Co-Creativity: The Book with a Hundred Authors

The Industrial Design Engineering Faculty of The Delft University of Technology celebrated forty years in education with a spectacular display of co-creativity

Under the direction of Professors Frido Smulders and Han van der Meer, a hundred and six students became creators, authors, and production-managers of a book created and published within a three-month design project. The students had assembled on Sept 9th [2009] to receive their project brief, which was short and to the point. It was to collaborate in whatever way seemed appropriate to write and produce a book. The finished product was to be launched at the end of the project in December.

So it was that the students gathered on December 9th in the main lecture theatre on the appointed deadline. They had come from around the world to study at Delft’s celebrated Industrial design department. As they took their places, a large trolley was rolled in, carrying the books straight from the publishers. A first copy was handed over to Paul Rullman, Vice President Education, of the University.

The Project

What had happened between the first and last days of the project? Professor Smulders explained.

“Our Project Leadership course is part of the Strategic Product Design Masters degree. There is a great deal of problem-based learning. But we realized there were problems for students and Professors about how to conduct team work. That was the starting idea. Meike Brehmer and Geertje Roodbol did a pilot study which led to an internet survey of 15,000 of our students. They got 20% response, and we knew there was a lot of interest in giving students all around the University a book dealing with the problems of working in teams. Meike went on to be our student co-editor for the book”.

So the project was born, grounded in a lot of information about student needs in project work. In the next stage (after Sept 9th) the information was restructured into a conceptual framework of 70 themes identified by ‘root-cause analysis’. This led to the four main categories in the book, and to 12 main chapters.


Each chapter was allocated to a student team, with a further set of issues framed as ‘how to .. ‘ challenges such as ‘how to initiate a good team atmosphere’ , and ‘how to give and receive feedback’. At the book launch, a hilarious video showed the team leaders in a wild scramble for a chapter for their team.

Smulders again: “This is not a final product. It’s ‘ a zero edition’ like you get a zero series in such products as cars. But we can build and develop it.”

I suspect he is right. The product is indeed a bit raw around the edges, but in my view it reaches a remarkable level of technical competence of its content. It is also meeting a niche need. Frido and Han van de Meer always saw the potential beyond that of the needs of their design students . It may well be that the pioneering product will go through further editions, and attract international attention. I would encourage students and tutors to take a look at the zero edition.


Smulders, F., Brehmer, M., & van der Meer, H., (2009) TeamWorks: Help Yourself By students for students, Delft, NL: Delft University of Technology, ISBN 978 90 81 5053 1 4

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