Ahead of Melbourne Design Week, Simone LeAmon, Hugh Williamson Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture at the National Gallery of Victoria, talks about the effects of design and the areas she sees Melbourne excelling in.
Looking at the theme for Melbourne Design Week 2018, Design Effects, how do you think good design can deliver change for people and the environment?
The theme Design Effects asks us to consider: what effect does design have on the world around us? It allows us to think about design in the broadest sense – as an agency for delivering environments, experiences, services and systems. While this view of design is not radical and by no means new, it is important to remember that all design activity and subsequent designed outcomes have ‘effect’ – good, poor and otherwise. Good design should deliver good effects – but we must always ask: for whom and why? As not all people and environments are the same.
Sustainability in design is a concept that is becoming increasingly important – commercially and creatively – around the world. What role should design have in pushing these boundaries, and shaping the way we interact with the world?
Designers are more conscious of the system of design than ever before – developing a critical awareness of the environmental and human costs of manufacturing processes, materials and labour is moving designers to reconceive what, why and how they design. Designers are poised to reshape the way design activity is conducted – the challenge is to bring industry along to drive innovation and deliver robust, commercial, sustainable solutions in replace of outdated methods and thinking.
Melbourne’s reputation as a destination for excellence in design has been well established for many years. How does Melbourne sit on the world stage of design? What are some of the elements that you think defines Melbourne’s renowned creative spirit?
Melbourne is home to a diverse community of design professionals, and contexts for design straddle the environment to the virtual. That said, Melbourne excels in several areas of design, including for medical equipment, games and contemporary jewellery. A curious mix of commercial and creative product. We also lead the way in design research through the strength of our university sector
I believe Melbourne demonstrates a ‘can-do’ approach to designing – manifesting both in self-styled start-ups focused on entrepreneurial activity, and creative studio practice driven by engagement with the research and cultural sectors. This delivers an environment where ideas, knowledge and business merge. Underpinning this attitude is a belief in creativity and the value it unlocks – for individuals, society and culture. It is a lived experience.
What does the concept of ‘design’ mean to you through your incredible work in this space?
As curator of contemporary design I am interested in understanding the decisions that people make when designing. Design, along with the sciences, art and humanities, belongs to an intellectual and practical tradition of human enquiry. Think about it – design enables us to create the conditions, systems and objects to facilitate remarkable things. It can unlock the best of human potential. This capability, however, comes at a price – for human beings can also design and deliver unremarkable, spurious and threatening things.
I believe our understanding of design is more important now than ever before. This is why design holds a special place in creative, critical and commercial dialogues.
What are some of the highlights we can look forward to seeing at Melbourne Design Week this year?
We can look forward to more than 160 exhibitions, workshops, talks and tours across Melbourne and Victoria in the 2018 Melbourne Design Week program. This builds on the inaugural program in 2017 where we saw 100 plus events. There are so many highlights – I suggest people jump online and design their own ten-day journey according to their interests: designweek.melbourne. I’ll be attending as many events as possible!