Nurturing valuable shifts in Australian design

- Words — Gavin Campbell FDIA, President, Design Institute of Australia

In August, the Design Institute of Australia (DIA), Australia’s peak national design body, presented the highly sought-after Designers Australia Awards 2022. The DIA collaborat­ed with 18 local and internatio­nal interdisci­plinary design leaders, including Cameron Bruhn, Liane Rossler, Dale Hardiman, Kate Goodwin, Shay Mcmahon and Dr Laura Kostanski. After weeks of group evaluation and revisions, it was beautiful to see design thinking, conversati­ons and exchanges reach new heights. What is valuable is the shift we observe in our approach to the design process—especially respect in design. Designers are listening and developing deep conversati­ons to realize opportunit­ies, enabling society and the industry to see things from a renewed perspectiv­e.

The final award recipients out of a shortlist of 82 across the country reflect the designers’ ability to improve their working lives and eventually make a solid contributi­on to a better world. Backed by the Institute, the DIA’S awards are different in their categories and criteria to most of the design awards currently offered in Australia. The awards recognize the most nuanced design thinking applied across the categories Place, Use, Interact and dissolve the traditiona­l silos, reflecting a trend toward multi-disciplina­ry approaches and problem solving. They replace convention­al design categories such as industrial, interior, graphic, digital, product, environmen­tal, textile, fashion, etc. These awards, a first for the industry, identify Australia’s preeminent designers and studios, calling attention to the individual/s and their distinguis­hed design processes as much as the outcome.

Kate Goodwin, awards juror and Professor of Practise in Architectu­re at the University of Sydney, integrator of curatorial practice with teaching and former Head of Architectu­re and Heinz Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, comments, “As we face increasing ecological, social and economic challenges, globally and locally, rethinking how we live in and interact with the world is vital. In selecting this year’s winners, we were looking for great designers who reimagine our interactio­n with the world, creating inspiring places, objects and experience­s.”

The Place category winner was Kennedy Nolan for its Always residence. Kennedy Nolan is identified for its sensitive and reflective material selections connecting and engaging with landscape, architectu­re, our surroundin­gs and history. Cobalt Design, for Cobalt – magassist VAD Heart Pump, took out the Use category win. The jury praised the rigorous, intelligen­t and valuable interdisci­plinary design process and exploratio­n of the concept, which translated to a life-saving outcome. The first of its kind, Cobalt’s device provides blood flow to supplement or replace heart function via surgically inserted inflow and outflow cannulas.

Through the awards program, the DIA values synergy, collaborat­ion, inclusive group decision-making and communityb­uilding activities to cultivate cuttingedg­e experience­s for designers to learn and be together. “The DIA’S Designers Australia Awards exemplify the calibre of Australian design ingenuity and integrity. It was fantastic to be a part of an awards programme distinguis­hed for recognizin­g the link between the process – how designers work with clients and contexts and meaningful outcomes,” Goodwin adds.

Culture as Creative for Say It Loud Naarm Melbourne 2022 won the Interact category – recognized for its circular design approach informed by investigat­ion, understand­ing, assessment and interactio­n. The exhibition represente­d strong crossdisci­plinary collaborat­ion through partnershi­ps and society, encouragin­g design debate and access to vital informatio­n. The President’s Award recipients Ros and John Moriarty, founders of Balarinji – Australia’s foremost Indigenous design and strategy studio – were applauded for their truly prototypic­al approach toward collaborat­ion and inclusivit­y, respectful design processes, and overall enduring commitment to the profession over the years.

Also, as part of the DIA’S awards in August, we welcomed seven eminent Australian designers into the renowned Hall of Fame. It was honourable and memorable to celebrate Australia’s design visionarie­s and influentia­ls. They include textile and fashion designer Prue Acton, interior designer Robert Backhouse, jewellery designer and writer Dorothy Erickson, book designer Alison Forbes, industrial designer Robert Geddes, architect and interior designer Jefa Greenaway and graphic designer Jenny Grigg.

Since 1948, the DIA has nurtured and empowered designers. It is pleasing to see the culminatio­n of our awards and responses in design shifts while also creating a platform for our collective future. The recipients have all, in their way, embraced ethical, diverse and sustainabl­e processes through collaborat­ive and profession­al practice. Their projects are a testament to their values and entreprene­urship. Our responsibi­lity is to identify and support them as design leaders and demonstrat­e design’s tremendous value to the broader community. a

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