Richard van der Laken: Creating Gorilla and the designer's "do" mentality

The Amsterdam-based graphic designer tells us why designers are wired to be solution-finders and conversation-starters.

Amsterdam-based graphic designer Richard van der Laken has always seen design as a tool for change. While still in art school, he and business partner Pepijn Zurburg started De Designpolitie – a design studio that communicates through bold gestures, public activations and smart design thinking.

The studio formed a solid platform to explore the change making aspects of design, which lead to the establishment of What Design Can Do – an annual conference that advocates the impact of design on society – and Gorilla, a visual, current affairs column.  

In this interview, van der Laken discusses design’s power to ignite debate and create topical discussion with particular reference to the work he and his team do for Gorilla. He talks of a designer’s inherent ability to create solutions, and says, “Where people see a problem, a designer always sees a challenge.”

This ability is only heightened by the exponential speed at which the media operates. Throughout his twenty years as a graphic designer, van der Laken has become accustomed to a fast-paced working environment in which the finished product always has to be delivered in a matter of hours. For him, speed is a catalyst for learning how to find quick solutions, go with your gut feeling and trust yourself as a designer.