Alumni Work: Bas van de Poel

Wed 28 Feb

Bas van de Poel, a 2012 graduate from WdKA from the Advertising & Beyond department, has since carved an impactful career in the realm of design and innovation. As a co-founder of Modem, an office dedicated to the convergence of physical and digital realms, Bas brings a unique perspective to the creative landscape. His commitment to designing experiences for a new world is rooted in his years at WdKA, where a multidisciplinary approach and a focus on experimentation laid the groundwork for his career. In this interview, Bas reflects on his time at WdKA, the evolution of his career, and his endeavors at the intersection of technology, design, and the human experience.


Moncler Extraordinary Exhibition by Modem

How did you end up at WdKA?

“Prior to WdKA, I had already pursued a study in communication. During that time, I had the opportunity to work in the strategy department of creative agencies. It was there that I developed an interest for the creative process, witnessing firsthand the joy that the creative teams experienced. The allure of this creative energy led me to explore WdKA, a decision that was shaped by my desire to immerse myself in a more dynamic and diverse creative environment.

Despite my initial reservations about the term "advertising" and its somewhat negative connotations, I chose the path with an understanding that the skills acquired in this field transcended its name. The conceptual thinking and storytelling abilities learned at WdKA, I realized, were applicable not only to advertising but also to a myriad of other disciplines. In retrospect, "storytelling" might have been a more fitting term in my opinion, since that really is the core of the programme.”

How did you experience your time at WdKA and how did it shape your approach to design and innovation?

“My time at WdKA was very enjoyable and valuable, particularly in the first year, which served as an orientation period. The multidisciplinary approach exposed me to cultural and art history, autonomous art, and diverse discourses. This diversity became a foundation for my future career. The emphasis on experimentation, project-based learning, and exposure to different techniques and styles laid the groundwork for my current design practice, marked by a strong design and art sensibility. It's an approach I still value today, encouraging others and enabling them to produce innovative designs.”

What was your graduation project about, and how did it influence your subsequent career choices?

“My graduation project involved infusing intelligence into LEGO creations, exploring the intersection of technology and creativity. This project reflected my long-standing fascination with technology and the belief that it should be infused with a sense of critical thinking, poetry, and art.”

Did you face uncertainty after graduation, and how did your career evolve from there?

“Fortunately, I secured a position before graduation and worked with international clients like Nike and Converse. However, the high-output environment and mismatched values led to a burnout. After a spiritual realignment, I freelanced, engaged in self-initiated projects, and eventually joined SPACE10, IKEA’s experimental design lab. My diverse experiences and a psychedelic journey during the pandemic led to the creation of Modem, an office for design and innovation at the intersection of the physical and digital.”

Could you share one of your most exciting recent projects and your aspirations for the future?

“One recent project involved working on an immersive customer experience for Nike's House of Innovation. The installation revolves around a 7 meters wide high-res LED screen, displaying different weather typologies in real-time using Unreal Engine. As customers immerse themselves into the scenes, a robotic arm carrying a high-end film camera captures their movements in sync.

Looking forward, we aim to pioneer a new model to outline the blueprint for a contemporary design studio amidst a rapidly evolving creative and technological landscape. With a predetermined end date set for 2030, we hope to foster a unique environment that encourages risk-taking and the development of innovative, time-sensitive work.

What advice would you give to current students aspiring to a similar position?

"My advice to students is to avoid becoming too comfortable. In today's world, filled with uncertainties, one should develop an agile mindset, remain curious, and explore diverse discourses. As technology increasingly becomes embedded in our everyday lives, having a broad and versatile skill set will be crucial for staying relevant."