TU/e Pre-Master Portfolio (2021)

Professional Identity

I am Daan Sonnemans, a creative at heart. I have finished a bachelors’ degree in Industrial Design and started a small visual storytelling company at the start of 2020. During my bachelors, I worked on many projects varying from designing furniture to prototyping care robots.
I have always considered myself a generalist. Almost every month, I try to learn a new skill. One month I will be teaching myself woodworking and joinery. Next, I am learning about website development to build this website. Because I am a quick learner, I have developed a broad set of skills over the years. I can absolutely say I’m a generalist rather than a specialist. This sometimes can
get in the way of finishing projects. But this is something I am working work on, trying to take it one project at a time.

When working in a multidisciplinary setting, I often take the role of mediator. I try to get involved in every aspect of the development process, working with people from different backgrounds. I make an effort to learn their language to improve communication and workflow. Working in these multidisciplinary settings is where I thrive. Furthermore, I am a visual designer, meaning that I try to envision as early and often as possible. Building prototypes or interactive experiences is a necessity in my design process. I have a sufficient skillset to build a wide variety of prototypes using materials ranging from wood and metal to plastics and textiles

Apart from designing products, I love to compose and tell stories. In a more traditional sense, I try telling stories by producing short films and taking photos. On the other hand, these stories can also be represented by the products I design, both physical and virtual.fi


The time we live in is a unique one. The world around us is changing faster every day. When designing the world of tomorrow, we designers have a crucial role and should approach it responsibly. The United Nations gave us a clear path of improvement by listing seventeen global goals for sustainable development (UN, 2015). These can be classified into two main routes of improvement. The first is tending to the earth we live on. There is only so much time left if we don’t start caring for our planet. As Bio-Architect Neri Oxman beautifully states, “We should start to mother earth.” (Oxman, 2019) We are consuming more rapidly than the earth can manage. As designers, we have to zoom out. No longer designing a new button on a coffee machine, but rather redesign processes and systems to achieve more sustainable living. In an episode of Tegenlicht, architect Thomas Rau has an inspiring perspective on this subject. We should start offering services instead of a product. When offering light instead of a lightbulb, the means 

of achieving this need to be well designed to be the most profitable. This way, we challenge the concept of our overconsumption.

The second path of development that is important is tending to the people living on the earth. While we are more wealthy than ever, there are still many people living in horrible circumstances. 

A couple of causes for this are overpopulation, uneven distribution of food and other necessities of life, insufficient medical care and lack of education. These are problems that need solving if we want to raise the standard of living globally. Especially the second path is one needing more attention as this directly impacts the first. When living in poverty and lacking education, survival is more important than tending to the earth.

By raising the standard of living in less developed countries, sustainability will ultimately be on the global agenda. 

During my Minor program at the HAN University of Applied Sciences, I spent half a year living and working in Hanoi, Vietnam. In Hanoi, I worked in a Friendship Village, a compound where physically and mentally disabled kids live, get an education and are attended to medically. I used cooperative design methods, like Participatory Action Research (PAR), to help improve the living at Friendship Village. I grew very fond 

of these inspiring individuals who remained happy and positive, no matter how poorly their circumstances could be. I especially developed a drive for global development.

I hope to someday bring engineers together and cooperate with people in less developed countries to work on both paths paved by the UN development goals. I call it Engineers without borders.

Besides helping as a creator I want to use my enthusiasm for telling stories to share theirs. But most of all, let them inspire other people the way they inspired me.

Nowadays, self-driving vehicles are becoming more popular. The automotive industry is shifting towards an even higher level of automated driving in the future. Currently, communication of intent from vehicles to pedestrians is achieved through kinematics of vehicles as well as communication via eye contact with and gestures of the driver. However, in fully automated vehicles (AVs) where the driver might be absent, this communication is missing.

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To bridge this gap we have developed an intuitive novel way of conveying intentions to replace traditional modes of communication. Through different iterations of material research and shape explorations, a concept was created, based on the familiar motion of fluids. This design project mainly focuses on the movement of vehicles and its means of communicating at road crossings. This report discusses the aspects of yielding, accelerating and continuous motion, and how fluids play a role in communicating these actions . Finally, a prototype is built and evaluated using a User Experience Questionnaire (UEQ) and several user interviews. This proof of concept is a step towards implementation into the next generation of AVs.

The first and most difficult expertise area I had a deficiency in was Math, Data & Computing. I didn’t know what to expect because I had no experience with anything explained on the page of the expertise area. When starting the course making sense of sensors we as pre-master students were thrown in at the deep end not having coded before. Next to doing the different course assignments we had to teach ourselves to code in python and perform data analysis using Jupiter notebook. 

Using these methods we did a research study into the correlation between phoneuse and sleepquality, using several sensors. which has yet to be concluded. This though me a lot about these subjects and ended up using them in our project when analysing larger sets of survey data.

Another expertise areas I had some deficiencies in was User & Society. This surprised me at first as I have worked with users on several of my previous projects. My Minor in Vietnam was even solely focused on designing with and for the user. But after developing our first survey for Flowmotion I quickly understood what my deficiencies were. There was room for improvement regarding user evaluation. During the course User Evaluation Methods, I got to see the intricacies of great Evaluations. I worked with a group on producing a tutorial video for the Repertory Grid which was an amazing way of getting to know the method better.

While learning the theory during the course we tried to integrate some methods in the final evaluation stage of our project. We used several methods like the Likert scale, User Experience Questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. This last stage of evaluation went much better and we got the kind of answers we were looking for.

When designing the world of tomorrow, designers have a crucial role and should approach it responsibly

An expertise area I had sufficient experience in is Technology & Realisation. I have developed simple robotics and other electronic prototypes before. But, there was still a lot to be learned. Previously I relied on scouring the internet to find the solution for electric engineering problems. What I learned through the course Creative electronics, on the other hand, was coming up with my solutions to these problems by getting to know the workings of the different electrical components and circuit. During that quarter I developed a much larger toolbox when it comes to prototyping.

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During the course Creative Electronics, I build and analysed several electronic circuits. For the final practical assignment, we had to build a working prototype of a central heating system. The temperature was measured and using certain components, a specific temperature could be set. As a free assignment, I got to create an intelligent bike-light system. These bike lights turn on when it’s dark and the wheels turn using a light dependant resistor and a magnetic reed switch speedometer. 


Business and Entrepreneurship was an experience I hadn’t thought I had a deficiency in. I have worked with countless stakeholders on projects in the past and have even written some small business reports. But just like with user & Society my toolbox was lacking sufficient tools and knowledge of the tools I had used before. During the course designing for multiple stakeholders, I got work with several new methods as well as improving my knowledge of the one I already knew. During the course, we developed a prototype for a game called Pebbles for people with dementia stimulating their social interaction with loved ones.

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Although directly working with stakeholders was much harder during the pandemic I have developed a larger toolbox that I will be using more often in future projects. We also utilized some of the methods like the value framework in our project to get a better understanding of the market we are in and all stakeholders involved.

I try to get involved in every aspect of the development process

At Studio Joris de Groot I developed the Weld Pillow. A pillow designed specifically for the Weld Stool Alu by Joris de Groot. The challenge was to make a pillow that complements the seat, which means it has to be welded. I researched techniques for welding textiles. By laminating the fabric with a plastic film, they can be welded together by high-frequency welding. Sandwiched between two layers of high-quality textile is a layer of foam for comfort.


The welding lines on the pillow align with those on the stool. Three elastics are used to secure the pillow to the stool. This way, it doesn’t slide off when the user sits down.

Making a weld mould proved to be the biggest challenge. To make sure the weld looks clean the mould was made out of one piece of aluminium. After engraving Joris’ logo in the mould, I fastened it to a big aluminium sheet. In cooperation with Dolfing Druten B.V. we welded several different textiles and foams.

In this project I worked with the method Design By Doing. Drawing textiles is difficult, and the shape of the pillow was more or less already decided. 

By experimenting with different materials and methods, I designed the details. I spent some hours behind the sewing machine, making different shapes and adding details. I enjoyed exploring this method, and the result is a clean and minimalistic pillow.

Joris de Groot just started his second In4nite project when 

I joined him for my fulltime internship. Project In4nite is a cooperation between the large multinational Low&Bonar and ten designers. Low&Bonar produces Colback. Colback is a non-woven, high-performance material used in an array of products such as floor tiles and car upholstery. Low&Bonar recruited different designers to work with Colback and explore the possibilities of the material

Joris, who always starts his design process on the factoryfloor, was inspired by the forming of car upholstery. At R&D the upholstery is tested by pressing a cup into the material while heating it in an oven. Using a shoe form instead of a cup enabled us to shape foot-specific shoe forms. When the material is cooled down the material retains its shape.

The result is a perfectly shoe-shaped cutout. Different techniques, like festooning, are then applied to make the material into a wearable shoe. I shaped EVA foam into a flexible, comfortable sole. The lines formed by shaping the material give the shoe a dynamic appearance.  All in all, we were able to design the 2000N Pressed Concept Shoe collection.


We presented the collection at the Dutch Design Week 2018 in Einhoven.

Building prototypes or interactive experiences is a necessity in my design process

Verbind is a project I worked on during the last semester of my bachelor. While I was starting my graduation internship, I felt like I hadn’t done a real artisanal project during my education. That is why I chose to delve into the craft of joinery. I gave myself the task of designing and making two pieces of furniture using mostly wood and its material properties.

In my parents shed, I was able to fi nd all the tools necessary for making a stool and a chair. Woodworking without the proper tools like a table saw table was challenging at some times. It took a lot of patience to make sure everything would fi t well. 

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Although I did use power tools to speed up the process, both designs can be built only using simple tools, showing that you don’t necessarily need fancy tools to make furniture. I am very pleased with the results. Although not perfect, it was satisfying to see the wooden joints holdup. The stool assembles using only wood, not even wood glue. The chair frame I was able to assemble, only using wood, but because I wanted to stretch a fabric seating over it, I glued the joints to be sure.

Because my interests in design do not stop at products, I wanted to involve grapgic degign and photography in the project. That I how I came to make a magazing about connecting (verbind) my passions into one project. To finalize it I made a short film about the process and the results. 

It is estimated that only 5 to 15% of people in low-income countries who need assistive technologies – such as external prosthetics – have access to them. During my graduation internship as part of 3D Sierra Leone, this research was conducted to develop possible alternatives to the relatively expensive lower leg prosthesis parts currently available in Sierra Leone.

The result of this project was a method of casting aluminium prosthetic parts in the sand. This method was easy enough to perform in my backyard using things lying around the house. A variety of products could be cast as the negative mould was made using 3D printed positive moulds of the needed parts.

I hope to someday bring engineers together and cooperate with people in less developed on the UN development goals

During my Minor, I went and lived in Hanoi for fi ve months. 

I worked at The Friendship Village that houses about 100 kids with a variety of mental and physical disabilities due to Agent Orange. My goal was to seek out anything that needed improvement. Using Participatory Action Research 

I made a guide with the teachers, housemothers and other volunteers, to help newcomers do a better job working with the kids. We wrote signalling plans for every kid to hang in the classrooms. 

I designed and built several games with the kids, to play during the physical education class. We organised a teambuilding day to improve the connection between the volunteers and the teachers. But most of all, I had a blast hanging out with these amazing kids, playing, cooking, teaching them English and learning Vietnamese sign language.

We developed a Guiding Environment for elderly with dementia that helps them to maintain a healthy way of living. Our student team, consisting of six Design Engineers, two Embedded Systems Engineers and two Industrial Power Systems Engineers worked on Buddy. As a small robot-help, backed by a system of sensors integrated into a user’s home, Buddy is always there to support the resident.

Through friendly reminders, Buddy tries to help the resident to hold on to a healthy rhythm in life. Tasks include eating habits, sleep schedule, medicine intake, personal hygiene and a range of other things. We built a prototype that helps the resident to eat and sleep when they forget. Buddy will never force the user. Instead, it helps to remember. We developed Buddy to relieve caretakers of some of their tasks. This way, the small number of caretakers can take care of the growing number of elderly. Buddy will never take over the intimate, human part of a caretaker. (video on homepage)