If Heraclitus of Ephesus were to time-travel to our era, it’s likely he’d be astonished – and filled with awe and pride. The Greek philosopher is famous for his concept of ever-present change: ‘panta rhei’, which literally means ‘everything flows’. He strongly believed that this was the fundamental essence of the universe. But not even a wise man like Heraclitus could’ve predicted how true this would be, 25 centuries after his death in 475 BC.

In the modern world, everything flows. The only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. This is the highly dynamic – but also unruly – context in which designers work. They must tap into this flow to create designs that have a real impact. In fact, a world in motion demands a different kind of designer with a different attitude, a designer who can bridge the gap between designing meaningful interactions and scalable consequences.

To shed light on the role of the designer in a constantly changing world, the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of Delft University of Technology held a forum on Friday 11 November – Panta Rhei!

The event was curated by five new professors of Industrial Design Engineering: Catelijne van Middelkoop, Deborah Nas, Jeroen van Erp, Jos Oberdorf and Roland van der Vorst. These designer-professors provided five perspectives on design and design leadership.

Panta Rhei!

Inaugural lecture of five design-professors
Rector Magnificus opens the symposium
Catelijne van Middelkoop
Jeroen van Erp
Deborah Nas
Jos Oberdorf


Prof. Catelijne van Middelkoop

Professor of Visual Communication Design
Professor Catelijne van Middelkoop is cofounder and partner of Strange Attractors Design, a studio that creates innovative and strategic solutions to influence culture and commerce.
Her inaugural lecture will focus on the role of visual communication design (education) in a complex era in which visual culture, speed and volatility play a central role. She will share her vision of the importance of developing your own ‘voice’ and making extensive and critical use of the wealth of media that are at our disposal.

Prof. ir. Deborah Nas

Professor of Strategic design for technology-based innovation
Professor Deborah Nas is one of the founders of the strategic innovation agency Sunidee. Working on complex innovation challenges for leading brands worldwide, she has learned, compared and shared innovation practices across industries.
In her inaugural lecture, she will share her vision on the role of strategic design in the ever-changing world of new technologies.

Prof. ir. Jeroen van Erp

Professor of Concept Design
In 1992, Professor Jeroen van Erp was one of the founders of Fabrique, an agency in Delft that has grown into a multifaceted international design consultancy. He established its interactive media department in 1994, focusing on developing websites for the world wide web. He’s also the chair of the Dutch Creative Council.
In his inaugural lecture, he will explain why creativity, knowledge and leadership are the necessary ingredients for developing concepts that generate and accelerate innovations.

Prof. ir. Jos Oberdof

Professor of Product Architecture Design
In addition to being a part-time professor, Jos Oberdorf is a managing partner at npk design, a product design consultancy that manages the entire product development process from strategy and ideation to engineering, prototyping and production support.
In his inaugural lecture, he will share his thoughts on a dynamic approach to the design process..

Prof. dr. Roland van der Vorst

Professor of Strategic Design for Brand Development
Professor Roland van der Vorst is Managing Director of FreedomLab. He has always worked at the crossroads of strategic and creative thinking, both as a consultant and entrepreneur in Europe and Asia. Van der Vorst holds a PhD in brand management and has written books on Curiosity (Nieuwsgierigheid), Hope (Hoop) and innovation and positioning (The Camouflage Effect). According to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, he is one of the 200 most influential people in the Netherlands.