The perfect school, printed perfectly

5 min
A child’s handwriting on a painted purple and blue background. In Dutch it reads, “Blijf life voor elkaar!”, which in English means “Always be kind to each other!”.

“They come to us because sometimes they struggled in the regular education system, have dropped out and temporarily need some extra love, care and compassion from our people to then proudly return back to their own schools.” — Guido Nijboer, Managing Director of Wijnberg School.

‘Compassion’ is such a beautiful word. It suggests respect, listening and, most importantly, zero judgement. This is exactly the spirit in which Canon came to be involved in De Wereld van de Wijnberg (The World of Wijnberg), a competition organised by De Wijnberg, a school which supports children and young people during difficult times in their lives. The competition reflects the ethos of the school by inviting young people to speak their truth and helping their voices to be heard in new ways and by new audiences.

De Wijnberg invites all primary schools in Limburg, a province in the South of the Netherlands, to participate and this year, some 1200 children rose to the challenge of answering “what will the school of the future look like?” It’s a smart question because it quietly acknowledges that schools reflect society and can be a microcosm of wider world experience. Ideas can be submitted in any creative form – films, paintings, plays, photographs, even stand-up comedy are all welcome. And everything produced would be sure to shine a light on the things they would like to see in the world. Of course, they were not on their own when it came to inspiration either, as the team from De Wijnberg provided plenty of guidance for schools. Plus, on 11th January, Canon Benelux also arranged for a huge online gathering for everyone taking part, where Canon Ambassador, Ahmet Polat, speaking live from our Broadcast Studio in Den Bosch, shared the many creative ways that storytelling can be used to bring ideas to life. He was joined by our local specialist, Nadine van Eeuwijk, who talked about the world of printing.

Duly inspired, the students quickly regrouped with their teachers to begin work, thinking about the many ways that school – and therefore the world – could be better. They needed to submit these concepts to the organisers and the pressure was on. Only fifteen concepts from those electing to design artworks and posters would be selected and these groups invited to the offices of Canon Production Printing in Venlo for a very special day.

A group of children gather round an adult who shows them how to use a small Canon printer.
A man stands at a lectern, next to a screen and presents to an audience of young people whose backs are to the camera.

Project lead, Sandra van Horen, and her team knew that they would be welcoming a large number of visitors to their headquarters, and every detail of the day had been painstakingly prepared. However, nothing could prepare them for the electric atmosphere that 150 youngsters, teachers, parents and carers brought. The building buzzed with life, laughter and learning all day long as students moved from one session to another. In the morning, they learnt about working in creative sectors and all the different kinds of career paths that could be available to them in the future. To underline this, they were introduced to filmmaker and Canon Ambassador, Michael Zomer, whose work has seen him travel the world, making human impact stories for the Discovery Channel, Red Bull and others.

However, it was not plain sailing for Michael. He found school a challenge and opened up about his dyslexia, talking about how he went from struggling educationally to finding his calling as a filmmaker. This really struck a chord with the students, some of whom were also neurodivergent, including a number who are autistic. Tim ten Cate of Canon Netherlands, who was hosting visual storytelling workshops at the event, remembers just how much everyone loved Michael. “The questions just kept coming and coming,” he laughs. “He was like a celebrity, and they wanted a picture with him. I think this was one of the most wonderful sessions because the kids were really intrigued by his story.”

The afternoon was hands-on at the Canon Customer Experience Centre, with groups of youngsters taking part in multiple activities, including a photography workshop, where Canon team members, Frederic Vaneesbeck and Berend Janssens, taught them how to shoot objects submerged in water. Tim took groups through the fundamentals of imagemaking, using the work of local photographers to demonstrate lighting techniques and spark lively discussions about the stories they saw in each image.

A three-dimensional printed piece, where four sides are connected by dovetail joints. It is striped in rainbow colours and each stripe has a different written slogan around inclusivity in Dutch, such as ‘ben jezelf!’ (be yourself!) and ‘gay is oke!’ (gay is okay!).
The head and shoulders of a young person from behind. The are looking at a hand drawn anti-bullying poster.

However, eyes truly widened when the students met a team of experts who were on hand to show them what each Canon printer was capable of. This was where the magic happened, and their fifteen ‘school of the future’ artworks were transformed. “I knew there were big printers, but I never thought they would be this big!” ­exclaimed one young man, as their work was printed on our Colorado, Arizona ColorWave, imagePRESS and imagePROGRAF devices.

The machines put their creations on clear Perspex, reimagined them as jigsaw puzzles and even gave a treatment which allowed multiple prints to be connected as a three-dimensional object! But this is not just novelty value – by thinking creatively about how their posters should be presented, beyond the traditional format, the students also considered how stories reach and impact audiences. In short, learning about print taught them that there is more than one way to communicate an important message.

Their display was revealed at the grand finale of De Wereld van de Wijnberg at Venlo’s theatre in March. Ten groups were invited to present or perform their visions for the future in front of parents, carers and friends. And it was announced that the artworks would form a travelling exhibition in Limburg until the end of the year, much to the excitement of all involved – students, teachers, De Wijnberg school and the team of thirty or more Canon colleagues who welcomed, hosted and taught the students. “It was fantastic to share our knowledge about print, photo and videography and inspire the children to translate this into beautiful images,” said Wilco Verheij, Senior Director Workspace, who first introduced Canon and De Wijnberg.” We are proud to support the students in telling their story, not only during the competition, but also after it.”