Category Archives: Design events

Exploring the Outer Limits of Design (Sydney DMI Night Out event)

Last Thursday evening I attended Sydney’s DMI Night Out at the University of New South Wales COFA (College of Fine Arts) campus. DMI Night Out is a quarterly event that takes place not just in Sydney but around the world bringing together the DMI and broader design community to discuss critical issues in design locally and sharing that globally. This quarter’s DMI Night Out focuses on ‘The boundaries of design: Exploring the outer limits.’ In more detail DMI write:

The outer boundaries of design today may become the core competencies of tomorrow. In which directions must design firms grow to find value for clients, society, and themselves? How can clients and society inform these new directions? What is the “adjacent possible” of today, and the impossible but inevitable of tomorrow? Join us for a forward-looking and wide-ranging discussion of the evolving practice of design.

The night’s speakers included:

There was a noted fourth speaker, Tom Key, who was unable to make it. Each speaker presented for 10-20 minutes and there was a panel discussion at the end. In brief, Eric Folger spoke of his experiences to date, as the only designer in a huge financial services organisation, attempting to integrate strategic uses of design (commonly known as ‘design thinking’) from within. Steve Baty spoke of three key issues the design profession will have to contend with (if not already contending with them) and Bob Nation gave us insight into the plans for Barangaroo, the controversial $6 billion development on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour that will be completed in 2015.

DMI Night Out speakers L-R: Bob Nation, Steve Baty and Eric Folger

For me, the most interesting thing about the night was the critical questions the speakers made me think about for the design profession and discipline. Some of the questions were raised in the presentations, but most of them I noted down as I was listening. I believe these questions are important for the design community to address to move the profession forward into the ‘outer boundaries’. Here’s a list of questions I noted:

  • How do we create advocacy for design within business organisations, public sector and government
  • How do we integrate design into non-design organisations, that is scale this idea of ‘design thinking’ to all areas of the business, public sector and/or government so others can use this ‘toolkit’ to address their complexities and intractable problems
  • How do we empower and motivate others to use such a ‘toolkit’
  • How do we create the evidence base for design, how do we speak the vocabulary of business and government to help them understand the value design and designers can bring (not just a hypothetical process model and bunch of methods)
  • How do we educate business and government that good practice is the use of appropriate methodologies, not a set process model or set methods, because in this design space, nothing can be directly imported from one context into another and function the same
  • How do we educate young designers for the kinds of jobs that don’t exist yet
  • How do we move away from the craft of design (the chairs, posters and toasters) but still maintain and progress the craft of designing (the practice of what we do). This came up at the end of the night when a young student raised the issue that the current design education curriculum taught the craft of design (the chairs, posters and toasters) and not other skills that the panel had spoken about such as facilitation, mediation, co-design and championing design excellence. Personally, I think one needs to learn the craft of design to get really good at the craft of designing

So those were my take aways from the night’s event. It will be interesting to see what other DMI Night Out cities discuss under this this quarter’s theme. There are 6 more cities to go this month. My apologies if you visited this blog to find out content of what the speakers presented, but I think these questions are going to be important to address if we want to see design move progressively into the ‘outer boundaries’ and create a positive impact at scale.


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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 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


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

What is the object of Australia (event)

The Sydney Design 2011 festival starts this week and as well as taking part in the Design-led solutions to wicked problems event, I’ll also be part of Billy Blue College of Design’s Symposium 2011 titled, What is the object of Australia?

Poster from Billy Blue College of Design on Tumblr

At this event, which ‘examine[s] the state of design, innovation and business within Australia’ I’m going to speak about my research on the changing role of the designer in contemporary society. I’ll be sharing my research findings on the different roles of the designer including the designer as strategist, researcher, facilitator, capability builder, co-creator, provocateur and social entrepreneur. I hope these insights can help us reflect on the roles of Australian designers today, and what could they be in the future.

More details about the event are below:

BBCD Design Symposium  2011
This year the Design symposium speakers will share insights responding to the theme: ‘What is the object of Australia?’ With the globalisation of our design and business sectors, we feel it is timely to examine the state of design, innovation and business within Australia 2011. What can we celebrate and what can we look forward to? Within the framework of design and innovation in Australia, our symposium will seek to expose the  influences and currents that point to our collective future.

Symposium Speakers

Hannah Cutts | Cutts Creative

Lauren Tan | PhD Candidate at Northumbria University

Kimberley Crofts | Meld Studios

Patrick Clair | Motion Designer (Hungry Beast)

Ruben Ocampo | Second Road

Chris Maclean | Interbrand

And more to come,  we are gathering a special guest panel to discuss the future of Australian Creative Industries. Stay tuned!!!

Date: Friday 12th August 2011
Time: All day event 
8.30 am : Registration 
9.00 am – 5.30 pm : Guest Speakers to be announced
$20 for Industry / Educators $10 Students.
Tickets can be purchased online here . Please make sure you book your seats in advance as seats are limited.
Bookings/ticket sales enquiries:
Lulu Ruttley, Ph:94923228
Billy Blue College of Design Auditorium. Level 9 Northpoint Building 
171 Pacific Highway 
North Sydney 2060

Who should attend?
Educators, Industry Professionals, Design Students, Business and affiliates of the Design Industry.

Websites:, Sydney Design 2011

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Design‐led solutions to wicked problems (event)

Earlier I blogged about Sydney Design 2011 and can confirm I will be speaking at a session that will look at Design‐led solutions to wicked problems. I’ll be discussing what can be learnt from my research case study Dott 07 whose projects resulted in a range of outcomes from service design propositions to grassroots community action. Since the end of Dott 07 some of these projects have influenced key policy decisions in local councils to national government.

Here’s more detail on the session. It will be held at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

Governments around the world see design as critical to solving economic and social problems, as well seeking to develop a profile internationally for their designers. Australia is just beginning to sit up and take notice of the contribution its designers can to make across the policy spectrum. This event will look at design‐led solutions to some critical national issues.

The Australian Design Alliance (AdA) is representing the design sector in consultations with the Federal Government on a national design policy for Australia. The AdA wants to show how designers can help to change the world with economically‐sustainable solutions to policy issues. This event is for everyone with ideas about how design can make a difference to Australia’s future.

The session will be chaired by Brandon Gien, AdA member and CEO of Good Design Australia. Presenters include: Paul Pholeros, Lauren Tan and Marie O’Mahony.

Date: Tuesday 9 August
Time: Drinks at 5:30 pm. Event commences at 6:00 pm. (Tour of the Love Lace Exhibition starts at 5:00 pm)
Location: Powerhouse Museum 500 Harris Street, Ultimo
Cost: Free
Bookings: RSVP essential to by 3 August 2011. Please indicate in your RSVP whether you will be arriving for the exhibition tour at 5:00 pm
Phone: 02 9368 1900

Download the Press Release here.

Love this shot of the Powerhouse Museum with the Sydney skyline in the background. The photo is from the Powerhouse Museum Photostream on Flickr.

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Sydney Design 2011 (30 July – 14 August)

Sydney Design 2011 starts at the end of this month and for two weeks will be “unpacking design, connecting people and creating meaningful dialogue around design issues.”

The event is produced annually by the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney’s museum of science, technology,design, decorative arts and social history) and will contain exhibitions, workshops, master classes, talks, installations and tours. Here’s an excerpt from the website:

We are living in a world where change is so rapid that our notions of ‘normal’ are constantly shifting. In all areas of design – such as product design, architecture, fashion and graphic design, practitioners everywhere are mining tradition and marrying cutting edge technology with an artisanal and human sensibility.

Sound exciting to you? I’ve just been flicking through the website and here are some things I’m thinking of attending.

Design-led solutions to wicked problems (Tuesday 9 August 5.30pm)
If my post a few months ago on a A Design Policy for Australia interested you then check into this discussion which explores ideas of how design can make a difference to Australia’s future and the contributions of designers across a government policy spectrum.

What is the object of Australia (Friday 12 August 8.30am – 5.30pm)
This discussion explore various issues in design education, taking a look at current trends and future needs, and how these issues will be taught to young designers in the near future.

Designing Urban Futures (Tuesday 2 August 6pm – 8pm)
Imagines design for possible urban futures especially in cities which “rely on old ideas of community, connectivity and the physical spaces that support them but the future will also require radical new design thinking.”

Australian design for the next decade (Thursday 4 August 5:45pm – 8pm.)
A panel of designers consider how design has the potential to effect major change in the decade ahead, profiling design projects that have transformed the way we live.

How to make the old ways of kindness and collectivism new again (Friday 5 August 7 – 8pm)
Fascinating title. This event is a talk that sees that “Not that long ago, kindness, general etiquette and collectivism were the norm, so why have they gone out the window in the 21st century? This discussion investigates ways to return these values to society.”

Collaboration in Experimental Design Research Symposium (Friday 5 August 1 – 5pm. 6 August Saturday 10am – 5pm)
This two-day conference explores design collaborations in the global socio-economic contexts.

Sculpture Walk, Sydney City Architecture Walk, and City Bar Tour (30 July, 6 August, 13 August, 2 August, 6 August)
The Australian Architecture Association host walking tours around the Sydney CBD to explore the city’s architecture.

Transparent Seams: Upcycle Fashion! (workshop on 6 August, Saturday 1 – 4pm.)
An exhibition and practical workshop giving guests the tools to upcycle unwanted items from their wardrobe to create something new (and wearable again). I suspect I might see my sister of Melissa Tan Australia around this event as she’s been designing and making from vintage, recycled and reclaimed materials for many years now and lately reinventing (or upcycling) some of my wardrobe!

Factory as Studio (2 August – 26 August. Artist Talk Thursday 11 August 2pm)
I popped this one in as I recently visited a wonderful local letterpress studio called The Distillery (how much do you love their shop front? Click on the link to see a pic) who have been reconnecting creatives with the art of letterpress. The Factory as Studio event is right up this alley, encouraging designers to re-connect with traditional industry, using existing machinery and industrial processes in collaboration with new technology within their practice.

Hope to see you around at Sydney Design 2011 otherwise I’ll write up a few observations and notes on this blog. Stay tuned!

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