Bas Kools

Designer / Creative thinker


Design is a service for society when applied to public space, education, policy making, business innovation and our material world. The relationships between systems, objects, materials and people can be redefined. Therefore, as a designer, I start my investigations by responding to what I see, hear and feel within complexity of situations. The service I offer is finding new ways of learning, living and working together as a means towards transformative innovation.

Design for me is about people, how they live think and do. Since I finished my master in Design at the Royal College of Art in London (2007) I prefer to see design as a collaboration. A collaboration with experts forming a team to innovate systems, situations and services in a social way.

Questioning everything to find the real problem and increasing the quality of life by changing the daily. It is design but with a social innovation at its core. I figured that I cannot just make objects, there must be a reason, an explanation, and preferably a socially related question. Although material experimentation is a also part of my work, the context, and the why I work on a project always has to do with a social happening. Design in my eyes is a service that has to find its position in our society. And a designer is a person that has the ability to think about objects, materials, situations and systems from a different perspective by asking the right questions.

A nice quote as an approach that almost always brings you where you want to go with charm, risk and appealingly randomness is one of Zaphod Beeblebrox from Douglas Adams, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’: ‘I don’t know what I’m looking for.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Because … because … I think it might be because if I knew I wouldn’t be able to look for them.’


A brief insight to what I’ve been up to for the last eight years. After graduating in London at RCA  from the Product Design department and working on a variety of jobs in London, new opportunities led me to the Netherlands and Berlin with many other places bridged on the way like Seattle, Ljubljana and Moscow, Vienna, Madrid, Budapest and Brussels. In general I have been working on projects in the fields of architecture, urban design, policymaking, education, social innovation, user interface design, interactive design, product design and business innovation; in the roles of designer, teacher, organiser, illustrator, graphic designer, conceptual thinker, art director, builder, researcher and project leader, often wearing many heads at the same time.

I have developed communication strategies and workshops for architecture agencies, taught ceramics, re-designed a city square in Kampen, developed a game about political credibility for the province of Overijssel, created new ways for children to learn about cultural heritage and implementing this in the region of Breda (reaching over 25.000 children), created new digital tools for learning about bio informatics in the classroom for the NBIC. I was part of a team developing a innovative PHD program for the University in Frankfurt Oder. In collaboration with the state of Berlin I developed new ways to trigger innovation in business streets, together with the city library of Deventer I have created new perspectives on how they can approach their future role in the city and I have been teaching Design Research at the ArteZ (Arnhem Institute of art and design), … and much more. All these projects I have been running under my own organisations and initiatives.

I would like to point out two recent projects, Berlin’s Hollywood and teaching Desing Research at ArteZ. Both are experimental projects taking place in the real world. Berlin’s Hollywood is a prizewinning project for the Senat of Berlin in which, next to a lot of street research in the form of conversations and workshops, also a continuous conversation with the Bezirk took place to find out how to both make friends and push the boundaries of het accepted. The result a film project with a mobile park as a tool set piece with local presence that can be parked anywhere without needing a permit. At ArteZ I have been leading students for the last years in a process to start to discover what research means and how it is an important asset for a designer. Creating a problem and than working together to find possible ways of tackling is the approach, there is no wrong or right, as long as the process is carefully designed. Other important design aspects are the communication and involvement of others in the process. Creative research is not something that come easy, students loose track big time. The techniques that the class starts with are based around the body as a research instrument, a tool to sense and reflect. The question is how you yourself can be the starting point of your research, wherever this might lead…

In the Netherlands, I ran my own company and I have been part of a foundation called Mens-in-Beeld. In this foundation we developed new ways for school classes to learn about cultural heritage to take place in primary schools (age 4-12), redefining the role of the teacher, and introducing new ways of learning and understanding for the students.

In Berlin, As a part of the HomeBase Artistic Research Lab I have been leading the organisational transformation from a traditional Artist-in-Residence into a research institute around the topics home, identity, technology, human/behaviour and human-technology. Over a period of two and a half years I guided groups of 12-20 artists in their research. Also in Berlin, I ran a business for 3 years called LocalSmarts which was focused on triggering social innovation in society through combining the area’s of public space, education and design. Bringing together local authorities, neighbourhoods and organisations pushing the limits of the accepted and expected.

My vision and idealism started about 10 years ago. During my Bachelors graduation I started with the scenario of families from different backgrounds, socio-economic status, to reuse and repurpose the objects in their house that they were about to throw out into useful products. The process that I designed focused on value of creation, the families feeling apart of the process with as a purpose the continued use of the newly created object. Behind the scenes of the project there was a strong educational focus. The true purpose was to show people how they can look at they belongings in another way, in a more transformational form, objects and materials that can morph and blend into new functions. Seeing their surroundings with new eyes, being educated to think, to reflect, to design and to create.

I see the potential of situations, and objects to be part of the evolution of society, to steer and guide humanity in its exploration.


Today we see that the role of the designer is constantly evolving and expanding. From designing objects to designing systems and services. Working together with experts and users to develop innovative ways of designing and living with products not seen as the goal but used as a tool. This is applicable for all creative disciplines. Designers are in essence communicators, some do this better through objects some better in print or other media. In this process the product is not the goal but the medium. We see that more and more companies, governments and others become aware of the value this role can add to the development of systems and services. To develop long term sustainable solutions that make the experience between service providers and service users more empathetic and engaging. What is key to this kind of approach is the way awareness of the situation is created. This is what most of my projects are about. Creating the right kind of transparency and working towards a more empathic society.

With my experience I am researching and building on how I can contribute to making our world a bit more understandable. This in collaboration with experts and users to capture the spirit of the ‘now’ and push this forward into future scenarios on how we can live together in new ways, providing the steps to work towards a communal goal. Can we convince governments and business to work with creatives to create stunning solutions for our today’s social issues? Is this more human / social approach not the way to make money? My ambition is to lead creatives, business and government in this thinking, helping them find out what this means and how it works I see myself as director of processes where I guide the players of the system to learn who they are and how to do better by being good through finding and doing.

I am a practical Idealist and I experiment to find out how design can create better, more intriguing and exiting ways of living and working together.

Communal knowledge generation, the city as a place to learn
Research and development processes