What can we learn from Dutch design?

I recently went on holiday to Amsterdam just before Christmas and was blown away by the city’s creative and vibrant atmosphere. Not only do the Dutch use design extremely well in day to day life, every service I came across was thoughtfully tailored towards the customer and people would go out of their way to help you. After being immersed in such a creatively successful culture I got to wondering:


“how could we implement some of this design in our business, and in any business?”


Use The Philosophy of Design


I was really inspired by the city’s architecture, which embodies the whole philosophy of design. Everything the Dutch do has a thought process behind it and everywhere you go, you can tell that people have done their customer research, studied people in the space and created the service around them. This links back to creating a service around your customers and implementing design thinking to tailor your product or service to the client.



Design Your Workspace with your Clients in Mind


Amsterdam’s canal structure was built as a defense system during the war, and this intricate design of the canals has created different hubs and creative areas within the city. From the moment you get off the train, it’s easy to get to your destination and the I Am Amsterdam Centre is right outside the train station, which is ideal for tourists. This journey mapping embodies how you design your workspace. We recently did some market research on people visiting their accountants and some compared it to to visiting to the dentist—a usually painful and expensive procedure which many people dread or fear. Taking this problem, we sought to create an environment that welcomes people and makes them actually want to come and see their accountant. In our new office we will seek to create an inviting space with good coffee and a spare desk for clients to work at if they want to.


“Coming to your office should be a positive experience for your clients and your workspace should embody this through a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, which was definitely present in Amsterdam.”



Be Proactive


Every service I came across in Amsterdam was really well designed, particularly within retail & leisure, where the staff would proactively wrap Christmas gifts for you beautifully and free of charge. Everyone was friendly and happy to help wherever you went and this proactive attitude is so important in any service. Doing more than the bare minimum and being passionate about making a difference will deliver real value and improve the lives of your customers.


Implement a Great Service Model


During my time in The Netherlands, I stayed at The Hoxton Hotel, which I would recommend to anyone visiting the city. I was really impressed with the hotel’s service model; not only were the staff friendly and eager to help, but they completely re-designed the hotel experience. There was no overpriced mini-bar, you simply bought the items you would like at reception at around 2 euros for a beer and received a bottle of water on arrival. Breakfast bags were also brought to the room each day to be eaten at a time that suited you. So, how can we adapt this service model and apply it to any business? The Hoxton have really designed their business from end-to-end to think about each step of the customer journey—


“it’s all about creating happy customers that will do your marketing for you.”



Great Graphic Design


All the flyers and maps around Amsterdam were well thought out and beautifully designed; the city as a whole is implementing design seamlessly into its identity and in many ways, the Dutch creative community parallels Dundee’s own thriving creative industries. Paying attention to detail and caring about the little things creates a great impression and the importance of great graphic design shouldn’t be underestimated in any brand.


As well as being a fun city break, Amsterdam provided lots of creative inspiration and exemplified how great design and consideration of customer experience can create amazing experiences. These takeaways can be used to improve any business, from architects to accountants and to make a real difference in the way you deliver your service.