Train tango comes alive – the real-life balance between user friendliness & capacity

Artist impression and prototype of the windows counter shown @DDW 2019


With the collected insights from DutchDesignWeek in hand, we finalised the ergonomics of two new NS seating concepts for a final test round. Final testing came down to adjusting details like footrest position, seating depth and shape detailing to create the best experience for a wide range of passengers.



Evaluating ergonomics, experience and overall look and feel of the extended facing module


In addition to ergonomics, look and feel have played large roles in the overall travel experience. Based on the NS brand, we defined a design DNA and translated that in concrete design cues, enabling us to detail main elements like chairs and grab handles to fully test the look and feel of the interior concept with travellers.



Design details contribute to the overall look and feel of the test setup


As a first step, we created visuals for online testing by the NS. The results have given us broad insights to the (future) travellers’ appreciation of new modules, new layouts and the levels of comfort.

Obviously, these seats and modules needed to be tested in reality. Therefore, a life-sized testing module was built (hats off to Fortu de Haas) at Culemborg train station. Here, controlled user testing has been carried out with more than 500 travellers and internal stakeholders to examine realistic travel experiences. Invited to have a sneak peek at the final concept, our project team visited the testing facility. It proved once again the importance of building real-life mock-ups for testing, especially when it comes to analysing the overall experience.




We were highly impressed with the mock-up and proud to see how much of an imprint we have had on the DNA of the future NS train design. It’s a privilege to see our work come alive; from creating the DNA to ergonomic testing to design detailing. The positive results of the user test have reinforced the great efforts exerted by both the NS and the VanBerlo team.


Experiencing the complete interior of a future 1st class coupe


We are excited to see the concept come to life, should the NS move forward to manufacture these trains!



NS testing facility showing the full-size mockup (2nd & 1st class) at Culemborg train station






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A quick guide to VanBerlo’s best practices for virtual co creation

Plan effectively

For any workshop, planning is key. But did you know there is more to planning when it comes to online workshops? A little extra attention can go a long way.

Plan for adaption: Not everyone will adapt at the same speed. Try test sessions or small homework assignments on the online tool for participants before the big workshop, so they get comfortable using the set up and interface.

Build in extra time to account for technology: Plan your workshops with some time for set up and connections. Give users time to adapt.

Plan the workshop with peoples extents in mind : Long workshops are not suited for online tools. Peoples attention span is limited and staring a screen is also exhausting. Break down your day long workshops over 2 days so participants get a chance to reflect on the content.

Get to know each other: send an overview beforehand, with the photos and roles of all participants.


There is more: keep track of our best practices and follow our page on LinkedIn. Next up: social etiquette.

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Accenture Acquires Dutch Product Design and Innovation Agency VanBerlo to Help Clients Build Smart Connected Solutions

VanBerlo innovates products and services for companies in many industries, including fast-moving consumer goods, mobility, healthcare, banking and high-tech. The agency’s smart connected solutions combine physical objects with digital services, using technologies like internet of things sensors, artificial intelligence and data analytics. These solutions can provide more personalised offerings and convenience to users while offering companies new ways to expand their businesses.

Since its foundation in 1982, VanBerlo’s work has collected more than 150 awards, including from iF, Red Dot and Good Design. In 2017, Erasmus University and Dutch television and radio broadcaster AvroTros named it the Netherlands’ most innovative company.

VanBerlo has a team of more than 90 professionals working from studios in Eindhoven and The Hague. They have deep experience in innovation and product strategy; product, software and user experience design; and prototyping, with a focus on sustainable solutions. The team will join Accenture Industry X.0, the part of Accenture that uses digital technologies to improve how companies design, engineer and manufacture products and services, and operate industrial facilities.

Frank Rennings, managing director and Accenture Digital Lead in the Netherlands, said: “The number of smart connected products is increasing rapidly and the speed of digitization is challenging our clients’ design and development processes. Both call for a new approach to innovation. Bringing VanBerlo’s creative team into our Industry X.0 practice will enable us to help our clients develop new business models and generate new revenues from smart connected products and services.”

Thomas Paulen, CEO of VanBerlo, said: “Our multidisciplinary team is passionate about creating forward-looking solutions that meet humans’ needs and generate growth for clients. We are looking forward to joining Accenture Industry X.0 and driving innovation for global clients.”

The acquisition of VanBerlo will complement Accenture’s acquisition of innovation agency Happen in October 2019, which has a team in Amsterdam.

Other acquisitions Accenture has made to strengthen its Industry X.0 business include US product innovation and engineering company Nytec, German technology consultancy Zielpuls, and German strategic design agency designaffairs.

About Accenture
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialised skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions — underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network — Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 505,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at

Accenture Industry X.0 helps businesses master the digital reinvention of industry when they use advanced digital technologies to transform core operations and unlock new revenue streams and business models. We support every aspect of our clients’ multi-phase transformation, including workforce, customer experience, R&D, engineering, manufacturing, business support, and ecosystems. Visit

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Human Factors and the 80/20 rule of understanding

Are robots taking over?

Not fully, yet. As technology matures the role of the human operator shifts to that of a supervisor. But that doesn’t mean this frees up time to engage in other activities. Current systems are not fully autonomous, and users will find themselves constantly monitoring the system at work, which requires the same amount of alertness and mental capacity. At times the supervisor might have to revert back to their former role as operator, when the system requires manual guidance. Especially this shift in role poses new performance challenges. Many times the human is not alert which slows down reaction time to unacceptable lengths, or the seamlessness of the human – system interaction is deficient in other ways. Ultimately rendering the human the weakest link in the system.

Focus on the human

At VanBerlo we believe design should be human-centered, especially in cases where mishaps in the use scenario involve human factors. Designing for a seamless interaction entails a lot of research. But rather than analysing everything up front, we prefer a fail fast learn fast approach. By creating prototypes and conducting user tests at an early stage, we are sure to set the right frames from which to move forward.

Carte blanche

The big opportunity is that the industry of automated mobility is an emerging industry. This means that existing boundaries in terms of legislation do not have to restrict our creative freedom. Rules will have to be rewritten. In order to bring real disruptive innovation to market, this freedom is key. We love to be at the forefront of innovation, playing an important role in the development of our future. Even more we love to get a carte blanche to imagine truly new ideas. There is nothing that will hold us back.

Bas Bruining will talk about our contribution to this rapidly changing field, and the projects we are working on, in more detail at the seminar that VanBerloAgency and AutomotiveNL will host  January 30th.

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Hands on approach of softgoods development

Typically for soft goods design is that it is installed after the ‘hard’ parts are in place. Limiting the elbow room for soft goods design after the base is already in place.

Instead I would like to call for a new approach, in which value to soft and hard goods are equal and priorities are balanced. This would vouch for a more seamless integration of both parts in which one is not subsidiary to the other in terms of usability, look & feel, which ultimately improves to overall design quality.

An interesting trend to which such an approach would apply is humanized technology; adapting technology to human needs allowing technology to come closer to the body. Seamless softgoods solutions can really improve the quality and experience of these products.


We used this approach when we developed an exoskeleton for our client Skel-Ex. In this project the seamless integration of both mechanical parts and soft parts was very important to make sure aspects such as user experience, mechanical functionality, production, and overall quality perception were of topmost form as user experience, mechanical functionality, production, and overall perception of the quality of the product.

A good way to combat this is to have both skills in-house, and that’s how this article came about. Due to my freedom as a designer at VanBerlo to work outside of traditional design ways I was able to exploit my old skills and bring together with the new. I immediately brought a sewing machine into our workshop area, so I could make prototypes right away. This way we were able to quick test our preliminary ideas, and make prototypes and alterations fast and in house.

Being able to be working on designing, remaking, trying and optimizing helps you come closer to the best possible solution much faster than when you’d have to outsource the prototyping, promoting an agile way of working.

Designing and developing softgoods requires various skills. Besides the skill to design, you’ll have to know the materials and their qualities. Where would the softgoods meet the hardparts best? Which material would be most suitable for use case?

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Travel time becomes “own time”

To realise this ambition, the NS has created a vision of the future train interior. This was presented at the DDW last year and could be experienced in a virtual world. This year the NS chose VanBerlo to iterate on this vision and bring it closer to reality. Come and test our work during this year’s DutchDesignWeek!

The NS’s vision sheds light on the human factor. Each train traveler has different needs along their journey. Those can pose a big hurdle on the design of a public product. Therefore, the focus of this project was on ergonomics and experience. When it comes to transportation, a comfortable ride makes all the difference in the quality of the user experience.

The VanBerlo project revolved around optimising two new seating concepts to increase the travel experience of the many public transport users. One concept being the window counter, a double seat facing the window with a large counter to accommodate different activities; the other concept being an extended facing seat, a more active seat with a large table. See the below artist impressions.


Artist impression of the two concepts: 1 (left) Windows counter 2) Extended facing seat


The challenge of this project was to balance ergonomics and user friendliness, while still matching the spatial requirements. The main questions: how do we please the smallest to the tallest passenger and still offer a comfortable ride? Could I sit here and work comfortably, or is the person next to me entering my social or even personal space?


Rough mockups for ergonomics and seating experience checks


By using a hands-on approach and building rough mockups, we were able to iterate quickly and find the best balance between ergonomics and user friendliness, within the given requirements.

The outcome of our project has led to the creation of 2 prototypes that can be used to gather valuable insights, so we can further improve the concepts.


Prototypes of the two new seating concepts @ Enversed


During Dutch Design Week 2019, the NS will kick off the consumer validation of these concepts at ENVERSED. Here you can also re-experience the interior vision in VR. Come share your thoughts!

Visit our work @ ENVERSED in the Veem Building from October 19th until October 27th.

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“We stare for hours at the computer screen, willing ideas to come”. But if you stop and take a look around, you’ll see treasures lie everywhere. Even the rubbish bin has something to offer! If you look at it from a different angle and ‘frame’ it just so. Crumpled up paper becomes a tool for stamping, a piece of old netting morphs into a geometrical design and bits of fabric can become the inspiration for a new colour card. We’ll be inspired so much more if we put aside our logic and simply play!

VanBerlo has a CMF experience room, where you can come discover and combine different materials (i.e. go on a treasure hunt). Ideal for inspiration during the design process. When you find a treasure, there are various things people tend to do with it. You can keep it hidden, but safe. Sure it’ll be out of harm’s way, but it will also be hidden from view and taken from the world. You can put it in a museum. You’ll be a hero for discovering, but no one will be able to interact with it or move it around in such a quiet and protected environment. Where the wonder of discovery is really projected, is somewhere like a children’s museum. The treasure will be accessible to all, and everyone will be able to touch it. Create new things with it and make new things happen.

My colleague Yvette van Gemert and I started the STAY.CURIOUS.* platform, because we believed we could inspire others to rediscover their playground. To inspire people to take a few minutes and step away from their computer screen. It’s all about looking at ordinary things in different ways, about playing as a means for creating value.

Creativity is never a perfect process. It’s much more than something we ‘do’. Movement, change, interaction and exploration are also part of it. Now that we’re adults, we use tools to help us create, but we still need to play. A computer is one of the tools we play with, but there a quite a lot of others. Some tools we use are less obvious. Just look around and let go of perfection, stay curious and embrace the unknown!


Are you interested and want to know more? Get in touch with Jelske via

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