Monthly Archives: August 2011

Design Thinking Drinks, 17 August 2011

Tomorrow night Design Thinking Drinks will be held in Sydney from 5.30pm at The Altitude Bar, Shelbourne Hotel 200 Sussex Street Sydney. Customer experience company Different will be speaking at the event about ‘Essentials of Customer Centric Business.’

The Shelbourne Hotel in Sydney from Wikipedia

I’m only getting to know Design Thinking Drinks after being away from Sydney since 2007. I have however learnt from host Deborah Kneeshaw that Design Thinking Drinks has been taking place for 2 years now and the community of interest has steadily grown. I just did a quick online search for reports and write-ups on previous events. Here’s what I found (if you’ve been to previous Drinks nights please excuse missing dates as I can’t seem to find them online):

Design Thinking Drinks, July 2010

This drinks event was hosted by BT Financial Group but I don’t think anyone captured the event.

Design Thinking Drinks, December 2010

December Drinks by Design Thinkers Sydney
A short note by Diana Adorno to commemorate the one year anniversary of Design Thinking Drinks in December 2010.

Design Thinking Drinks, February 2011

Service Design in Sydney, a healthy community of practice by Kimberley Crofts
Kimberley Crofts
of Meld Studios provides insight into February event hosted by Digital Eskimo. The night’s speaker was Penny Hagen, formerly of Digital Eskimo and PhD Candidate (at the time). Penny spoke about participatory design in social technologies which was followed by a discussion. Kimberley captured the key points of the discussion here.

Design Thinking Drinks at Digital Eskimo by Digital Eskimo
Hosts for the night Digital Eskimo also blogged the event reporting that the “Igloo was buzzing with design thinkers discovering their inner child and outer greenie.” Digital Eskimo also posted pictures of the event. Check it all out here.

Sketchnotes – Design Thinking Drinks 2011 by Ben Crothers
Rather than use words, designer Ben Crothers shares his sketches from Penny’s talk via the Behance Network here and on flicker here.

Design Thinking by Mal booth
Mal takes us on a photographic journey before and during the Design Thinking Drinks event on his FromMelbin blog here.

Design Thinking Drinks, April 2011

The April event was my first time at Design Thinking Drinks which took place at the Art House Hotel. I remember feeling pretty new being back in Sydney, so it was great to see loads of familiar faces on the night.

Having done some online sleuthing it seems I missed a really great Drinks night in February 2011. I was probably getting over jet lag then. From the snippets of insight Design Thinking Drinks have hosted some great events. I’ll certainly look forward to future events such as tomorrow night’s Design Thinking Drinks. Remember to RSVP!

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Sydney Design Festival 2011 event review

The Sydney Design Festival 2011 came to a close over the weekend and the general feeling is that it has been a really successful two weeks. The festival has brought together many in the design community of interest, showcased local creative talent and also hosted a number of discussions around the state of design in Australia now and for the future. I’ve attended a few of events and short synopses of my key take-aways from them are below (and don’t forget the previous post on the film NOW and WHEN on ‘Speculative scenarios for Australia’s urban future.’)

Australian Design for the Next Decade
Thursday 4 August 5:45pm, UTS Architecture Kensington Street
Speakers: Greg More (OOM Creative), Susan Dimasi (MATERIALBYPRODUCT ), Dave Pigram (supermanoeuvre ) and glass artist Richard Whiteley . Facilitated by Anthony Burke, Head of School of Architecture, UTS.

On a balmy (yes in the middle of winter) night at the UTS Architecture warehouse, four Australian designers discussed their practices and the transformation of their practices over time. The panel session saw an architect who’s now a data visualiser, a glass sculptor who now solves sustainability issues and a fashion designer who initially rejected the fashion industry but now runs her own fashion house where design thinking is applied across the business. Susan Dimasi (MATERIALBYPRODUCT) used an interesting analogy for how she sometimes feels as a designer saying it is like ‘a dog on a chain’- sometimes close to the source (the core of the discipline) but at other times pulling away (stretching the limits). I thought this was quite a neat way to convey how the practices of designers are continually transforming. It reminds me of John Heskett’s description of the history and evolution of design of which he says can be seen as a process of layering “in which new developments are added over time to what already exists. This layer, moreover, is not just a process of accumulation or aggregation, but a dynamic interaction in which each new innovative stage changes the role, significance, and function of what survives.” (Heskett, 2002)

Design-led solutions to wicked problems
Tuesday 9 August 5:30pm, Powerhouse Museum

Speakers: Paul Pholeros (Health Habitat), Lauren Tan and Marie O’Mahony

Organised by the Australian Design Alliance (AdA) this event looked at how design was making a practical difference around the world from New York City to regional UK to right here in Australia in our urban to rural communities. Of particular interest was the organisation Health Habitat that has been working with communities to improve living environments and consequently community health. Health Habitat’s work has grown since 1985 to become a national Australian program which has also been scaled and used in New Zealand, the USA and Nepal.

Data Poetry
Wednesday 10 August 6:30pm, UTS Design, Architecture and Building campus
Speakers: Elisa Lee, Ben Hosken (Flink Labs), Kate Sweetapple, Mitchell Whitelaw

On a much cooler winter evening, my old design school UTS was host to four designers discussing unconventional data visualisation practices that ranged from the poetic (see ‘Map of Sydney’ below) to the more prosaic. Conversations swirled with ideas such as seeing the data as material and data visualisation as exploratory, engaging and transforming. These thought provoking and intimate talks finished off with a tour of the Incidental Data exhibition making for a very pleasant and enjoyable evening.

‘Map of Sydney: Avian Surnames’ by Kate Sweetapple
Image from ‘visual writing: experiments with word & image’

What is the Object of Australia?
Friday 12 August 9:00am, Billy Blue College of Design
Speakers: Hannah Cutts (Cutts Creative), Lauren Tan, Kimberley Crofts (Meld Studios), Patrick Clair (Hungry Beast), Ruben Ocampo (Second Road) and Chris Maclean (Interbrand)

Friday’s all-day symposium heard from a wide array of designers discussing service design, user experience, social design, innovation systems, visual communication, design as a business, making motion graphics and branding. The day ended with a panel session of 7 Australian designers sharing their thoughts on design in Australia.

There was quite a lot to take in but here are some key themes I heard throughout the day:

  • Questioning and critiquing innovation in Australia: Reflecting and asking are we innovative. We explored the small things we can do, to the much bigger things, such as looking at what kind of enabling conditions would make Australia more innovative
  • The transformation of design practice: Like the Australian Design for the Next Decade event many of us shared personal stories and observations of the changing nature and transformation of design practice
  • Design in Australia: What is Australian design? Many countries have their own distinct style eg. there is a German design style which is functional, rationalist, engineered and there is a Japanese style which incorporates the ideas of zen, but is there an Australian design style? Is Australia still too young? Are we that ‘young child’ still growing up, lacking confidence and still looking to our parent countries (mostly Britain) for guidance?
  • Australian clients: The barriers and tensions between designers and clients is an old story- the lack of understanding, the unwillingness to take risks but when taken there are huge rewards. If clients still don’t ‘get’ design then shouldn’t designers be doing more to bridge that gap?

From today’s conversations here’s what I think we could do next (these conversations should inspire us to do something next):

  • Celebrate Australian design: Other countries celebrate their design achievements so why don’t we? And I’m not talking about just celebrating design among the design industry but going out to the public and international arenas. I feel there’s a big piece around public engagement in design here
  • Create more design networks: Australian designers work too much in silos. If the experience of servicedesigning.org taught me anything it was not to underestimate the value of face to face interactions and informal gatherings of professional individuals
  • Think less about the disciplines of design: Let’s do a little experiment and break free from defining ourselves by a specific design discipline and what kind of object we want to design. Instead, let’s think about what kinds of issues we can design for. Then use what we know of design to help tackle them
  • Discover our own backyards: As mentioned in the points above one of the big themes was discussing how we can make Australia more innovative. From a design perspective let’s take inspiration from Dott 07 that created framework of thematically organising issues. If we apply this to our own context, this would mean discovering what kind of issues and themes we might address here in Australia. Some of these are going to be relevant at a global scale, but most would be specific to our local and national context. Let’s us our energies to create responses to country-specific issues, things like Australia’s prone-ness to natural disasters (drought, floods and fires) which no other country deals with such frequency. There are so many reoccurring problems out there. Can design offer an alternative approach to addressing them?

Finally, a little side note from the symposium. I had to show this because I think it’s quite neat. Hannah Cutts spoke of this witty packaging design by Adelaide design company Black Squid Design. Their brief was to help a client increase cauliflower sales and the design response was to change habitual purchasing through a cheeky packaging design. The packaging design names individual cauliflower, giving each a personality and also suggesting different ways to serve them. As a customer it would certainly make me curious about vegetables.

Bob, Shirl, Doris & Doug – Cauliflower packaging
Image from Black Squid Design

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Filed under Design events, Design thinking, Social and community, Sydney and Australia

Speculative scenarios for Australia’s urban future

Last night I attended the Sydney Design festival event, Designing Urban Futures, both a short film and talk on speculative scenarios for Australia’s urban future.

Photography by John Gollings  from the film, NOW and WHEN

The short film is titled, NOW and WHEN: Australian Urbanism, and presents 17 provocative and evocative scenarios for Australia’s future natural and build environment. The film was part of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010 and between 2 July and 25 September this year it will be playing (admission is free) at the Object Gallery (417 Bourke Street, Surry Hills). The film was created with 3D film technology, using projected photography and computer generated simulations, so the film experience is amazing. But equally as incredible are the speculative scenarios which are both alluring and also alarming. Here are some brief synopsis (from the NOW and WHEN pamphlet) of a few of these scenarios:

The Oceanic City
Built on biomimetic practices, is a floating group of mobile and modular ‘pods’ inspired by the separate organisms found in a bluebottle. The city of Siph sits safely under the water and rises to the surface when the weather permits to soak up the sunshine and provides power and photosynthesis. Ocean current, tides, waves and winds provide natural energy. Most importantly, the mobile nature of the city allows it to respond and change in harmony with the surrounding natural environment.

Film by: Arup

Image from The Oceanic City

Terra Form Australis
Proposes an Australia in which a vast larger population is accommodate on the continent. Through massive terra-intervention, a channel that allows seawater to flood the low-lying areas of the interior alleviates limited to urban growth and permits new sustainable cities to be built. Powered by 100% renewable energy, these new cities are in balance with native biodiversity – as well as being globally networked, diverse, and inclusive

Film by: HASSELL, Holopoint and The Environment Institute

Image from Terra Form Australis

Fear Free City
Is a city in which inhabitants no longer fear stepping from the private to the public realm. Movement is not limited to the ground level but rather pervades the volume through multi-level public spaces and visible links across and between all levels. Rather then ‘escaping’ from the city to the suburbs, this vision wants to liberate people from the fear of the city by offering infinite possibilities of urban choice.

Film by: Justyna Karakiewicz, Tom Kvan and Steve Hatzellis, Melbourne School of Design

Image from Fear Free City

After the film, a short talk was give by Arup’s Tim Jarvis, a well-known polar explorer, environmentalist and member of Arup’s sustainability team. He discussed our current global predicament in terms of sustainability highlighting the three most critical global issues of today as water, food and loss of biodiversity. He also spoke at length about urbanism and the impact this will have by 2050 when 75% of the 9 billion people who will live on earth, will live in cities.

To deal with these situations we have to move toward smarter uses of our natural resources, more intelligent thinking and solutions. Tim spoke of some exemplar models that already exist such as urban farming, renewable energy technology and last year’s appointment of a Commissioner for Integrated Design in South Australia. A role in state government which has a:

“key objective… to advocate the value of design and assume a whole of government (local and state) approach in advocating for, and advising on, ways to achieve excellence in the designed environment through an intelligent investment approach.

This kind of role (I hope) will inject more design thinking at a policy level to address the complexity and scale of problems requiring multiple stakeholder involvement, connection of systems and relationships, considered decisions for our artificial and built environment and also exploring, prototyping and implementing sustainable solutions for Australia’s future.

This is what I see the relevance of Dott 07 (my PhD case study) to be here in Australia. As exemplary models for sustainability in areas such as urban farming, reducing carbon consumption and increasing mobility (without putting more vehicles on the road) among other things. But I’ll have to write about those another day, for another post.

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