What to do when information is aloof, cold even?

A writer sits at her computer. All the information at hand, online or in a stack of documents or books. Information from academic writers. Meanwhile, there is all kinds of consultation and participation, looking for consensus.
What will come out of this?Something all too neutral. Cold-hearted even. I pitch my tent on the edge of a vineyard or tidal area. A lot of fuss, somewhat romantic. But very close to the action.
What will this approach bring me?

Something that feels close.

Refuting presuppositions

In 2016 and 2017, I worked on a book about wine (read more here ), for which I visited 25 vineyards in France and Spain on foot. Often around sunrise or sunset. To do so, one has to make an appointment with the owners of the winery. You then chat with them, for example, when they drive you up the hill in their jeep. Such talk gives you all kinds of insights and refutes your presuppositions. You walk through the landscape, not with a booklet or a map but with a flesh-and-blood guide, full of local and superspecific knowledge. This puts the general knowledge that everyone has on their screens in a different light, it is complemented by stories, by intimacy and character.

Add pepper to taste

That’s how I discovered that interviewing other people who are close to the action all day is a great addition to my own research. It is the pepper that a drawing or a story needs. It takes some work, but the principle is simple.

That’s why I chose an approach that would provide intimacy for the visualization of Geopark Schelde Delta(here): visiting the locations on foot as well as talking to people who are working in the landscape on a daily basis.

Cultivating character

You know, something like that takes a lot of time. And money. You have to be a little smart about that. But designing in a studio with the Internet at hand does not provide enough proximity. A characterful end result must be cultivated.

What you need to tell about the landscape you don’t think up by staying inside.

wine languedoc storytelling intimacy character

Wine up close: harvest in the Languedoc, early in the morning.

stories intimacy character

With Soan Lan Ie looking at small and big things in the landscape along the Zwin, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.


storytelling intimacy character

Interview with Jan Kruijse, seaweed harvester in Yerseke, for the brochure for the Geopark Schelde Delta.

stories intimacy character

With Nico de Haan, bird expert, and Rico van der Sloot, industrial designer, exploring for panels on meadow birds, for Natuurmonumenten.