Sep Verboom is the designer of the year

Biennale Interieur picks the young Belgian designer for his social commitment. On the way to the next edition, in October 2021

Sep Verboom, Designer of the year 2020
Sep Verboom, Designer of the year 2020. Photo © Aaron Lapeirre

Sep Verboom, the 29-year-old designer from Ghent, is the designer of the year according to Biennale Interieur, the most important Belgian event on creativity. This year the fair did not take place – the scheduled time span of 21-25 October 2021 had to be canceled – but the prize has been assigned in any case to this young talent, not for a product but for his social engagement in general.

Verboom, with his Livable platform, has traveled in countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, but also in Belgium, to help local communities gain emancipation through craft techniques. “In this unusual and important year, the designer Sep Verboom illustrates the importance of social commitment. His young career proudly displays its socially engaged character, the pursuit of a more beautiful world in the widest sense of the term. Resistant and collective, tied together with a thin strip of palm fiber,” the jury explained.

Il designer belg Sep Verboom con un artigiano amazzone ©Aaron Lapeirre
Sep Verboom with an Amazon craftsman. Photo © Aaron Lapeirre

His adventures include a trip to the Amazon in Peru, where he conducted research on the supply chain of certified wood, in collaboration with AIDER and the Flemish NGO Bos +. Verboom has also worked in the Philippines, where he combined traditional weaving techniques with waste products in the province of Cebu. Verboom sees himself as someone who sets projects in motion and guides them, rather than a designer in the traditional sense of the term: “Had I been a photographer, perhaps my pictures would have been the final result of a project. Whatever the outcome of the research, it has more to do with the environment and the process, rather than a final objective as an end in itself. I tend to assign greater importance to the story and the process.”
The jury has selected a designer who is far from a typical representative of his profession, as most people know it. Rather than a final product, it is the context that counts, as the designer explains: “Taking just the look or the saleability of a design into account is no longer of this time. The process results from a specific question or need. We still have a long way to go in terms of durable design. My aim is to offer an alternative approach.”

Until 15 November, an exhibition at Interieur House in Kortrijk, Belgium, displays his works in the framework of the Wonder festival in that city.