Interview with Alissa Rees

Alissa Rees photo

Dutch design is gaining a lot of space in the field of societal challenges, having several initiatives and investments implemented in the past years. And there is much more to come. One example is the remarkable work of the designer Alissa Rees. Recently graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2017, she came up with twenty concepts to humanise hospitals, some of them presented at the Dutch Design Week, which later resulted in the book “Humanising the White Building”.

You just came back from the Milan Design Week. What could you share about this experience?

Milan Design week 2018 was a beautiful experience. Sponsored by the kingdom of the Netherlands, I was able, together with 6 other designers, to exhibit my work on a small stand but in a valuable space. I received a lot of positive feedback, it was something different than the visitors normally see at Milan Design Week. There were also visitors a bit confused when entering the room since they were not immediately surprised by shiny or beautiful products. They had to dive into the story and take the time to digest. After sharing my story, my book and my thoughts about how I want to humanise hospitals, the visitors were very enthusiastic. I made good connections and hopefully valuable collaborations for the future. A valuable experience!

On your website ( you mention that “Simple thoughts and ignored emotions are my biggest inspiration”. What else inspires you in your daily life to keep creating beautiful design solutions?

What fascinates me as well are the routines human beings like to play part in. Even though they actually would prefer to get out of this specific routine. Deeply inside we know what makes us happy, but still emotions, such as fears stop us from doing the action leading to our joy. This inspires me to create concepts or products to make people aware of their habits and actions.

Your work implies a lot of observation of human behaviour, right? Any tips on how to become a better observer?

To become a better observer of human behaviour? It starts with interest. Why do people behave like they do? Why are they stuck, happy, annoyed? I love to analyze everything. But I also think that life experience will help to understand people. You maybe think you know what the emotion ‘fear’ feels like, but one emotion has multiple levels. Maybe you only experienced the first level (the softest version of it). This is how I would describe it. If you experience more in life, living on the edge, you more and more understand why people do what they do.

Now imagine we are in the future. How do you see your design legacy in 20 years?

I can imagine I am still a concept designer running an even bigger company. I hope I get the possibility to humanise hospitals in different areas all over the world. That I see improvement on different levels and that I can inspire others to do the same. I hope I can humanise different aspects in more areas as education in elementary schools and contact with nature in our daily lives. And most of all I hope I am healthy, satisfied and still open for great adventure!

Thanks, Alissa!