Ep. 36: Jan van der Lande

Founder and CEO of design brand Kikkerland, Jan Van Der Lande, tells us that when he started the business 25 years ago his houseboat was HQ, and delivery happened via his bicycle. Born and raised in the Netherlands, it was a lack of farming opportunities that compelled him to pursue greener pastures in New York City. And even though his lackluster academic performance in youth was no indicator of his future success and entrepreneurial prowess, you still can’t convince him that 1 + 1 = 2. Listen:

Jan van der Lande posing with iconic Kikkerland products (2016)

Jan van der Lande posing with iconic Kikkerland products (2016)

What is your earliest memory?

When I was 4 years old at every day end of when dismissed from kindergarten class we would all run out screaming together at the top of our lungs.

Family Portrait of Alice van der Lande and all her kids. Jan is 2nd from the right. (1962)

Family Portrait of Alice van der Lande and all her kids. Jan is 2nd from the right. (1962)

How do you feel about democratic design?

For Kikkerland our mission is to provide design with “Function, Story, and affordable.” I always thought it was odd that “good” design was only for the elite. Good design should be easy to understand and easy to obtain.

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

From my father: ‘if you’re not worried there must be something wrong with you.” There cannot be good solutions without obstacles and problems in your path. If everything is smooth in the process something is isn’t right, or maybe we don’t need a company like Kikkerland. For me excitement comes from solving problems.

From bike messenger to owner of his company, Jan has traveled to work on his bike since he set foot in NYC.

From bike messenger to owner of his company, Jan has traveled to work on his bike since he set foot in NYC.

How do you record your ideas?

In notebooks. One in my bag and one at my desk. I list everything and record in summarized form.

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

A pencil.

Jan driving his home through the Hudson. This model boat is not produced anymore, ‘75 Pacemaker (half wood/fiberglass)

Jan driving his home through the Hudson. This model boat is not produced anymore, ‘75 Pacemaker (half wood/fiberglass)

What book is on your nightstand?

Tinker Dabble Doodle Try by Srini Pillay

Why is authenticity in design important?

You want to design something that has not been done before. But you do have to do proper research and be well informed for your idea to be relevant.

Jan & friend/colleague Doug Hynes standing on a frozen Hudson River, when it used to freeze solid. (1988)

Jan & friend/colleague Doug Hynes standing on a frozen Hudson River, when it used to freeze solid. (1988)

Favorite restaurant in NYC?

Noho Star

What might we find on your desk right now?

A picture my friend gave me, it’s of us standing on ice in the Hudson river in front of his boat from 1988.

Who do you look up to and why?

My father. It is about how to lead your life in a sensible and healthy way. Care about others and stay curious.

A selection of notable Kikkerland designs. Clockwise from top left: Wind-up toy, Solar Queen, Cat Butt Magnets, Log Pillow

A selection of notable Kikkerland designs. Clockwise from top left: Wind-up toy, Solar Queen, Cat Butt Magnets, Log Pillow

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

Hard to say which one, but the design challenges we did in Mexico City were exciting. A Design Challenge is how we create new ideas and put them into the market by partnering with students, young designers and a major retailer. I enjoy working with young designers and helping guide them, and I enjoy our retail partners we collaborate with because they’re all interesting industry people that make the ideas possible. Everyone was so enthusiastic and appreciative. It’s always a lot of fun, and at the same time many of our best selling products come from these design challenges. Most people don’t know that.

What are the last few songs you listened to?

Summertime - Brain Box
Hot Rats & Waka/Jawaka- Frank Zappa
The Soft Machine - Soft Machine
Radar Love - Golden Earring


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Special thanks to Chris Modl of Yore Studio for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.