What exactly is the role of a designer? For Sep Verboom, the answer to this question is more a matter of vocation than occupation, and is directly related to designing our future and our immediate living environment. The 30-year-old Belgian designer works with traditional craftspeople, village communities and social cooperatives in countries from Brazil to Indonesia and the Philippines, creating links and building networks. By facilitating personal contact in this way, Sep Verboom designs processes. Sometimes with no clear vision of the final result, but always with a vision of making things better—and perhaps improving the world we live in at the same time. On his platform, Livable, he presents powerful images and videos that tell the stories behind products and invites designers and manufacturers to join him in his activities, with the common mission of shaking up traditional industries in a social, ecological and quality-based revolution.
Product designer and
founder of the Livable® platform
As a designer creating projects at local level all over the world, how do you feel your work has changed over the past year?
Life itself has changed. But I was lucky with my timing. In April 2020, just before lockdown, I was able to travel to the Philippines again to pursue research for my current project about capiz shells; this is a translucent natural material from the windowpane oyster that is currently treated as waste by fisheries, despite its unique properties and long history of use as material for lampshades and as a precursor of glass in sliding windows. After doing a lot of research and filming, I then made the most of the lockdown to complete the documentation. Before the pandemic struck, I had also been working with ONTketen on initiating a project in Belgium, and the circumstances then enabled me to focus on it completely.