Inspired By: Peter Van der Veer
It is easy for us to identify so many of the ways we are inspired by Peter Van der Veer. The founder of MODYN — back when it had his namesake — Peter is a mobility design pioneer who dared to do things differently.
So, it is only fitting that this month we kick off this new series with him. With our ‘Inspired By’ reads, we will introduce you to mobility designers and industry experts who not only inspire us, and have insight to share. Read on for our chat with Peter where we talk about his passions, design values, favorite projects of all time and what keeps him inspired.
Why did you decide to start your own business in the first place?
Well, I really wanted to work on different projects for several companies rather than just focus on one thing. I not only wanted to be able to design twists on existing products — like bikes — but also develop completely new products with a good look and feel that also functioned properly.
I also saw mobility design as a unique opportunity to make a difference. Even back in those earliest days with Wim (MODYN partner and head of CMF design), we saw the positive impact our designs could make on sectors like the bike market and the railway.
At the same time, back in 1985, companies weren’t accommodating to working part time. I really wanted the flexibility of having my own business so that I could also use my time to also parent and raise my children.
What was your favorite part of running your own business?
Definitely communicating with clients — especially the challenge of working together with that special client to figure out which new or renewed products they needed. I also enjoyed working with my team as we grew more and more. Managing the team was also something that gave me a lot of satisfaction, because when there’s good cooperation, together, you can achieve so much more.
You really are a pioneer in mobility design… how does that feel?
I was really able to witness the early days of the industrial design profession and see it mature. In the bicycle industry, for example, there would just be small variations of the same theme in question. Any innovation that was made actually came from the suppliers of parts rather than the bicycle manufacturers. Gazelle was the largest in the Netherlands, and was the first to be able to afford to market products with their own identity. And for me, that is something that I have always loved being able to contribute to.
Over the years, what were your favorite projects to work on?
Definitely bikes. Working on better solutions for the always faltering lighting, introducing a lock system with which you can easily put the bicycle, looking for solutions to more easily adjust the cycling position for the rider.
Does that mean you have an all-time favorite?
I would say the MIKTA project, which was aimed at developing a roof for an electric bicycle. This project kicked off around 2000 when the TNO institute here in the Netherlands was investigating the possibility of getting more people out of their cars and onto bikes.
The project was also in collaboration with both Gazelle and Nike. At the time, Nike had this great, brand new facility in the city Hilversum, but realized they didn’t have enough parking because many of their employees were driving rather than biking or taking the train. So, they were really interested in joining this effort to create an electric, covered bike that got people to work quickly and dry.
We worked on the MIKTA project closely with Gazelle, Nike and TNO, even developing a prototype, but it never went into production. However, this was still really exciting for me, because I had been working with Gazelle for 20-years, but of course, there is only so much you can do to better a bike. MIKTA was different because it was the possibility of a whole new generation of bikes. This project always stuck with me, and now, I am actually working on this project myself with my business partner at Urban Mobility Group.
So where did you find your passion for (mobility) design?
Ever since I was a kid I liked drawing and crafts and was interested in the design of the things around me. So, it was a really natural progression, and eventually I went to the Design Academy in Eindhoven for product design,
Which personal values do you incorporate in your designs?
My strong preference is always for designs that improve ease of use, safety and comfort for the user. Furthermore, durability and optimal manufacturability are also of great importance.
Have you ever used a design from the past as the basis for future designs?
Yes, a lot of my work is related to the bicycle. The bike has been around since 1885, but there have always been improvements to its design. Even when I was a student studying in Eindhoven, I was working on new concepts for better bicycles. The bike has always been a good product in my view, but I was looking for other seating positions, for more comfort or better air resistance on the bike — that kind of stuff.
What or who inspires / motivates you during your creative journey?
There is a ‘designer community’ of people who are also involved with bicycles and other mobility products. I mainly come across these people at trade fairs — there is even a special fair for “bicycle inventors,” the ‘special bike show’ in Germersheim, Germany. These give me a lot of inspiration. There is also an infinite amount of inspiration to be found on the internet.
What elements of the product design process do you like the most?
The best phase is the idea development phasem, — the sketching search for solutions and design. However as the head of the company, in practice, a lot of my work had to do with the organization and working directly with clients. But, the sketching and design phase was always the most interesting part for me — creating new possibilities, new shapes, new functions and better products, even more sustainable products and optimizing user demands.
Finally, tell us what you think about this new era of the company you founded?
You know, I look back on this company with such a good feeling. I was so happy to start this company and I love to look back on what we achieved, the products we designed and our continuous growth. They were exciting times and genuine people, and even now I like to come back and have a coffee and visit, because I feel at home.
Personally, I am still very proud of the company. It is a group of passionate specialists with enormous creative power. My pride lies mainly in having contributed to bringing them together. I truly wish them all the luck there is in their lives and in their work.