Ruben der Kinderen, Product Designer at ITR8.

Design in the wild: what I learnt from a week in the Swedish bushlands.

Has anyone noticed a new breed of Millenials choosing to switch off and venture into the natural world? While most are hyper-connected and obsessively documenting their daily activities, there seems to be a growing trend of individuals choosing real life experiences over virtual reality.

One such individual is ITR8 Product Designer, Ruben der Kinderen. Last year he was inspired by Sean Penn’s film ‘Into the Wild’ to set off on a solo expedition into the Swedish bushlands. This year he returned for a second trip, however this time he wasn’t alone... read his story below on why switching off can be the ultimate catalyst for creativity.

1. What made you venture into the wild? 
For me there are 3 distinct reasons: Firstly, as western people we gather so much luxury, it’s good once in a while to focus my mind on real needs and remind myself how easy we have it. Secondly, I come from a physical product design background. For me, getting out there without any modern products, sparks my creativity in an entire new dimension and let me think about new ways of cooking, sleeping and living. And lastly, I had made the trip once before and wanted to make the experience I’d had even better.

2. Did you completely disconnect from technology?
It depends how you describe technology. In the outback, everything you take with you can be considered tech. Technical trousers, ultralight tents, watertight bags. I love outdoor hardware! There is so much research and human-centered design behind it. I can look for hours at a nicely made jacket and get excited about how parts are sewn together or the workmanship of an ultralight air mattress. But yes, I did take my phone for the occasional GPS check and emergency calls.

3. What was the toughest part? 
The toughest part was not being able to find entertainment in the way I’m used too. It’s very interesting to see how people have become accustomed to be entertained all day, every day. Netflix, games, smartphones etc. It took me two days to accumulate a new way of getting through the day without all this entertainment overload. At the end, the days went by even faster than they would in my normal ‘modern’ life.

Design in the wild: building a sleeping shelter.

4. And the highlights? 
The trip consisted only of good parts. The toughest parts were in the end also good learnings. The last two days we (a good friend and myself) found a lot of blueberries and made jam! That really upped our spirits to see that we where able to ‘manipulate’ nature to our advantage. We felt the same thing when we built a campfire during a very rainy morning.

5. What did you do better the second time? 
All these experiences where only possible because I could share it with somebody. The first time I went to Sweden, I went all by myself. I couldn’t handle it very well, I got so lonely from being unable to share the moments. Sharing experiences is something very important and is at the core of our social being. So I’m very glad that I had somebody to share this amazing experience and make this trip one to remember!

6. What did you wish you knew before going? 
Some of the animal noises we heard during the evening. Then the forest comes really to life. We couldn’t make any sense of them, to match a certain animal with a particular sound.

At ITR8, we encourage our team members to pursue their passions, so they feel inspired and motivated on a daily basis. From bushcrafting, to yoga, to charity projects, we are big believers in finding creativity in unexpected places.

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Design in the wild: the spectacular night sky.
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