be found in the second edition of BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE. You can follow BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE here.

Interview: Anne Ligtenberg / Photography: Anniek Mol / Tekst editor: Mats Horbach