Research + Design


Reineke Otten (The Netherlands, 1979) is a designer working in the field of visual sociology. She records and assembles images and information to reveal society’s patterns and orders — and occasionally, to generate beauty.

Since her studies at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Reineke has been investigating the distribution of skin colors throughout the world; she visually documents her findings to show the impact of social, technological, and ecological forces on these patterns. This research first took shape as her 2002 graduation project, a collection of palettes and maps based on skin colors. Since then, The World Skin Color (WSC) project has been exhibited at the Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Shenzhen (2007), the Centraal Museum Utrecht (2010), and the Triënnale Hasselt, among other venues. Her WSC Scarves, a collection of 231 data-generated designs for silk scarves, takes this research to a new level.

In parallel to the WSC project, Reineke practices ‘streetology’, an intuitive method of classifying and visually analyzing patterns of urban daily life. To understand the delicate relationships among places, she collects images of mundane but unique details that are so often overlooked, lost, or forgotten in the development of cities. This research process feeds her ever-evolving online catalog,, and has led to commissioned work by the Gwangju Design Biennale (‘Design is design is not design’, 2011) and OMA (‘Dubai Next, Face of 21st Century’, 2008). It also inspired her collaboration with the Dynamic City Foundation (2004), which resulted in the publication of two books: China Daily Life (2006) and The Chinese Dream (2008).

From her Rotterdam studio, Reineke continues to explore the boundaries of her role as designer in the realm of visual sociology. In addition, she teaches in the Department of Well Being at the Design Academy Eindhoven.