Australian designers must get to know their neighbours – DIA MEDIA RELEASE

20 December 2010

Australian designers must get to know their neighbours

In today’s global design studio few can afford to design in a vacuum.

“Our clients are international and they expect us to be informed and aware,” says Geoff Fitzpatrick FDIA, Design Institute Australia’s (DIA) Director of National Strategy.

“We have a number of DIA members who work extensively in Southeast Asia in addition to product designers who started out partnering with Chinese manufacturers and now run their own factories there,” he says.

Ensuring representation by senior experienced design practitioners from Australia at key regional and international forums was something the DIA felt could no longer be left to chance or goodwill. Australia’s only multi-disciplinary professional design body, the DIA, made the strategic decision in late 2009 to allocate a budget to secure attendance at all ensuing major international and regional design forums. This measure has returned benefits likely to blossom and resonate for years to come.

“Face to face communication has a major advantage in the communication process. Official activities establish the relationship and provide opportunity for informal discussions that often prove as important as tabled content,” Mr Fitzpatrick says.

According to Joanne Cys LFDIA outgoing DIA President, being present physically is partly about building confidence within the Australian design industry.

“If Australian designers know that their professional body is collaborating and cooperating at a professional level with other kindred associations and organizations, that should encourage designers to feel connected to the global design studio in which we operate,” she says.

The other issue is “Australia’s general lack of a developed identifiable regional design identity – I believe there is a lot we can learn in both the Asia Pacific region and international arena to strengthen that.”

Australian designers tend to have a stronger awareness of the capabilities of their European counterparts than those closer to home. While it’s important for Australia to continue to foster international ties, there is substantial regional activity worthy of note, Ms Cys says.

“Huge steps have been taken in the development of national design strategy in countries like Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore, in response to recognition of design as an economic benefit by their respective governments.”

“There is a big movement internationally of governments recognising design as a major element of innovation,” she says.

For Australia, currently void of a Federal Government design strategy, there is much to glean. DIA was pivotal in the formation of the Australian Design Alliance (AdA), a collective national body comprising 12 organisations, and it’s hoped this presence will stimulate Federal Government acknowledgement and buy-in.

“China’s change in direction of its self-promotion from ‘made in China’ to ‘designed in China’ is an important example of a country’s confidence and belief in its own expertise,” says Ms Cys.

DIA’s attendance at the Global Design Network (GDN), a truly international event that was held in December 2010 as part of Business of Design Week (BODW), highlighted the opportunity for a host nation, in this instance Hong Kong, to showcase their country’s design prowess. The colossal opportunity for Australia to host this event doesn’t require imagination but it remains a pipedream without Federal Government backing.

As an invited speaker at GDN, Mr Fitzpatrick’s presentation on AdA’s development was met with great interest, particularly its parallel to US and European trends.

“AdA’s formation reinforces the issues of transdisciplinary action of a body becoming a go to vehicle for assisting government to make decisions,” Mr Fitzpatrick says.

He believes DIA’s attendance at the Asia Pacific Space Designers Association Congress (APSDA is an association for professional peak bodies), held in Beijing, China in October 2010, was a key trump. There his proposal to establish a permanent Asia Pacific communication hub, to be known as the APSDA Communication Office, was successful as was DIA’s pitch to be the host.

“DIA will be the funnel and filter for information in establishing communication between 14 regions. It is an opportunity to advance the cause of design and for Australia to exert some influence and leadership in the communication process, not to mention providing DIA members with a window to the world,” he says.

Presenting a paper on environmental issues at Desain ID in Jakarta, Indonesia in November 2010, which included a fellowship report on Environmental Building Programs undertaken by an Australian researcher, was another opportunity to advance Australia’s expertise.

With examples of high-level design emanating from all parts of the world, gaining international and regional perspectives has also served to reinforce the value of good design and professional design skill irrespective of production origin.

“We are seeing that good work can speak for itself. If the design is properly commissioned, is well produced, has a high level of design integrity it will be successful,” Ms Cys contests.

“There is also a lot of good will and genuine willingness to assist to provide introductions and connections via peak bodies,” Ms Cys says.

DIA members are invited to access Practice Notes via DIA National Office that may provide assistance when working internationally or regionally along with an increasing repository of established networks courtesy of these initiatives. Reciprocal education initiatives and exchanges arrangements are also in discussion.

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