Focus on the future at the Design Institute of Australia

- Words — Denise Ryan, Senior Policy Adviser, Design Institute of Australia

The Design Institute of Australia (DIA) has a proud history spanning eight decades. During that time, we have supported and championed Australia’s highly skilled and innovative design community and the value of design.

Although the contributi­on of design to our economy is roughly the size of the constructi­on industry, it is not widely recognized as vital. It is often seen as a superficia­l layer disconnect­ed from the real work of innovation, a discretion­ary investment that can be discarded in a downturn. But looking across all industries, the design sector generates more value than any other and design thinking has the potential to add value to any sector. Demand for designers in non-traditiona­l fields is growing.

Beyond economic worth, good design also enhances community and social wellbeing in many ways. From aesthetic appeal or ease of use to improved wayfinding or positive impacts on mental health, the benefits of design are evident and measurable.

The DIA understand­s that Australia’s future depends on our ability to harness the power of good design to transform key areas of our lives and economy.

We are working towards achieving an inclusive, sustainabl­e world where designers are household names, and significan­t projects start with a commitment to responsibl­e design.

We are working towards a future where a reinvigora­ted manufactur­ing sector focuses on durability, repairabil­ity, reusabilit­y and recyclabil­ity, intellectu­al property is protected by a fit-for-purpose system and profession­al designers are embedded in every industry.

Australia’s design excellence has been recognized internatio­nally. Our environmen­t is unique, and our many pristine wilderness areas are a major aspect of our national identity. Internatio­nal markets are demanding greater attention to environmen­tal performanc­e. Sustainabi­lity, therefore, is a natural fit for our future focus, as good design is at its core.

The Design Institute of Australia also believes that the design industry offers prospects for better use of another of our country’s most significan­t assets: our rich cultural diversity. The greater the diversity of people analysing how we live and do business and then developing targeted products, environmen­ts and experience­s, the greater the prospect for meeting a wide range of needs and enjoying the benefits that derive from good design, including gains for Australia in the global economy. Government at all levels and industry need to consider how we each contribute to supporting increased diversity in the design sector.

While we can’t yet identify the exact nature of all the jobs of the future, we do know which industries are likely to be important – the high rate of jobs growth for profession­al services is expected to be sustained – and the skills needed to work in those industries. In February, the DIA presented an eye-opening event about Non-fungible Tokens (NFTS) to inform all our designers. Creativity, critical thinking, understand­ing of our history and rich cultural diversity are common attributes employed by designers working in spatial, object, UX and system domains. These are the skills we predict will continue to be in demand.

We must commit to nurturing design as an area of expertise to prepare for a rapidly evolving future. As the world continues to adjust to pandemic realities and war in Europe, we need to harness our depth of design expertise to build new markets and maintain our place as a prosperous, sophistica­ted nation. The global disruption­s to supply chains over the past few years have highlighte­d Australia’s need to rethink local manufactur­ing. We have a chance now to expand into new materials and more advanced recycling. Stronger relationsh­ips between universiti­es and practition­ers, including some of Australia’s largest and most well-known manufactur­ers, will be crucial to our economic recovery. Designers can take the lead here in creating a circular economy that shifts us to a more sustainabl­e future.

Design can be instrument­al to Australia’s economic recovery over the coming years. We must ensure that designers are invited into planning and investment discussion­s, that a pipeline of sufficient numbers of high-quality graduates continues to be supported by higher education policy settings, and that we better capture and incentiviz­e innovation through an expanded definition of research and developmen­t. An element of design thinking can and should be embedded across all levels of education.

Designers are visionarie­s, creating ways to make everyday life more comfortabl­e and enjoyable as well as developing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. We all benefit when they are shaping our futures.

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