Embassy of Mobility at DDW23

Creatief lead Joost van der Made about the city that is made for people to use.

Type Update
Published on 8 September 2023
Part of Embassy of Mobility
Embassy of Mobility at DDW23
Part of Embassy of Mobility

Instead of inventing technical solutions, thoroughly exploring what people and society really need. According to Joost van der Made, this is the core activity of the Embassy of Mobility, of which he is creative leader. “Mobility is a means, not the end. We need to focus on what liveable cities and outlying areas will look like.”

When devising mobility solutions, it’s hard to get everything perfectly right. Even if there are factors you really can’t do anything about at all. Joost van der Made knows this all too well from his previous position as Head of Concept Design & Innovation at Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands. “NS is conducting a huge amount of research on how people rate their journey. Long story short: about 70 percent of this rating is related to emotional factors, including areas for which the carrier couldn’t possibly be responsible. For example, the weather and whether there was a nice person sitting next to you on the train. Punctuality obviously also plays a role in this rating, but something was a bit odd: if you score above 84 percent in punctuality, you don’t gain much, if any, satisfaction In fact, if you score in the region of 100 percent, you create sky-high expectations; subsequently, the traveller is extremely dissatisfied as soon as the score isn’t 100 percent.”

‘What's important to bear in mind is that mobility and mobility options aren't the issue. They're just the means. We need to take an integrated look at how we can mae cities and outlying areas liveable. If you don't do this from the perspective of the power of design or creation you're rudderless.”’

The power of making

The point of the above argument for the creative leader of the Embassy of Mobility is that kilometres, passenger numbers, percentages and other figures aren’t the guiding principle “For me, the power of making is being able to go back to the core of the real problem and the values ​​you attach to possible solutions. From there, you can establish frameworks in your design brief and apply a vision. Then the question is what policies you need: where do you need a carrot and where do you need a stick? What’s important to bear in mind is that mobility and mobility options aren’t the issue. They’re just the means. We need to take an integrated look at how we can make cities and outlying areas liveable. If you don’t do this from the perspective of the power of design or creation you’re rudderless.”

Behavioural change

If, as a designer, you thoroughly operate on the basis of this power of creation, you’ll be avoiding numerous additional interventions in the future. “What you want to prevent from happening in the future is all of us having beautiful green cities designed around the principle of making pedestrians the priority, but that people, based on their behaviour, haven’t gone along with. Mobility behaviour is hard to manage. If you want to promote new behaviour, you need to have a very clear picture of what this behaviour will end up looking like,” says Van der Made.

 “It is sometimes said that we are becoming less innovative compared to emerging economies. That’s partly because we’re already pretty happy with how things are going in this part of the world. There’s a kind of acceptance that things are just the way they are. As a result, our “wishing muscle”, so to speak, are becoming weak from lack of use. You also notice this when coming up with mobility solutions. People only feel and experience the benefits of new mobility behaviour after three to six weeks. Only then is there a perceptible change, and users also emotionally change tack.”

Remove obstacles

In order to shorten this time frame, Van der Made believes it is important to remove as many obstacles as possible and to increase the enticement with other, improved, forms of mobility. “If you want to design the journey of the future, do so based on a concrete vision that includes all these obstacles and enticements. These could be financial obstacles or incentives, but might often also involve simple things such as how easy it is to plan a trip, how much information you get along the way, how nice the places are where you can transfer. The power of design will allow you to present this in such a way that, instead of cars, buses, trains or bicycles, you’re talking about your journey.”


To name just one specific means of transport with potential: electric scooters. “This might be a controversial one. After all, in Paris, the introduction of these things turned into one big drama,” says the creative leader. “They’re all over the pavement, and you could literally crack your neck because of them. It wasn’t at all surprising, for that matter, that things turned out like this. In Berlin, they simply unleashed a number of stakeholder and thought that the market would go and sort it all out by itself. For me, this is a perfect case in point that you have to incorporate – or design – these kinds of new means of transport into an entire system. Only then can they play a useful role in the entire range of mobility options. In the case of these scooters, for example, you should have a general local regulation that specifies what limits there are around their use. And make sure you design proper parking spaces in logical places where you can leave these things in a safe, attractive way. Perhaps you should also look at other necessary infrastructure, policies and traffic regulations and cultivate a clear sense of responsibility. In short, look at the overall picture. After all, these scooters can have a useful function if you ask me. For example, if you’re driving to the outskirts of a city by car and find it too much of a hassle to continue your journey by bicycle, these types of scooters are fantastic. You just have to make sure they have a logical function in the entire journey.”

Space problem

In Van der Made’s opinion, a priority in the quest for more liveable cities is the way in which we use space. “Electrifying cars is fine in itself,” he points out in this context. “But this change is showing us that electric cars are often much too big. Take a Hyundai IONIQ 5, which looks like a mid-range electric car, but is really an inflated XXL model. Statistically, we know that, on average, only 1.4 people are transported in a car. These huge electric cars are great and everything, but this doesn’t solve the space problem in the cities. As far as I’m concerned, this is also an example that we should consider: how do you ensure that you use space in a more efficient way? And how do you prevent a huge amount of horsepower from being wasted on an admittedly electric, but much too large, car?”

Expositions in DONNA

A variety of innovative designs, such as Mobipolis, based around the theme of Mobility, and which explore this and other issues, can be seen in DONNA at Strijp-S during Dutch Design Week. “This is a game that has been specially created in an extra large format for DOW and which allows visitors to have fun redesigning mobility in the city and experience the consequences of the choices they make. According to UUM (Unlimited Urban Mobility, the game’s developer, ed.), you learn about mobility and sustainable area development in a fun way. The game revolves around finding the balance between rapid development and ensuring accessibility.”

Van der Made also touches on the Active Living Innovation programme. “This is a Living Lab concerned with an exercise-friendly living environment. The programme has far-reaching ambitions to make walking in the city – and during DDW – more attractive. However, this is only a fraction of what will be on show at the Embassy of Mobility.”

"In any case, we have to start reasoning from the human perspective again."
— Joost van der Made

Investigate, explore and test during DDW

During Dutch Design Week, the Embassy of Mobility will further investigate, explore and test various mobility options in Eindhoven. “There will be 400,000 visitors on the move, which is a good reason to look at how you can improve mobility between Eindhoven Central Station and Ketelhuisplein, for example,” says Joost. “This is a long-term process, and one we will also be implementing in future editions of DDW. We are basing this on the STOMP principle. This stands for Stappen (walking) Trappen (cycling) Openbaar vervoer (public transport), MaaS (Mobility as a Service, ed.) and the Private Car. You will need a correlation between these modes of mobility in order to come up with ideal solutions.”

“In any case, we have to start reasoning from the human perspective again,” Van der Made continues. “By that, I also mean that you shouldn’t just be thinking about users, but also non-users of mobility options. It’s just as much about them. You should also be considering what the introduction of new means of travel means for them. After all, we want to give space back to everyone, so that they can be better connected in the city and beyond.”

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