Richard Van der Laken is a creative director based in Amsterdam. He met Pepijn Zurburg while studying at the Utrecht School of Art and Sandburg institute, and together they formed De Designpolitie - a renowned visual design agency, graphic design collective Gorilla, and What Design Can Do. Since forming, they’ve worked with many partners from Rabobank to Artis Zoo, won numerous awards, and feature in the permanent collection of galleries such as the Design Museum London and MoMa New York. At WDCD, they’ve created multiple design challenges, publications, and events hosted across Amsterdam, Brazil and Mexico. If Richard’s not in the office, he’s probably halfway across the world, preaching the What Design Can Do story at conferences like TED, The Next Web or Design Indaba.
Pepijn Zurburg is a designer and art director. During his studies at the Utrecht School of the Arts and Sandberg Institute, Pepjin met Richard van der Laken. Together, they founded renowned visual design agency De Designpolitie, graphic design collective Gorilla, and What Design Can Do. Their work has won numerous awards, and features in the permanent collection of galleries such as Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and MoMa New York. Working with partners and clients from KPN to Frascati Theatre, and many more. Pepijn is responsible for leadership and strategy, branding, and visual communication for everything What Design Can Do. A true all round designer with a strong hands-on approach. Pepijn is married (to another graphic designer!), and together they have two children.
Lara Snatager develops the programmes for all events and challenges we put together at What Design Can Do. She studied theatre in Amsterdam, following which she became a producer for various cultural festivals and events – such as the Iranian Film Festival and Club Interbellum. Joining artists, journalists and activists alike, Lara’s search for ‘gesamtkunstwerken’ never ends, if not for a good cheesy joke or impromptu sing-along at the end of the day.
Lisette Schmetz’s uninhibited, conscientious and professional manner has allowed her to bind the most special projects to her name. As a previous taxi driver and optician, perhaps this explains why she provides such clear, visionary direction. She ran the Arnhem Fashion Biennial from 2002 to 2008, has managed national presentations in fashion and design for multiple organisations such ArtEZ and Centraal Museum Utrecht, and is a member of the Visual Art Advisory Committee of the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts. Having run the first three editions of What Design Can Do, her role of Managing Director at WDCD couldn’t be more suited. On the weekends, Lisette loves exploring nature with her dog Roef (the office heartthrob).
Barbara Van Gemert is a 24/7 project manager, mum of 3, and tennis pro - how she fits it all in, we’ll never know. On second thought, maybe it’s those stellar management skills! Before (re)-joining us last to resume her WDCD legacy, Barbara worked for an online agency, creative advertising agency, and WDCD sister company De Designpolitie. Having started work in tourism, Barbara’s wonderful hosting and hospitality skills along with her interpersonal intuitivity, makes her the friendly face everyone appreciates during our events.
Rosa Kieft is a cultural programmer, researcher and project manager working in our programme team here at What Design Can Do. She studied art history and visual cultures at the University of Amsterdam and Goldsmiths in London, and has a special interest in the field of arts and science. Previously, she programmed Mediamatic’s public events around art, design and living organisms. Rosa’s new boat Helmut has kept her busy this summer, with the list of tour requests growing each day!
Peter Rijntjes, our new business manager, is a strategy, business development and marketing expert with a proven international track record in a wide range of sectors. Having worked with organisations from Shell to NEMO, Peter’s insatiable thirst for new ventures speaks for itself; as well as his work at WDCD, he also acts as a management consultant for Naturalis Biodiversity Center. When he’s not solving complex puzzles at work, he’s playing chess or watching the Spring Classics.
Daphne Schmidt is our marketing & communications manager. She studied marketing in Amsterdam and has been trying to use these skills for a greater good ever since - she’s passionate about sharing the stories, people and projects that make the world a better place.
Previous work includes organisations like the North Sea Foundation and online platform Nudge, where focus on sustainability and societal issues are key. During the weekends, she escapes the city in her campervan for some good ol’ peace and quiet. On a quest to bake a perfect loaf of sourdough bread (tips welcome).
Dagan Cohen is our challenge leader. From the Refugee Challenge to the Clean Energy Challenge, Dagan’s passion in participative culture has proved invaluable to their success. After graduating from Rietveld Academy, Dagan worked as a visual artist, entrepreneur, and has built 15 years experience working as (digital) creative director at agencies from Saatchi & Saatchi to Draftfcb. In addition to his work for WDCD, Dagan is a creative director at Social INC. As well as a keen eye in the creative sector, Dagan’s graphic t-shirt collection is definitely one to be envied.
Christel Wolf is our digital project manager. She studied graphic design at The Royal Academy of Art The Hague, and since then has worked for multiple creative outputs in the Netherlands: as a graphic designer, web designer and freelance creative director to name a few. Her illustrations have won multiple awards, such as the 3X3 merit for international professional illustration. She’s exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions, and has work published in several publications. With her sharp design skills, Christel is on a mission to optimize our website – making it as user friendly as possible.
Marieke den Ouden is our designer from Rotterdam. During her studies in graphic and social design at the Willem de Kooning Academy, she looked at the relationship between the Netherland’s clothing industry, consumerism, and graphic design. Photography is an important aspect in her work, and wherever she goes - the camera goes too. Can’t find Marieke on land? Probably because she’s sailing across the ocean on a pirate ship, teaching youngsters about sustainability and telling everyone she was a vegetarian before it was cool.
A global citizen from Mexico and Canada, Alain is a public affairs and strategic events specialist with an international network of contacts in government, business and civil society. Alain believes that public debate is vital to any democracy and, as such, he has devoted most of his career to building thought leadership platforms and discussion forums that defend and promote social causes. He has founded and directed global initiatives on freedom of expression, diversity and inclusion, and environmental issues. Currently, Alain is the Director General of What Design Can Do Mexico.