Interview and photos by Antti Rimminen

Around visited the Oltmans van Niekerk (OvN) Design Studio in Delft, the Netherlands and had a discussion with the founders Liesbeth Oltmans and Els van Niekerk. They work in futures studies on lifestyle and design and have just released the latest edition of the annual consumer insight forecast 20/20 Vision 2019>.


How long have you worked together and how did it all start?

We were employed by the same company for several years before starting our own business in 2005. Having used trend information in our work we felt something was missing from the market and wanted to create a different kind of trend book: one that would explain the reasons behind trends.

In our previous jobs we would listen to trend experts, and they would be explaining the colours and the moods – but not really the reasons behind them all.

We wanted to create something inspirational and at the same time help the designers understand how these changes are connected to society. When you understand why people feel a certain way – or want to wear certain colours or materials – only then you can really understand their needs and make a better collection; whether it’s textiles, services, fashion, furniture or something else.

Liesbeth Oltmans and Els van Niekerk
Liesbeth Oltmans and Els van Niekerk at their studio in Delft.

You have just published Vision 2019> trend book. Was the process of making it different compared to the years before – considering last year was full of unexpected events?

ELS: It was quite a challenge because we need to think at least 2 years ahead. There were a lot of things happening in global politics last year and our challenge was how we could project this forward; what does this all mean and how will the world be in 2019? Will there still be a united Europe or not? What will happen regarding Trump’s presidency? So yes, I think that was a big challenge this time. It’s also important not to forget that there is so much more to this world than Europe and the US.

LIESBETH: Because we’re not making a book for this year, we have to try to look into the future and think about how people will react to this and how it will impact their lives in the long term. So it was really hard and you have to dive deeper and stretch your imagination of what could happen in a few years and how it will impact society.

Tell us a little about the process of creating the annual 20/20 Vision book? How does it evolve from the first ideas to the actual product that is sold worldwide?

It’s a process that involves a lot of research on the information we gather from all around – it can be newspaper articles, from a lecture, or a place we visited, quotes from people, certain words that you keep coming back to, a picture, a colour and many other things.

Once it’s time to sum everything up, we put all the bits and pieces down on the floor in our studio and then we discuss the different topics and it grows from there. We filter the information down several times and in the end, we have the most important stories that we put in the book.

The challenge is to keep moving forward all the time – so you start somewhere and you’re kind of peeling off layers because you need to reach the most important trends in the end.

Materials at the OvN design studio

After such a long working relationship, I assume you have a great friendship there too?

Yes, after all these years we can talk to each other without actually speaking. Sometimes you already know what the other one is thinking or whether for example a picture is going to work or not.

When we work on a project, we hand the ideas back and forth to each other and it goes very fluently, without much discussion, it can sometimes be hard for somebody in the middle of that.

What worries or excites you about the future?

ELS: There is a concern about the issues regarding loss of privacy and that’s something we really need to think about. But at the same time, we think that there are so many pretty things in the world and we should be focusing more on those.

Right now people are also worried about the artificial intelligence, we think it will be a normal thing in the future and people won’t have to worry about it so much. You get used to things quite quickly and in the end humans will have human needs and technology is only a tool.

LIESBETH: And so many people are working on projects that are so inspiring. We have a lot of talented young people out there with great energy and really good ideas at the moment – one should not underestimate the younger generations. Young people now do amazing things – we believe they should be given more credit.

For more information on Oltmans van Niekerk – visit

20/20 Vision and Colour Flow are available via Urban View.