Jongerius establishes relationships between ‘subject’ and ‘object’

21 November 2013

As a result of extreme mass production, the relationship between people (subject) and product (object) has in many cases broken down. Hella Jongerius wants to bridge this gap by restoring the soul, authenticity and depth to the objects that influence the surroundings we live in; through modifications to the design and production process. In her opinion, when we are better able to identify with the combination of the design and manufacturing processes, we prolong the lifetime of the products. And that can make a significant contribution to a more sustainable world.

Hella Jongerius was born in De Meern in 1963. From 1988 to 1993 she studied at the Academy for Industrial Design in Eindhoven. Immediately after that she set up her own design studio, Jongeriuslab, in Rotterdam. A common theme soon became visible in her very varied work. In her design style Hella left room for the effects of the production process. She was intrigued by the imperfections found in historical handmade utility and ornamental objects – minute irregularities, minor variations in colour and tactility, and visible traces of the manual work involved. She made it her mission to integrate these authentic qualities, attributable to the imperfection that is by definition part of traditional craftsmanship, into the modern design and production process. In this way she played a pioneering role in the reintroduction of craft into design and the manufacturing industry. Her design principles have in the meantime been imitated both at home and abroad.

Jongerius, who moved her studio to Berlin in 2009, works for various clients. She has been designing furniture fabrics for Maharam in New York since 2002. As art director at Vitra, she has a substantial influence on the choice of colours and materials at this design furniture company in the Swiss city of Basel, for which she also designs furniture. In 2011 she was featured in the press for her design for the cabins of KLM aircraft. This year, she made her original mark on the North Delegates’ Lounge at the UN headquarters in New York, a job that was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hella is also on the staff of the Eindhoven Design Academy, among other things as head of the ‘Living’ studio. She is currently also a visiting lecturer at the Weissensee Academy of Art in Berlin.

The list of galleries and museums that have work by Jongerius in their collection is quite impressive. As is the list of her exhibitions. You will find an up-to-date overview at Jongerius’ design idiom is clearly universal, because her ideas and work are to be found all over the world, from New York to Tokyo, from Basel to London to Paris, from Cologne to Rotterdam. This idiom has evolved over the years, but the common theme has remained visible: a surprising symbiosis between age-old traditional craftsmanship, contemporary design and industrial production methods. Leaving room for the imperfections that are inherent to craft methods.

On the basis of this vision of her profession and her place in it, Hella Jongerius builds bridges between people and objects that are in permanent dialogue with each other. Dialogue and the potential to identify with products appear to have been disrupted as a result of mass production. Hella Jongerius wants to restore this fragile balance by introducing a certain depth to her objects, a depth that enables us to feel closer ties with the objects around us. This is at the same time an effective response to the consumer society. After all, we hold on longer to objects that affect us, which prolongs the life-cycle of products and the materials they use.

More work by Hella Jongerius and her team can be seen at

You can also read:

An ode to the imperfection of craft in the B-Set

Lounging in front of a curtains of knots and porcelain beads