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Axel Enthoven by Kurt Vanbelleghem

A new book by Pandora Publishers tells the visual and business story behind one of Belgium’s most prolific contemporary industrial designers

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Text by Rab Messina

Axel Enthoven’s initial business idea was simple: he started out as a freelance industrial designer, trying to design as many large artefacts as possible. By 1976 his list of clients had grown so considerable that he decided to found NV IDEA —that is, Industrial Design Enthoven Axel, which later became Enthoven Associates and is now, in its current iteration, Yellow Window.

This summer, Pandora Publishers is releasing Axel Enthoven by Kurt Vanbelleghem, a 248-page tome that compiles the best of Enthoven’s work for companies such as Ideal Standard, Belgian Rail and Samsonite.

While the Antwerp-born designer is best known for his iconic proposals, such as the “diving-mask” train for his home country’s rail company, his most outstanding contribution early on came from functionality, not aesthetics. Back in the 70s, companies collaborations with industrial designers mainly focused on the outer layer of products, but Enthoven’s work for Samsonite and DBP Plastics proved that incorporating technique and functionality to an aesthetic vision could do wonders for the bottom line.

The book threads the road from Enthoven’s production as a one-man show until today’s global expansion as Yellow Window —following a path that Yellow Window’s managing team calls “design entrepreneurship.”

And in order to explore the creative genesis behind his work, the launch is accompanied by the exhibition Les Esquisses et les Pensées, also curated by Kurt Vanbelleghem, at the mvArtCenter in Antwerp.

Enthoven’s Memory Stone (2014) tombstones for Serax, winner of the 2016 Henry Van De Velde Award in the Feel Good category.
Part of Yellow Window’s handbags from the Origami Collection (2015) for Belgian luxury brand Lebeau-Courally
Sketches for the Origami Collection handbags
Enthoven’s Bora Bora sofa (1982), a commission from furniture maker Leolux
Enthoven’s sketches for the Bora Bora
A coach (2004) for bus manufacturer Jonckheere. In 2005 the bus was named Coach of the Year at the Busworld fair in Kortrijk
Sketches for the Jonckheere coach

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