The Age of Designalism

An interview with podcast host IJsbrand van Veelen

07.11.2021  |  by Cato Verhoeven  |  General Activities

In the past six months, ACED has portrayed 25 frontrunners on the cutting edge of design and journalism. For example Bob Trafford of Forensic Architecture, Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins, Jake Charles Rees van Centre for Investigative Journalism. The series became a valuable way to explore what the combination of design and journalism is and could be, and highlights its position in our society.

The host and interviewer of our Designalism Podcast is IJsbrand van Veelen. Today, we talk with IJsbrand about his work; he does much more than just the Designalism Podcast. Right now he is in Italy to teach journalism students about investigative journalism. He also writes articles for 360 Magazine, teaches at the Hogeschool InHolland and currently he is writing not one, but two books.

The second season of the podcast comes almost to an end. What was it like to make the podcast?

“Sometimes, we recorded two or three podcasts in one day. That was quite exhausting because you have to concentrate on every conversation. The thing is, we talk about really visual productions. But a podcast has only audio. So you have to explain the things you’re talking about very carefully to your audience.”

Will there be a third season?

“We would like to make a next season, yes. Right now, there are around 25 podcast episodes, but our aim is to have 50 or more. There are a lot of innovative ideas about journalism out there, both in The Netherlands and internationally. That feels like an invitation to talk to all those people. I believe that the more international guest speakers we have, the better. In that way, we can show how international the movement is of people who look at journalism in a different way.”

IJsbrand van Veelen (left) and Harald Dunnink (right)

When do you call something designalism?

“We call something designalism when the approach to the subject is new or different than we already know. It’s not designalism when you stay on the beaten track and only change some minor details. Design because of design doesn’t have our interest either. What catches our interest though is this: suppose there is wrongdoing or something urgent. We would like to make that public, but we look at new ways of storytelling to expand the impact. That is what designalism is: the combination of design and journalism.”

What future do you see for Designalism?

“I think that we have to continue producing content. When the Designalism database grows and when there are more podcasts, more people will hear about Designalism. They will all realize that a lot of people are working already with this new approach.

The first thing is to show that it is a field where wise and knowledgeable people do serious work. The next step is to convince traditional news media that they could consider to incorporate different kinds of storytelling in their publications.

I think that it’s important for traditional media to think about how maintainable their position is. All the fake news we have nowadays originates from social media and digital platforms. I think that the amount of fake news will only grow if the traditional media don’t have an answer. People who spread fake news all say: look, traditional media don’t cover this subject! As a journalist you think: yeah, duh! because what you say is bullshit! But at some point you have to answer. Because the more often you get blamed for not covering a subject, the more people will think you’re not reliable. And that will endanger our democracy; it is already happening. This is alarming for our society and the globe.”

How can traditional media best react to fake news?

“I don’t know. But I think that the view of people might change if the storytelling or way of presentation of news is done well. Take Bellingcat for example. Nobody knew them when they started. People didn’t even think of their work as journalism. But now that has changed significantly. Christiaan Triebert, a Dutch journalist, worked for Bellingcat since the beginning. He has left Bellingcat and works now for a relatively new department at the New York Times. Because the New York Times saw Bellingcat’s work as very valuable. This is an example of a traditional medium that changed their way of researching and incorporated that in their own business model. Since Christiaan works for the New York Times, they have made some big discoveries. That is the power of experiment and change.”

The Designalism Podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

About the Author

Cato Verhoeven


Cato Verhoeven

Intern Journalism

IJsbrand van Veelen


Noortje van Eekelen

Creative Director