Designed Space chats with Daan Lucas

After earning his law degree in Amsterdam, Daan Lucas started organizing large parties that created memorable and unexpected experiences for people. Constantly curious about creation, it was inevitable that he would push his talents further. After running a web and motion studio with his friend, Daan parted ways to create Random Studio in 2005. He kindly chats with us about finding inspiration in parties, the importance of innovation and setting up Random’s new studio space. This interview was conducted via email in January 2018.

Random Studio was founded in 2005. Where did it all begin for Random?

Well, I had this company called Circus with a friend of mine. We did some web stuff and quite a bit of motion graphics. At some point, it made more sense for us to go our own way. I went to OFFF in Barcelona ages ago — one of the first ones, and I was blown away by what I saw there. All these different people: artists, developers, graphic designers, you name it. All working together, no ego bullshit, just people that went deep into their discipline and were super curious to start mixing their stuff with others. Amazing results, all new stuff, everything was new. It was so exciting that it made me want to be a part of this world. Digital and the web was all new and the possibilities seemed infinite and very positive at the time. It was all about creation.

But you originally earned your Master of Law at the University of Amsterdam. Was there a reason you studied law oppose to studying design?

All my friends went to law school and I really did not know much about design education.

Where did your interest in design stem from then?

My mother was always creating things. So it was not so much design but more creation that I was interested in.

What was the transition from law to design like? Did your law degree help with the business aspect of running a studio?

Not sure. What studying law teaches you is to think in a certain way. It’s a science technically, so you are taught to learn and look objectively. What is the role of law in society? How does law change society and vice versa? Why do we even live by this law? Who came up with it? But most of all, I think working in the creative field and not coming from there allows you to have a different perspective on things.

Random Studio is the third company you founded. What experiences did you learn from the previous two endeavors that made Random so successful?

I used to organize parties, not huge ones but for around 500–700 people. I loved doing that. People that go to a party are usually up for everything. They can let go and surrender: to the night, to the atmosphere, the music, the weirdness, but also to others. With those parties, I really tried to tap into that. Create strange moods, unexpected music, make people forget about themselves and allow them to feel one with the crowd so they could let go. Sometimes this backfired, but sometimes you could see people flow. Dancing all out. Wonderful.

I mean this is really what I want to do with Random too. Make work that makes people forget about themselves and their context by showing them a different perspective, or invite them to come and reflect, play, and create. Let’s make something together. Something weird. To do this in the commercial realm is hard, and with parties that is a lot easier. But hey, we will keep trying.

I’d say you’re accomplishing this. Every case study in your portfolio is extremely engaging and unique. Do you ever find that potential clients have a hard time understanding the services you offer?

Yes. It’s getting better, but we are not a place that sells off the shelf things. We like to make new things and challenge ourselves, and our clients want the same. With so much out there you have to make something that has not been done before to stand out.

When it was time to establish the new space, you worked with a local interior design firm. What was the direction you gave X+L when they were designing your new space?

After the studio in the east, I bought a studio where I also lived — next to the Amstel river. We worked from there for around 6 years but it became too small. Also, I became a father and needed a bigger place to live. So, I decided to live in my old studio and find a new spot for Random. The current studio was in a pretty bad shape when I found it, but it had character. I felt that we could do something good there.

The reason I asked X+L is they are super good designers; although, they will never say that about themselves. I like Random to be a studio that is always looking to make new connections with people that specialize. People that live for their work in a passionate way. I like Random not to have one signature. I like it to change all the time.

With Random’s experience in exhibition design, I’m honestly surprised you didn’t design your new space.

We have very strong creative people in-house, but we always look for the best solution for every problem. If we have the right person in-house we will use that person, but if not we will look elsewhere. This keeps everyone and the studio fresh. XandL were the best people to do this job and the result says it all. I am at least still very happy with the studio. We did not want a place with a huge statement; it should not feel “cool”. It should feel like a pleasant place. A place that feels good to be in. A place that invites to create and feels open in every way.

What was the reason for moving into a new studio? Did it take long to find your new space?

We moved to an old school building quickly, which was a place filled with other creatives. A beautiful old building in the east of Amsterdam. Circus worked from a different office space which we rented from our biggest client. But that relationship became suffocating, so we wanted to move out. At that time, I also moved away from Circus and then found a spot in the east.

I love the foliage. Does someone in the studio have a green thumb?

Yeah, actually a few people do. We love the plants. It makes the place feel alive. In summer the plants move with the light and grow, so the place changes because nature does. I like that.

The installation you did for KLM is fantastic. Where did the inspiration root from?

Normally we don’t work with ad agencies, as we have our own direct clients, but in this case, it was Tribal DDB Amsterdam that came up with the idea of a marble installation to illustrate the case of KLM. With that concept in mind, we tried a million prototypes and came to this final result. Fiction Factory, a company we work with a lot, also played a huge part in this project.

How do you manage projects in the studio?

We use Slack, Google, and we used to use Basecamp. We stay flexible. We need to.

How do you guys recharge after a project?

Well, we try to keep an interesting culture where we inspire ourselves by speakers from the outside or going to festivals or performances.

Last October you held a public inspiration night. I love hearing about designers giving back to the community.

We hold 4 of these open nights every year. The last one was about innovation. Innovation is a word that is used so much that it has lost its value. So, we asked a philosopher to talk about what innovation is, and his conclusion was that innovation is love. Because love allows you to feel free, to live without judgment. And if you live without judgment you can see the world without any framing and you can be surprised by everything. Only people that see the world like that can make new things.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting up their own studio?

First work a few years in different places. Hire the best people around you. Take a coach. I have a business and a personal coach for reflection.

Happy New Year! What’s in store for Random?

We are currently focussing on retail, and special interactive spaces and installations. We also have a lab where we continue to explore and play.

Photography courtesy of Kasia Gatkowska.

Full article originally published in January 2018 on Designed.Space

Designed Space is a digital publication that shares creativity and design thinking. Our content focuses on physical studio spaces of artists and designers. We push past being a banal design blog by delivering unique content, and sharing the personality of the individuals who create in these studios.

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