Erik Kessels

In today’s world, design alone isn’t enough. Wherever you look, the technology’s available to turn anyone into a designer. In other words, what was once a specialized craft that required years to learn has now been democratized. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you just need a laptop, WiFi, and the courage to throw a couple of ideas onto the Internet. If you’re lucky, those ideas will spark and fifteen seconds of fame will be yours. One consequence of this shift is that those who want to make design their livelihood need to chisel out a niche: identify what your thing is and keep doing it, over and over, until that territory becomes you.

Another effect of egalitarianism is that the definition of design has shifted. You don’t have to display much in the way of traditional skills any longer. On a technical level, knowing DPI from PPI, and vector from raster is almost enough. No, what you really need is the capacity to tell stories, to share ideas and experiences in a way that connects — consistently — with a potential audience of billions.

The strength of an original idea is more necessary than ever.

At Trapped in Suburbia, it’s clear that originality is always their starting point. The thinking here goes beyond the expected with exploding posters, books that double as puzzle pieces and a dizzying range of styles. Beneath this eclecticism lie certain themes. Trapped in Suburbia embrace a playfulness that is absent in much Dutch design, a willingness to experiment and revel in “flaws.” Their niche then is letting it all hang out, pursuing their curiosity in a refreshing, kids-at-play kind of way.

Their other defining feature is productivity. Trapped in Suburbia are a factory of two manically busy workers. Their work shows that when you make and make it often, it will take you to another level. It’s a philosophy I strongly endorse. When you believe in the strength of your own work, you’ll eventually —almost by default— create a school of design.

Trapped in Suburbia’s mix of design, communication and events makes their work a tactile and thrilling experience — one that will not go unnoticed. Only the company name might need a rethink: after this stunning publication, they’ll be trapped in suburbia no longer.