Category Archives: Sydney and Australia

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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Australian International Design Awards has a Service Design category

The Australian International Design Awards and the Good Design Council Australia aim ‘To create a better Australia where good design is ubiquitous and leads to a better, safer, more beautiful and sustainable world.’

This year, for the first time, the Awards have a service design category in the areas of:

  • Not-for-profit: Not-for-profit services designed for charitable or other causes.
  • Business: Profit-generating services designed for the business sector.
  • Education: Services designed for the education sector.
  • Government: Public services designed in response to government tenders.

The Awards also recognise product design in the areas of:

  • Consumer
  • Business and technology
  • Medical and scientific
  • Automotive and transport
  • Sport and leisure
  • Housing and Building
  • Heavy machinery
  • Architectural and interior

Entry is open to all professionally designed products or services available in Australia (including those available to Australians via the internet). This means products or services professionally designed by Australians for overseas markets are also eligible (see more under ‘Eligibility’). Deadlines for all submissions are soon on 30 March 2012.

Image from http://www.gooddesignaustralia.com

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Cape Town appointed World Design Capital 2014

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) founded in 1957 is “an international non-governmental organisation that aims to protect and promote the profession of industrial design.” Every four years (since 2008) Icsid designates, or will designate, a world city under the status of World Design Capital (WDC). The WDC initiative aims:

“… to promote and encourage the use of design to further the social, economic and cultural development of the world’s cities… The designation provides a distinctive opportunity for cities to showcase their accomplishments in attracting and promoting innovative design, as well as highlight successes in urban revitalisation strategies.”

This year was a bidding year for 2014 WDC status. The three cities of Cape Town, Bilbao and Dublin were shortlisted and as part of the selection process they submitted short films that give fascinating insight into each city, their challenges, strengths, and how design will help them. Each of the films are very different from the other, as Core 77 discuss on their post A Look at the World Design Capital Bid Videos. Below I’ve also posted the three city films so you can stay on this page to view them. Otherwise the films feature on Core 77 and the World Design Capital websites.

‘Live Design. Transform Life’ by Cape Town largely discusses a whole range of challenges faced by the city and how Cape Town designers understand design and its relevance to their local context.

‘The design of cities’ by Bilbao celebrates the numerous design aspects of their city and what it has brought to the city eg. tourism, technology etc.

‘Pivot’ by Dublin follows the conversations between a number of citizens for how Dublin can prosper through design.

Hearing of the WDC and watching the films makes me wonder if Sydney would ever consider running for the designation. How fantastic would it be to be involved in this global design platform which, as Icsid state:

“… would provide governments with a platform not only to raise the global awareness of design, but more importantly, to showcase the importance of design as an actor to enhance social, cultural, economic and environmental quality of life.”

Where would Sydney focus its attention for uses of design? What are our challenges that design can help improve (I blogged a few here in my ‘Signs of Sydney post but these are subjective and I am sure there are more)? How would we used design to benefit and improve our quality of life and well-being? A WDC bid process throws up many questions and I wonder if the process of a WDC bid would in itself be beneficial for some reflection on where we live, where we’ve come from, who we are and how we understand and use design to improve Sydney.

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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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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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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
www.cuttscreative.com.au

Lauren Tan | PhD Candidate at Northumbria University
letterstoaustralia.blogspot.com
designsydney.wordpress.com

Kimberley Crofts | Meld Studios
kimberleycrofts.com

Patrick Clair | Motion Designer (Hungry Beast)
patrickclair.blogspot.com

Ruben Ocampo | Second Road
www.secondroad.com.au

Chris Maclean | Interbrand
www.interbrand.com

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
Cost:
$20 for Industry / Educators $10 Students.
Tickets:
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, projectspace@billyblue.edu.au Ph:94923228
.
Venue:
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: http://bbetween.tumblr.com, 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 info@australiandesignalliance.com 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
Website: australiandesignalliance.com

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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