Designer Spotlight: Michiel Cornelissen

This week we are featuring lovely designer and long-time Shapeways user, Michiel Cornelissen. A professional product designer, Michiel’s shop is full of designs that range from life hacks to jewelry and lamps, but always include an element of beautiful, clean design.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?

I’m Michiel Cornelissen, a product designer from Utrecht, The Netherlands. I’ve been running my own design studio for a couple of years, where I combine client work (sometimes for big companies, sometimes for tiny start-ups and even individuals) with the creation of my own range of products – many of which are for sale through Shapeways.

What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you?

It’s only natural that this question comes up a lot – but I still find it hard to answer. Part of it is a drive for innovation – I want to create things that haven’t been done before, even if the innovation may sometimes be very tiny and modest. Then there’s this love/hate relation I have with complexity. On the one hand, I’m always looking for the simplest solution to a problem, and to try to really focus on letting that one aspect of a product shine, removing all redundancies. On the other, it’s even more exciting when complexity starts to work for you instead of against; for instance when a complex structure has all of its parts working together to create the final function of a product.

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
Shapeways and me go way back :). I found Shapeways years ago when I was just starting my business, and although I don’t focus exclusively on 3D printing, it has now become a major part of how I think and work as a designer.
How did you learn how to design in 3D?
I’ve been using Rhino since it was in its first beta, and it’s still my main workhorse – although I now have it tricked out with a gazillion plug-ins, notably the Grasshopper computational plug-in.
How do you promote your work?
Just the usual suspects; I have a list of blogs and magazines that I send to, and I do some Facebookin’ and Twitterin’ too.

Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
From Japan, Nendo and Fukasawa are favourites. In Holland, Dirk van der Kooij is an inspiration. In the Grasshopper community there’s a whole lot of great experimental stuff going on by people like Daniel Piker.
Random shout out to Lucas Goossens; I think he does an amazing job, especially for someone without a formal design background. And some very exciting work seems come from the people with backgrounds in mathematics, coding and computation; like Continuum and Nervous System (does anyone not mention Nervous System? But yes they deserve it).
If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?

The technology is there… but it’s not accessible. I love Dirk van der Kooij’s Endless Chair and the ‘fat’ extrusions he makes them with; I cannot understand why a similar process has not been made commercially available yet. And, I’ve mentioned it before, but I think the main challenge in 3D printing is not so much technical, but in getting good curation and marketing and thus sales; making it relevant to a much wider audience than just the makers. But I think Shapeways knows this and I see promising steps happening.

Anything else you want to share?
In addition to the questions, there are these products that may be interesting to mention:

This one has been in the works for such a long time… the design was basically there more than 2 years ago, but, well, things happened. No matter, I’m super happy about how it turned out, finally, and it’s been very rewarding to have such nice reviews on sites such as Designboom, Fastcodesign, Design-Milk, Mocoloco and Core77. I started the creation of ZooM in cooperation with a 3D printing supplier, who came to me with the question to design a full sized 3D printed lampshade in the most economical way possible. They gave the example of a flat disc being relatively cheap to manufacture; from there, my brain got in gear, and in a process I can’t even trace back, I came to the solution of interlocking spirals that make ZooM expandable the way it is. That company had some changes and sort of lost interest in the project, but I very much wanted to finalize the design, so I released it independently. Check out the video on Vimeo.


In the beginning of the year, I released several designs for glasses with Eyewear Kit. One of the favorites is Hatch:


  • Clean set of products, well thought-out designs
  • Very clean photography (showing products in context but in a creative, useful way)
  • Variety of “default” photos for more interesting “window” shopping experience  
  • Includes links on Shapeways shop to share social love

Thank you so much for the amazing work and interview, Michiel! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Check out his whole shop as well as his website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest! As always, to be featured, feel free to email aimee @ shapeways.com.

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