The world in Microbes

Microbiology never meant much to me as I am not a scientist looking into the smallest living particles of life. The Dutch summer interview series ‘Zomergasten’ (literally: summer guests) invites 6 interesting people over the summer to speak for 3 hours about their interest, fascination and their life. The first of this season was Rosanne Herzberger, a Dutch woman and microbiologist. She did not just talk about her work as microbiologist where she has an interest in the vaginal microbes, she spoke more about the misconception and powerful voice we have that we lay over the world. The way we interpret history, animal behaviour and the role we play amaze her and when she places that next to microbiology she shows how things can also be seen.

Also  why we believe bloggers when it comes to food advice and we stop trusting the government and scientists. In this instance she explained how E-numbers are not harmful at all but how bloggers made us believe they are. Or how she asked in her column who is sponsoring the websites where hate towards women is the norm and fun. Many of these sponsors have resigned. She showed beautiful, and a bit extreme, Jewish tradition of the Belz Mizvah Tantz and Grizzly man, humans in their habitat.

Since I saw this last week I started wondering what more we can learn from microbiologists. Thanks for TED and understandable talks that made me realize: where ever I would end up in an organisation, I have to look for the microbes, the things that make the life and transfer resources into energy. Through the eyes of Herzberger I am starting to understand how life works, how we work as living beings and how being a bit crazy can be incredibly beneficial.

Oh and the decor of the program makes it even more pleasurable to watch. Up next: the mayor of Amsterdam. Cannot wait.



Anne Miltenburg – The Brandling

Anne Miltenburg is a Dutch designer who wrote the magic words in Dude magazine that made me decide to go and study service design. Now you might wonder what the words were. Let me explain something else first. During my bachelors degree I was called a ‘commercial girl’ but in a commercial company I would have been ‘too artistic’. I just really like the combination of doing good, making art and still having a social impact. Now I get to the magic words: the world is not binary, there are many numbers between 1 and 0, in design terms: you don’t have to be either profitable or social, you can be both. I share with you owner of The Brandling, a company that empowers entrepreneurs all over the world to set up their brand, writer and designer: Anne Miltenburg.


The real name of this artist is unknown. This Frenchman peels the layers of the cities to show the world who lives underneath the layers of doors, concrete buildings or underneath the plastic sheet of roofs. With enormous prints of people and a small message he reveals the suffering women in the favelas of Rio and lets Israeli meet Palestinian people with the same job. 

Open your eyes, look up from your screen, life is live and we must not forget who we have around us. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but I strongly believe that we have more in common with the people we don’t know (yet) than we first thought. And we should all be acknowledged for being who we are. JR-Artist does that in his way and set up a community that helps you to print many portraits and show the people you think should be seen. 

IDEO, teamwork and Tim Brown

First day lecture at Ravensbourne Paul Sternberg introduced a name I had heard before but never looked up: Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and father of Design Thinking. Over the past months he has come back in my research, in articles I am reading, in the classes I attend and in projects I find interesting. 

One of the articles is IDEO’s Culture of Helping :
Help is embedded in the entire design process, from IDEO’s famous brainstorming sessions, through formal design reviews, to the many forms of support and encouragement for project teams seeking feedback on ideas. In this way IDEO builds essential habits of mind. In fact, Brown told us, when help is not seen as an integral part of the process, “teams will rush through their project and get quite close to the end before they realize ‘Wow, we completely missed something—which we wouldn’t have missed if we had stopped and asked for help.’” 


Let me tell you why I embrace this way of thinking: I am a born Montessori child. Maria Montessori constructed an educational method where most learning is based on fundamental ways for humans to learn through practical play, learning from peers and with freedom to choose what you would like to discover. With my endless curiosity this method fitted like a glove. Helping and learning from the other kids was a blessing, this is how I have learned the most I believe. The way IDEO embraces that in their company sounds like my primary school system but the difference is that the helping is more structured. It surprises me that people have to be encouraged to help each other. I have added some pictures that show the striking similarities between Montessori and IDEO.

Tim Brown, you will hear from me! I will read some more about you, to start with your book! Thank you Paul Sternberg for pushing his name forward.

Today I got to meet with and listen to Dr. Josephine Ojiambo. For you who do not know her, she worked from being a Kenyan public health servant into becoming Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Impressive right? That was not all. She shared the story of her life in an authentic and passionate way. It is about being an example for others. But also learning from other people that have been important in her life. 

A few lessons from Dr. Ojiambo: until we address the history of our nations, we are unable to look at the future of that place. We have to name the problems, face them and move on. 

The inclusion in politics and businesses is about the recognition of all the faces from around the globe and it is OK to wear your ethnicity with pride. But when it comes to us women when we feel like men do not address us properly or help us as they should. She said: often you, as a woman, just have to tell them what it is that you need, make yourself seen at a table and make your voice heard. One can make a change when you find a group, represent yourself and go from there. 

I had the chance to sit with her and ask a question that laid heavy on my heart. And instead of saying: this is the solution she said: I believe your intuition knows how to get you where you want to be. 

Yes this man is one of my heroes. If I have to name someone I want to learn from it would be him and his team of Small Works Sinclair. An design company that makes buildings.

His approach to design is crystal clear. He designs for life, on the ground. What I mean by that is he actually looks at where he is or even better where his building has to emerge. Sinclair has built many refugee shelters. But the shelters are made by the refugees, locals, his team and last for more than 5 years. Because they are built the ‘local way’. Instead of been made in the West or China and than placed in the conflict area, hoping it will last a while. To built locally you have to understand the area and learn from where you are, on the ground.

What happens if you design on the ground? Well you get to meet and learn from the people who need your knowledge. Together with them you could build the structure for them. They will contribute, understand the circumstances of the surroundings and therefor know what to look out for and moreover they start to love the product. The love is important, it means there will be great use and ownership. Last but not least: everyone involved learns, hands-on education I’d say.

“If you don’t want to design objects, design systems, and most importantly design like you give a damn!” – Cameron Sinclair, 2016