John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen

September 2008: Recently back from travels, John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen is one designer who takes a global approach to design seriously. With Professional experience in Sydney, Milan Chicago and now San Fransisco, we caught up with John to find out what he is up to.

What have you been up to lately?
Currently I’ve been doing a lot of travel. Meeting with customers in Europe as well as researching current trends in Europe. I always try travel as much as possible, I think first hand experiential research is key to understand user problems and opportunities.

John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen

How would you describe your own work?
To be honest I try not classify myself in any genre or class as I often work for large companies where you often aren’t designing for yourself. Therefore it is important to show that you can design for a variety of users depending on the design brief or problem.
That being said, when I do my own work outside of corporations I generally try to maintain a strong sense of function while providing an innovative new use case. I try not to over analyse simple functions that could easily be complicated. Most of all I try to subtract whatever isn’t truly needed, I think there are so many overdesigned products out there and consumers are begging for simpler solutions.

You are currently living in San Franscisco. What made you decide to move there?
Well I spent almost four years in Chicago, and while that is a great city, the winters killed me! On top of that San Francisco is a wonderfully innovative city. I think San Francisco and the bay area is probably the most innovative part of the world at the moment. It’s pretty incredible to be in a place with companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo and now Tesla all in the same location.
You also find that people in San Francisco look at problems in a different way than the rest of the country. There is a much stronger sense of activism and participation that forces people to be highly entrepreneurial.

Hidden radio

How did you first start designing?
I think like most industrial designers I played with lego as a kid. I was then going to become an architect until I heard of ID where you could be the ‘architect’ on essentially any type of consumer product.

What are the typical challenges you always seem to face in the  production process?
There is always a balance between satisfying the market and creating what engineering can actually produce. I’ve worked with a lot of designers who are brilliant conceptual thinkers though really struggle with balancing what can actually be produced. I’ve always tried to maintain a good sense of balance between idealistic design and real world production.

Tell me about the Hidden radio. How was this idea developed?
The hidden radio is a product that i hope represents my idealised view of how products should work. I love the fact that it performs one simple function that marries its form with its interaction or physical user interface. The fact that the usability is so simple that you don’t allow users to make mistakes really interests me. A nice side effect of the interaction is the volume control, semantically revealing more of the speaker makes sense to the user though this also makes the bass volume larger providing a richer sound.

Macef Competition design entry: Bio plate

Where do you find inspiration?
I think travel is very important to me. When working on a problem you can generally find somewhere in the world where the same problem was encountered and a solution developed.  Also there is a lot of down time traveling, waiting for planes, taking taxis etc, it really is a good time to think without the distractions of email etc.

What advice would you have to younger designers entering the industry?
Establish a good set of base skills. Nobody will hire you even if you may have an incredibly creative mind; you need to be able to demonstrate that you can turn vision into hard solid deliverables.
The second thing is don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and learn someone else’s job. I’ve gotten the most respect by being able to talk both engineering language as well as marketing talk. If people feel they can relate on a level playing field they are more willing to share the real problems on a project and most importantly to trust you.



  1. hi John

    just accessed this site.i am very impressed.i now have a far better understanding of your work.mam & dad must be very proud of your achievements.
    uncle denis

    denis o'dea, December 24th, 2009 at 7:07 pm

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