The future of products: an interview with Marcel Vroom

What will products look like in the future? What materials will we use, and will everything be ‘smart’? Industrial designer Marcel Vroom and ambassador of the sector Products at Material Xperience paints a picture of his vision of the future of products for us in this interview! Click here for a free entry ticket for Material Xperience!

How do we make products in 100 years, if it were up to you?
100 years is a long time. As (Roy) Amara’s law states: we tend to overestimate the effects of technology in short term and underestimate it in long term. Ten years ago, for example, we could not estimate the effect of the iPhone, while in ten years, we may laugh about Facebook. If we underestimate the influence in ten years, can we estimate the effects in 100 years? Will we have landed on Mars? Will we laugh about electric cars?

One development we may be headed to is growing products, like an apple grows on a tree. Instead of building products, we could create them by 3D printing them or by programming atoms.

What do you think is the best invention ever and why?
The best invention ever is glass. It is impressive how much you can do with a material made from sand. Glass is a versatile material that has been improved over centuries, and the developments are still happening. In architecture, glass can be used structurally. The iPhone X is made mainly from glass. Possibly, the same will happen to larger products, such as cars made from glass. Even now, solar cells, sensors and actuators are being integrated into glass, to give the material new properties. Displays are already being made from glass and will be merged with above-mentioned functions. These developments will only continue in the future.

What are the most important material innovations within your sector and why?
An important innovation are sensors that sense when something happens to a material. And example of this is sensors integrated within concrete that sense when the material breaks and make sure the material heals itself. Sensors made the material interactive and can manage actions, basically to turn the material into interfaces.

With which other sector is your sector related most or is the most cross-pollination when it comes to material innovation?
The products sector is closely related to the sector architecture. However, I think the boundaries between many disciplines will disappear in the future. There will be a fusion of disciplines. It is not that individual expertise will disappear, but interdisciplinarity will be used more to solve problems.

Materia aims to connect various parties. Which other person or party do you think people should get to know and why?
I think there should be collaboration with media companies, specifically companies in the digital media. The facades of buildings like the Ziggo Dome [in the Netherlands] are covered in LEDs. In large shopping malls, large parts of the interior are covered in LED-displays. At CES 2018 in Las Vegas last year, LG presented a completed digital environment made of Oled screens in which you can walk around. Is it architecture, are they products, is it digital media?

Marcel Vroom at Material Xperience
Marcel is the ambassador of the sector Products at Material Xperience. Together with Materia, he has put together an exhibition with some of the most interesting projects within the products sector. Want a sneak peek of what to expect? Click here.

Tuesday 13 March, Marcel will hold a lecture titled ‘Materials as interfaces’, in which he will expand on his vision for the future of products. For the full lecture programme, click here.

About Marcel Vroom
Marcel Vroom is a renowned industrial designer and acknowledged for his technological insights and future product visions. He holds a degree of Master of Science in Industrial Design Engineering of the Delft University of Technology.

At the moment Marcel Vroom is new business manager and senior industrial designer at NPK Design, a leading Dutch design consultancy based in Leiden. He is also partner of MVAVD, a Rotterdam based networked design office, which he co-founded in 1997. At the industrial design office of Landmark, which he co-founded in 1987 and joined for 10 years, he was director and design manager, responsible for a company of 10-20 employees. Between 1983 and 1987 he was partner of Concepts designers and head of the industrial design department.

During the last 30 plus years, many of Marcel Vroom’s professional and consumer products have been rewarded with awards for outstanding design. In 1995 he received the Kho Liang Ie award, the most prestigious design career award in the Netherlands.


  1. pieternella de Schipper-Rokitta says:

    Hi Marcel,

    my name is Pieternella and I’m working in Germany for a tannery which produce leather for the automotive Industrie. As we are very interested to avoid throwing away rest leather, we are looking for partner who are interested for leather rests, or leather fibers.
    when you have questions, please don’t hesitate asking me, because we would be delighted to find a solution for this topic.

    Kind regards,

  2. Sigrid says:

    Hi Pieternella,

    See our response to your comment at the article “The future of interior: an interview with Odette Ex”. If you have further questions, shoot us an email at!

    – Team Materia