Fabio Ongarato Design, an award-winning multi-disciplinary design studio with offices in Melbourne, Hong Kong and Dubai, has received global recognition for design excellence. We sat down with the studio’s founder and creative director, Fabio Ongarato, to discuss how design shapes our lives and what defines Melbourne’s uniquely creative spirit.


Looking at the theme for Melbourne Design Week 2018, Design Effects, how do you think good design can impact and shape our lives?

Design, like art, continues to play an important part in contemporary discourse because it deals with the ways we feel – how we react to and interpret created environments, be they physical or virtual. Design provokes an experiential dimension that excites those who are open to its appeal. It awakens the eye before any of the other senses and invites you in to environments in which you have to reassess yourself and your own understanding of the created context. Creating good design relies on intuition – and the exploration and reassessment of new, as well as old, ideas – and affirms a real commitment to develop more than iterative or repetitive depictions of the commonplace. You have to be ready to go beyond what you can merely see or touch. The language of design is best when it is experimental. It is this transportation that unlocks our fantasies, our dark side and our humour, and makes us appreciate our intrinsic differences as people within constantly adjusting cultural boundaries.


Melbourne’s reputation as a destination for excellence in design has been well established for many years. While it continues to grow, where does Melbourne sit on the world stage of design? 

Melbourne is a mature market when it comes to design, embracing iconic works from internationally renowned designers, artists and architects. As a studio, we find it hard to place a specific aesthetic on Melbourne design. Our team are from all corners of the globe and therefore we approach every project through an international lens.

For us, Melbourne is a place that inspires innovation, experimentation and creativity. Having worked here for almost 25 years, we have enjoyed a long history designing for institutions that are regarded as icons of Melbourne culture, including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, MPavilion and Gertrude Contemporary, among many others.


What are some of the elements that you think define Melbourne’s renowned creative spirit?

What’s important is to look at the work of individual designers and to judge each of them on their individual merits rather than try to slot them into some imaginary category based on where they happen to live. As a designer, I want to transcend locality. I am driven by a personal agenda, which is influenced by a whole range of factors – and geography is way down the list. When it comes to the city, the only thread I feel that’s relevant is our famously unpredictable climate, which has forced Melbourne to look inward and the result is a moody, complex city more akin to London or Berlin than anywhere else in Australia.



Image – Dirk Weiblen
Installation – Assume Astro Vivid Focus
Brand identity and Environmental design: Fabio Ongarato Design

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