Symbiosis by Jelte van Abbema



Dutch Design Week: Dutch designer Jelte van Abbema won the €10,000Rado Prize at the Dutch Design Awards last week for a body of work including Symbiosis, an experimental project that involved printing with bacteria.


Van Abbema printed on paper (top) and billboards (below), creating simple typographic forms that changed colour and form as the bacteria multiplied and then died.


The Rado Prize, sponsored by watch brand Rado, is awarded each year for innovative, topical work by a young Dutch designer.


See our earlier story on the overall winner of the Dutch Design Awards,Merry-go-round Coat Rack by Studio Wieke Somers, and best consumer product winner FlexVaas by Vij5.


Here’s some info about Symbiosis from van Abbema, followed by his biography and info about the Rado Prize:


Printed media puts a pressure on our environment. Solutions like soya ink or natural pigments are a way in the good directions, but Jelte van Abbema tried to take it a bit further. Floated curiosity to a new approach and a fascination for growth, he investigated the possibilities of bacteria in visual culture. To cause no epidemic(疫情) he followed a course at the department microbiology of the university Wageningen.


It’s revolutionary approach: printed-paper does not need to be finished when it rolls of the press. After a period of research he pressed with carefully composed bacteria text on posters. In a converted poster box of JCDecaux – in fact a huge Petri dish – he created the correct humidity and warmth to let the print grow.


A new manner to publicly captivate without changing poster each week. Time gets barral at the work and transforms the image to something new. The bacteria act and create their own aesthetically induced dimension.

Winner Rado Young Designer Award 2009 – Jelte van Abbema

Jelte van Abbema was born in 1982 in Voorburg, the Netherlands. He grew up in the Dutch town of Wageningen, which is known for the life sciences and peacemaking. As a young gardener, he learned about the strangeness and beauty of nature, and with this he found the tools necessary to grow. Upon graduating high school in 2000, he began his studies at the Design Academy Eindhoven in Man & Communication. In June 2006, he graduated cum laude. His work was nominated for the René Smeets and Melkweg Design Awards and received the Willie Wortel Award for invention.


In 2007, he founded Lab van Abbema to investigate how design, science and technology can combine to shape a new landscape that reflects the contemporary nature of our world. His ongoing search for making the unfamiliar familiar has resulted in numerous collaborations, and his work has been exhibited and published internationally.


Winner: Jelte van Abbema “A promising marriage between art and science, based on in-depth research. This technical invention creates new images and forms.”



Graduates are hereby invited to sign up for the Rado Young Designer Award, the Dutch Design Awards’ incentive award for young, talented designers.

The international jury appoints the Rado Young Designer 2009 from three nominations selected from all entries by a special Rado selection committee. On Saturday 17 October, this winner will step into the spotlight on the most distinguished Dutch platform for design excellence.


Finalists 2009
Designers from very different disciplines, but all three young and bursting with talent. Below a brief description of the three finalists for the Rado Young Designer Award, the DDA stimulus prize.

Atelier NL
Graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2006, now design studio Atelier NL. Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck already worked for, amongst others, Royal Tichelaar Makkum. Atelier NL shows that research is an essential part of the design process.

Jelte van Abbema
His work was previously nominated for, amongst others, the René Smeets and Melkweg Design Awards. In 2007, Lab van Abbema was established. He employs other disciplines in his work (science, computer technology, biochemistry) from which his designs are borne. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.

Mattijs van Bergen
Mattijs designs in the playing field between fashion and graphic design. He has an original and recognisable signature, which – despite the high fashion content – sounds a note with the public at large. He graduated from the ArtEZ Institute in Arnhem and obtained a Master’s in Women’s Wear from Central Saint Martins in London. Mattijs has worked for Viktor & Rolf’s studios, has already produced a number of ready-to-wear collections, and his name is gaining increasing international attention.


First of all, of course, it is an honour to be the Rado Young Designer for one whole year. The winner receives 10,000 Euros in cash as well as support from Rado with regard to PR and communication, for example in the form of a press conference, articles in design magazines, and so on.

The winner will furthermore be honoured on the stage in the presence of around 1,100 guests during the celebratory Award Show of the Dutch Design Awards. The winner’s work will be included in the one-week DDA exhibition during the Dutch Design Week in the Brainport Greenhouse and highlighted in the DDA catalogue.


The Rado selection committee judges entries on the following criteria:

  • individual style with a distinctive vision and expressive idiom taking shape
  • responding to topicality
  • active for 5 years at the most (no students)
  • versatility i.e. talented in various forms of expression
  • recognised as a talent by his/her peers
  • inventor and team player
  • living and working in the Netherlands


也许你从未听说过有一天艺术作品也能够危害人的健康。但是它真实地存在着,并被荷兰人Jelte van Abbema创造出来命名为“共生”。Jelte van Abbema无疑是一个大胆的人,他对微生物的迷恋使得他开始研究平面视觉文化中的细菌可用性。而人类早就进化得能与细菌共生、共存了。


Jelte van Abbema在这条路上走得很远。为此他还完成了在Wageningen大学微生物学的部分课程。他把字模做成了一个细菌培养皿,将大肠杆菌充进广告牌里,用适当的温度和湿度培养细菌,这块“危险”的广告牌被放置在公众场合,随着时间的改变,微生物的死亡与繁衍,整幅作品也会随之变形、变色,并开始形成它们自身的美学和尺寸。当“共生”在纽约展览的时候,人们害怕会得脑膜炎、肺炎、败血症纷纷避之不及,最后主办方不得不改成线上展览。



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