Zone5 is a multidisciplinary design studio, focusing on the place where nature, technology, research and design meet.

We excel at telling stories with a wide range of data and materials. We express ourselves with (interactive) stories, data visualizations and physical installations. Among our clients are news media, art institutes, educators, public sector and other companies with a message.

Els Engel is a Dutch journalist, designer and developer who expresses (data-)stories visually. Coming from a background in journalism and design, she adventures into programming, to investigate data and to visualize. She works for a wide range of newspapers, broadcasters and press agencies in Europe.
She is also an urban farmer and permaculture designer. She is fascinated by modern ideas about sustainability, a minimalist lifestyle and the maker culture.


Saro Van Cleynenbreugel is a Flemish designer, photographer, farmer and technician. He has worked for years at art institute Mediamatic as technical coordinator. He designed and built various aquaponics systems and gave dozens of workshops all over Europe for people from all over the world. Saro is proficient with both pen and hammer. He likes to think and talk about smart and sustainable solutions, but above all, he believes that one learns by experience.


What others wrote about Zone5:

Beroepsorganisatie Nederlandse Ontwerpers (BNO) (2018):

Het FD won afgelopen november de titel 'European Newspaper of the Year' voor het nieuwe ontwerp van de krant. Onderdeel daarvan is het beleid voor mobile-first infographics, een workflow en een stijlboek die moeten helpen bij een goede weergave van visualisaties in alle media. FD-visueel journalist Els Engel stond aan de wieg van deze ontwikkeling en zal vertellen over de keuzes die gemaakt zijn.

Stimuleringsfonds voor de journalistiek (2018):

Freelancer Els Engel maakt al jaren infographics en datavisualisaties. Het liefst doet ze alles zelf: van het verzamelen van de data tot het ontwerp. "De laatste tijd kom ik schoorvoetend tot de conclusie dat ik misschien toch niet alles zelf moet doen", zegt Engel. "Iedere skill die je nodig hebt voor het maken van graphics is een vak apart. Soms heb je een expert nodig om je verder te brengen."

Gerard Smit, geeft trainingen journalistiek en visualisatie (2016):

Visueel journalist Els Engel (o.a. FD) [...]: "Ik wil alles zelf doen: researchen, verhalen maken, schetsen, vormgeven, programmeren en interfaces maken. Ik kan het ook allemaal," zegt ze. Vervolgens laat ze zien waar dat allemaal mis ging.

de Volkskrant (2014):

Dat is het mooie van aquaponics, meent Saro van Cleynenbreugel, werkzaam bij Mediamatic. 'Het dwingt je goed voor je vissen en planten te zorgen.' Als hij de planten inspuit met insecticide, komt dat gif ook bij de vissen terecht en uiteindelijk in een mensenmaag. Andersom kunnen de planten niet tegen antibiotica die vissen krijgen. 'We moeten dus op zoek naar natuurlijke middelen om bijvoorbeeld bladluis tegen te gaan. Lieveheersbeestjes blijken goed te werken.'

Nieuw Amsterdams Peil (NAP) (2013):

Van Cleynenbreugel (bruin haar, spijkerbroek, bergschoenen, rustige stem) [...] vindt een workshop voor stadskinderen nodig. "Die denken vaak dat het eten uit de supermarkt komt". Hij denkt erover na om thuis een aquaponics systeem in zijn boekenkast aan te leggen, "maar dan wel in combinatie met windowfarming."

Metabolic (2018):

The workshop was hosted by Aquaponics Expert Saro van Cleynenbreugel who has 5 years experience in building and maintaining systems [...]. This workshop was the perfect hands-on experience to motivate anyone looking to set up their own aquaponics system [...].


Often, the best way to communicate an idea is to prove it. Being able to hear, smell and feel gives a lasting impression to the person watching. Zone5 investigates and demonstrates concepts regarding nature, design and technology.

Food forest >

Tiny House >

Aquaponics >

Rocket Stove

Mushroom logs

Foraging >

Urban Farming


Building with straw


Zone5 has a food forest near the Sallandse Heuvelrug. We use it to investigate techniques derived from permaculture.

In a food forest usefull plants grow together in a closed cycle, requiring a minimum expenditure of energy.

Permaculture appeals to us because it's built on a set of design principles. "Get the design right and watch as the work does itself..."

Of course it requires work to build, and the garden is not maintainance-free, but it's interesting to see how far one can go on the road to a self-sustaining food system.

It takes quite a lot of observation, research and sketching to reach a design - something we love.

We invite animals to promote biodiversity. The garden features a little pond full of frogs and salamanders. We also have a resident hedgehog who eats the snails from the hosta's.

Useful insects such as bees and bumblebees are attracted to help us increase harvest. We hope to start our own beehive soon.

We use mulch to protect the soil and the life in it. Beneath this compost are folded-out cartboard boxes, to suppress weeds.

Bricks between the strawberries - on a south-facing slope - help create a warmer microclimate to speed up ripening.

It may not look like a conventional garden, it's quite chaotic - but by maximizing diversity we hope to create a resilient system.

At the moment we already have more than one hundred plant species in the garden.

For now, harvest is just a nice side effect, but it ís nice to grow your own food...

See also our instagram


To play with sustainable and off-the-grid techniques, Zone5 designed a Very Tiny Experimental House.

The house is about 3 x 3 meters and 4 meters high. Like the food forest, it's an experiment. It will primarily function as a vehicle for carrying solar panels, providing a loo and catching rain water.

It will also feature a kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms, but not to live in, just as a demonstration-setup to see how far we can go.

We started by bringing some oak trees to a sawmill. They were cut down because they were standing in the way, so no one used them.

Then came building the framework of the house.

Right now we're in the process of finishing the facade.

On the inside it's still empty, except for the solar panel setup, that's running a pump and charging our phones.


Zone5 has about ten years of experience with aquaponics. Saro manages the Mediamatic aquaponics team, Els did some communication for the project. We've given dozens of workshops all over Europe to people from all over the world.

Saro also designed and built an aquaponics system at sustainable consulting company Metabolic.

After Izmir and Madrid, we recently were invited to Copenhagen to build a system and give workshops about aquaponics.


Learning about edible mushrooms is an excellent opportunity to do some photography ;-)


Wikipedia puts it nicely: "Visual journalism is premised upon the idea that (..) often words cannot keep pace with concepts. Visual journalism incorporates ancient symbols that resonate with humans across cultures and time and conveys meaning instantaneously at a deep level."

Het Financieele Dagblad >

Pointer (KRO-NCRV) >

Algemene Rekenkamer

Vlaamse Overheid >


IHE Delft

Mediamatic >

ABN Amro

Bioteket (Copenhagen)




A family history >

Graphic News (London)

Dagblad De Pers

De Volkskrant

Algemeen Dagblad



Development of data visualisations for the data team of investigative journalism platform Pointer.

Results for the 2021 elections. View project at "Stembureau in Woerden trok tijdens de verkiezingen meest diverse groep stemmers"

Grouping by political alignment

Option to view second and third biggest party

Results per city

Corona vaccin tracker. How many people had their injection? When's your turn? How much vaccin was delivered to the Netherlands? View project at Covid-19 vaccin tracker


Report of our collected aquaponics data and graphics about the aquaponics project


Book about the family history of the founder of Chefaro, later part of multinational AkzoNobel. Author: Hans van Oosterom. Editor: Bernke Klein Zandvoort. Design: Karoline Swiezynski. I made some graphics about the petrochemical industry.


(Interactive) graphics for national public newsroom NOS


Article on (login required) about how the Dutch layout of airspace influences the expension plans of airport Lelystad


Book about the defence of the Flemish coast, by the Flemish government. Text by Joeri De Bruyn, design by Sven Beirnaert, Zone5 made the infographics.


Article on (login required) about the governments budget


Article on (NO login required) about all the Dutch coffeeshops (where you buy weed)


Interactive overview on (no login) about compensations and bonusses to directors of big companies.


Article on (login required) about how Dutch companies protect themselves from hostive takeovers.

It was connected to an article we wrote in the newspaper earlier, about how the government wanted to sell some banks they had bought to save them.


(Data) research, visualisations and a cross media graphics stylebook for the 'Financial Times of the Netherlands'.

The project below received the European Newspaper Award in category 'data journalism', see

The project below received the European Newspaper Award in category 'data journalism', see

The project below received the European Newspaper Award in category 'infographics':

The project below received the European Newspaper Award in category 'corona infographics':

The project below was awarded De Tegel in category data:

Article on (login required)

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Article on (login required)


Article on (login required) using data I requested at the Fraud Helpdesk.


Article on (login required) about the datacenter market in the Netherlands


'Van Kop Tot Staart' is a card game for 2 to 20 people from 2 to 200 years. It has no rules, you can make them up yourself.

You can order your hand-made copy by sending an email with your name and address to and transferring €15,- to IBAN: NL87 TRIO 0338 7635 03, BIC: TRIONL2U using your name and 'card game' as payment information.


To reach us, send an email to or contact one of us directly.

Els Engel
Visual journalist
Urban farmer

+31 6 21 58 27 69

Saro Van Cleynenbreugel
+31 6 23 91 35 35