Interview with Huckleberry Designers Chris Koens and Ramon Middelkoop
Dutch Designers Chris Koens and Ramon Middelkoop are no strangers to the world of high-end design. With over 20 years in the design industry and training from the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven, they know a good idea when they see it. Chris and Ramon work as independent designers as well as together, creating “ODD: Orange Dutch Design”—a label which represents designs that are original, intelligent and playful. We interviewed them about their latest passion project with Kikkerland Design: Huckleberry.
What is your relationship with Kikkerland Design?
Our relationship with Jan and Kikkerland goes way back to the 90’s when Jan had just started in New York and sold Chris’ first design, the “Firefly”. It was a tea light holder that mounted to the wall. It was the first of many designs we created with Kikkerland. We kept in touch through all these years and have done many projects together since. We feel that Kikkerland’s sense of play and wit make it the perfect company to partner with to launch the Huckleberry line.
What inspired you to create Huckleberry?
Having kids! Being a parent makes you remember what you enjoyed in your own childhood and you want your children to experience those things as well. On top of that, we are designers. If we were musicians we would make music for our kids. We are designers so we design for our kids. It’s no coincidence that our children are the target age group for Huckleberry. They are our first test group for these items. If someone had asked us to design a line like this before we were parents, it might’ve been completely different. With Huckleberry it sprouted out of our minds organically. We know how important it is for kids to play, make friends, be active and have the sun above their heads. They learn and build social and practical skills through play. But nowadays it’s hard to motivate them to go and play out of the house. So we decided to make simple products to entice kids to play outside. Items that are designed to use in nature. Once outside they will have many reasons to stay and explore.
The Huckleberry line focuses on nature. What is your relationship with nature?
We both grew up in the countryside and now live in and near the city with our families. Therefore nature is not an everyday thing for us, but more something we like to experience in our free time. During summer holidays we like to go to the mountains, or take long walks along the seaside—even the jungle occasionally. It's amazing how many memories these outdoor trips create.
Has being a Dutch designer influenced your approach with Huckleberry?
Some design is more external; focusing on beauty or aesthetic. Huckleberry is a different thing. It’s not about the product so much as what the collection can do to stimulate and motivate kids to go out and explore. We made the Huckleberry line very simple, because we want kids to have to use their imagination and think creatively. Therefore, the design is not about beauty, but about the experience that the product makes possible. This ‘people before product’ approach is commonly associated with Dutch Design— this idealistic approach of “What can you do as a designer to make a better world?”
Do you have a favorite item in the Huckleberry collection?
At the moment we like the boat motor the best. It is totally up to the kids to decide what kind of boat to make and what materials to use. You can carve a piece of wood or repurpose a plastic bottle that otherwise would’ve gone to a landfill. That’s very exciting.
What do you hope to accomplish with Huckleberry?
You aim for something, and a good design hits what you aim for. With Huckleberry, our aim is to stimulate. We hope that children learn and grow with Huckleberry. We hope they make something on their own and take pride in that. That’s why we keep the designs fairly “open” in concept; so that kids decide for themselves what they want to do or make. Their imagination and creativity is a necessary element. Huckleberry’s own namesake is the story of a boy who loved having adventures in nature. We hope kids today will rediscover the importance of nature and stumble upon their own adventures when they use Huckleberry. Who knows? They may make lifelong memories.