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Stories from Design Bridge: The one that got away

Held every year during winter to illuminate the city’s waterways, the Amsterdam Light Festival invites artists and designers to submit artwork concepts based on a specific theme.

In 2018, here in the Design Bridge Amsterdam Studio we were incredibly proud when our designer Gali Lucas participated with her beautiful piece, Absorbed By Light. It was a powerful visual metaphor that captured the imaginations of festival visitors. As a result, Gali’s artwork has toured the globe and spawned multiple new versions.


Hoping to follow in Gali’s footsteps, I submitted a concept for the 2020 edition of the festival. The theme this year called for artworks inspired by nature, and specifically what we stand to gain by learning from it. Coincidentally, when the brief was announced, I had been re-watching the BBC’s spellbinding documentary Blue Planet II. I knew immediately that I wanted to create something based on the ocean. As artworks in the festival are typically presented in or close to the water, it felt like a perfect fit.

When threatened, some fish species shoal tightly together in a bait ball, making it much harder and more confusing for predators to isolate individual prey. In almost every example in the animal kingdom, those that cooperate stand a better chance of survival against the odds.

I interpreted this as a teaching from nature – if humanity wants to overcome the many threats we face, we have no choice but to work together. My submission ‘We Are Stronger Together’ intended to bring an epic natural phenomenon to the Amsterdam canals.


After several rounds of judging, I was ecstatic to learn that I’d made it! My piece had been greenlit, and would be developed into one of the festival’s annual batch of large-scale artworks.

But… 2020 has had other plans.

Thanks to the knock-on implications of the Coronavirus pandemic, the artwork’s construction cannot be funded for the foreseeable future.

Whilst I won’t be able to bring the concept physically to life, I still wanted to share the winning idea – especially as it wouldn’t have been possible without the beautiful visuals created by my colleague and talented Senior CGI Artist, Tom Warner.

Chiming with the message I hoped to convey with my artwork, I recently saw tthis poster, created for the Post-Contact project:

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Inspired by Dutch author and illustrator Leo Lionni’s childrens book ‘Swimmy’, Jack Halten Fahnestock captures even more succinctly how essential it is that we stick together to defend minorities and those most vulnerable in our society.

By Benjamin Farrell, a Senior Designer at Design Bridge Amsterdam.


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