The Australian Design Alliance – launch report

The Australian Design Alliance – launch report

“Good design in all of its fields creates economic and competitive outcomes. Poor design or design by default leaves too much to chance. If Australia is to be counted in the progressive nations of the world competing on a world stage, it is no longer good enough to be only an agricultural and minerals based economy.”


Eighteen months of collaborative efforts brought together the twelve peak bodies that make up the Australian Design Alliance, which represents a substantial constituency. The combined national membership of the member organisations is in excess of 20,000 and the design sector represent a constituency of more than 80,000 design practitioners.

The [AdA] vision is to develop a culture of design in Australia to strengthen economic competitiveness, innovation and sustainability. Its mission is to achieve greater advancement, recognition and valuing of Australian design by governments, business and community, plus greater innovation and collaboration within the design sector together with the application of strategic design approaches across all sectors.


In analysing the resolutions it became clear to the launch guests that there was consensus and many of the ten proposed resolutions ( see below) were overlapping or duplicated. Through a process of voting, ten resolutions were summarised into three and the following were voted in their order of priority.

The Alliance would pursue a national design agenda based on:

1 National design policy linked to Australia’s innovation agenda;

2 Education and design skills at all education levels from school to MBAs;

3 Case studies demonstrating how good design can contribute to improved economic growth through supporting superior business models and improved public sector service delivery.

ADA Designers Vote to move AdA forward


Q &A Sessions

The majority of the launch was dedicated to the question and answer session inDesign Policy, Design Research, Design as Competitive Advantage, which speakers who were selected for their expertise across design disciplines and areas were asked questions framed by the following: Design Education, Design Culture, Innovation, Design as a City, Public Engagement, Design as a Solution to Sustainability and Design and the Media.

The new Alliance emerged from a series of consultations about how design should be an integral element of Australia’s national innovation system at a time of rapidly changing business models and processes. Australia’s design professionals are internationally renowned for their creative skills, project management and teamwork. These are crucial capabilities for a more productive Australian economy.

The goals of the launch included:

– raising awareness of the Alliance;

– showcasing examples of design research;

– securing commitments from Government;

– informing education, government and other stakeholders about the role of design by sourcing guest speakers who can talk persuasively on the [AdA] agenda;

– providing opportunities for key design advocates and stakeholders to support the [AdA] vision through a democratic process of discussion, resolution and prioritisation;

– strengthening networks through inviting strategically targeted industry representatives [broadly based] to be involved and to build a national database of diverse and interested design stakeholders.

The Alliance was launched by His Excellency, Michael Bryce, AM, AE, LFAIA, LFDIA, at the Sydney Opera House on 3 September, 2010.


Design Thinking

Opening Speech  by his Excellency Michael Bryce, AM AE

Good morning, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s nice to escape the crisp mornings of Canberra to be with you in Sydney today, especially as we are fortunate to be in this iconic design — the Sydney Opera House.

We are here today to talk about design — as if this is not something we do every day — but this time it is about other people’s perception of design and what it means to us all as a national imperative.

Quite obviously everything we do needs design. It is all around us — our cities, our parks, our phones and buses, airport lounges, factories. The streets we walk on, despite their ubiquitousness, are wonders of achievement to traffic engineers, and the wrapper we discard on it is an earnest creation of the graphic design department of some company.

Magazines are filled with tempting features, and advertisements for foreign products like IKEA, Sony, BMW, Nokia, and iconic Alessi and Philippe Stark designer utilitarian ware, yet we often see past the work of the designers and look at the design, as if it happens by itself.

So what is design — the opposite to accident? — but this relegates it to cake design and design by default.

The former Chairman of the British Design Council, Sir George Cox, defines design as:   “what links creativity and innovation — creativity deployed to a specific end”

The design we are talking about today is the purposeful, technical, scientific, imaginative thought process that shapes our country, helps our lives, and fills our GDP.

It is, in short, a life enhancing activity. Those in the audience engaged in design as a form of income, know well the frustration of public indifference — and while designers, engineers, architects, and planners, love what they do, and are admired for their skills, they may at times feel undervalued as the wealth generators of the nation.

Did I omit fashion designers? — for here the generic term ‘designer’ finds a comfortable home and the red line of Alan Kohler’s business success graph is somehow irrelevant. The term ‘catwalk’ is in the business plan and taffeta is a building material.

For the past 100 years the design professions have morphed from art schools and trade courses, via noble orders of silversmiths and guilds of artisans, to technical institutes, to become university degrees with a wide diversity of specialisation, from urban design to eco-design, to digital graphics with PhDs offered in every course, and professional bodies to support them in the ‘real world’.

And yet, as serious and scientifically based as these dedications are, they are often dismissed as self-absorbed, revolutionary, artistic, lightweight, and peripheral to the mainstream purposes of business, finance, agriculture, and the law.

The late Professor Tom Heath, architect and editor of “Architecture Australia”, commented in his article “What, if anything is an Architect?”, that: “The legitimisation of the architect as artist conveys the benefit of a long established and well developed theoretical tradition. Still, being identified as an artist is not wholly desirable. In a ‘philistine’ society, artists are easily represented as disposable. These are connotations of bohemianism, financial irresponsibility and general untrustworthiness.”

This struggle for legitimisation follows for all members of the design professions and, by inference, professional bodies that embrace design as mantra.

However, without design of our urban spaces, our literature, our schools and hospitals, our systems and communications and our home life, there is, in contemporary culture, an emptiness, well at least something more resembling Afghanistan.

With design comes humankind’s contribution to nature — with design there is harmony and efficiency and improved productivity. And it requires the services of designers.

Ladies and Gentlemen — Over the past 50 years of my working life I have been witness to many initiatives to bring the professions together, in forums such as the Design Board of the Australia Council — or, to show how design improves industry — as the Industrial Design Council did — or how to bring eminent industrialists to the table with significant designers — such as the Australian Academy of Design did, or the noble efforts of Standards Australia, to identify the best of Australian product design through its Australian International Design Awards program.

But today is the first time that the bodies associated with the process of design, the leaders of the arts/crafts/design teaching and practicing world, have come together to form one voice — one peak body that can speak for all of us where and when it counts.

You may share my excitement at this decision, or you may say “just another think tank”, but there is the beginning of a voice that could lift this country from its dependence on other people’s ideas, from its apathy about its built environment, from a sense of us lagging behind in the innovation and creativity spectrum that some, not all but some, significant countries such as Sweden, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Italy and yes, Great Britain, have already established.

This is aside from countries like Switzerland and Finland, which have specialised in particular products and materials derived from historic love of crafts.

Nations that value design consistently rate above Australia in design performance and innovation, and actively promote design in their economies. The Scandinavian countries and Great Britain offer examples of how Australia is being out-thought by embracing the power of design thinking.

What we do well in Australia is to buy the products of these countries. We know what is good and all know we want it, but if we have a good idea, we invariably let other countries do the design and development for us.

At the 20/20 Summit — that I was nominated to attend by my University of Canberra, the role of architecture and urban design and the creative professions of the built environment found it hard to get any traction within the arts community there, as the essential, lasting major contribution to our economy that it is — the most significant part of the nation’s cultural capital — Cities!

Professor Mark Burry – architect and Director of RMIT’s Design Research Institute — who has unlocked the secrets of the mathematical formula that underpins Antonio Gaudi’s “Sagrada Familia”  Cathedral in Barcelona, knows what it is to fight for recognition of the designer. Burry’s institute brings together researchers from a range of design disciplines to work in teams around design challenges such as new urban environments, customised manufacture of apparel, creating healthy and supportive workplaces, art in public and private places, and interactive construction of spatial maps and archives.

And yet, he says:   “The outside world may not clearly understand the designer’s role.”  And he goes on to say that:  “Australia doesn’t give voice to the cultural achievements of designers, as opposed to the widespread support and promotion it gives to sports people.”

Let me cite some examples of successful programs that have integrated design with successful business outcomes.

“In Japan”, says Brandon Gien Executive Director of the Australian International Design Awards program of Standards Australia, “no wise consumer would dare to buy a kettle or a radio that did not have the ‘G mark’ or good design label.”  The Japan G-Mark System is one of the oldest and most respected Design Award programs in the world. Created in 1957 by the Japanese Government, it is now privately operated. The G-Mark trademark has a recognition ratio of 86% of Japanese consumers who see it as a trusted symbol of well designed, quality products. The G-Mark system is applied to all areas of design, including product design, communications design, the built environment, and systems design.

The United States Government’s National Endowment for the Arts as far back as 1975 issued a Presidential decree that design was to be a vital part of government. The NEA is a federal body that encourages accomplishment in the arts, crafts, film graphic design, industrial design, landscape architecture, architecture, literature, sculpture, theatre and urban design. A National Medal of Arts is awarded annually by the President to individuals and extraordinary patrons, and some 250 awardees have been recognised over the past 25 years.

In the United Kingdom, the British Design Council was first established in the ‘50s, a government agency with a Royal Charter funded by the Department of Business Innovations. Its role is to promote design for the public good, helping Britain to use design to build a stronger economy and improve everyday life. The Design Council has recently undertaken an in depth study of eleven companies (Alessi, BSkyB, BT, Lego, Microsoft, Sony, Starbucks, Virgin Airways, Whirlpool, Xerox and Yahoo) to assess their commitment to design, to improve brand strength and product and service design.

Key themes that emerged were:

– Good design improves competitiveness and keeps production costs down;

– Good design keeps users happy and makes them come back again;

– Design encourages trust in a brand.

Also in the UK, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) was established in 1999 as an executive non-department public body of the UK Government. It is funded by two government department budgets. CABE is the Government’s adviser on architecture, urban design and public space in England. Its job is to influence and inspire the people making decisions about the built environment. It champions well designed buildings and places, and works closely with architects and planners and designers and their clients.  In Scotland the equivalent body is Architecture and Design Scotland.

National identities have been shaped by the reputation of countries with high sensitivity indicators of design. In some cases — like Sweden and Finland — reputation for sensible aesthetic design solutions has come from a history of craftsmanship and use of indigenous materials. Every Finn would know of Alvar Aalto as an architect whose work touched their lives, from their school desks to the town hall.

With a population of nearly 23 million, and an urban distribution of 89% of that population in coastal and urban cities, and a life expectancy of nearly 80 years, we can ill afford to ignore the lessons of industrial development. We must be well designed to cope with traffic. Buildings must be sustainable and prepared for climate change. Goods must be highly competitive.

Many of our cities have become gridlocked through lack of foresight in planning — bereft of healthy parklands because of rampant development, and overshadowed by dense inner CBD high-rise buildings, and despite the best intentions of planners, architects and designers, civic decisions have usually overruled planning wisdom, often for political reasons by successive competitive governments.

Perhaps the best future could be guaranteed by taking into account the expertise, experience and reputation of design experts in providing advice to city councils and local governments. Perhaps we can no longer afford to vest design decisions on public projects in local officials and politicians alone, but be guided by broader researched external perspectives. This is the experience in Britain where CABE is able to offer advice at the earliest stage.

The formation of this peak body of the design community, the Australian Design Alliance, to give researched multidisciplinary advice to governments and industry is a step towards a new respect for the place that designers can play in our everyday lives.

Good design in all of its fields creates economic and competitive outcomes. Poor design or design by default leaves too much to chance.

If Australia is to be counted in the progressive nations of the world, competing on a world stage, it is no longer good enough to be only an agricultural and minerals based economy. Tourism, defence, manufacture, business and communications, depend on competition, and better use of our design skills will play a part in a design led economic future for this nation.

I hope that the celebrations today will bring this new peak body to life.

Thank you.


Steven Pozel , Director, Object,

was asked:   How do you engage the public in design?

When I was 15 in my home in Toronto, Canada I saw a documentary on the building of the Sydney Opera House. I was hugely impressed by a structure unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and concluded that Australia was a bold, exciting and forward-thinking country willing to take risks. I immediately announced to my parents that I was planning on moving to Australia.

I’m relating this story because it illustrates the powerful and transformative impact of design. If we are to generate public engagement in design we have to stay cognisant of why design matters.

Professor Roy Green, Dean of the Business School at UTS, recently explained to me new data on aspects of management performance that rated Australia relative to 15 other countries. In the category of ‘instilling a creative mindset’ we rated at the very bottom. These data show that Australia lags in developing a creative culture, and this is a deficit Australia simply cannot afford. I believe that public engagement in design is one important way of developing our creative culture. We can use design to empower our audiences with new tools to build capacity in critical and creative thought – an empowerment that can flow into all aspects of people’s lives.

Australia already has excellent organisations and media to bring design to the public through online activity, and design festivals in several states, with exhibitions in major museums including the Powerhouse and Melbourne Museum, through public organisations like Artisan, Tasmanian Design Centre, Form and the Jam Factory. All this activity is valuable, but I believe we can do more to engage audience at a deeper level to foster creative and critical thought.

I can only use Object as an example as it’s the organisation I’ve known for the last decade. We have been going through a transformative process ourselves as we explore how to engage differently with our audiences.

I would like to provide 3 examples. The Audio Design Museum is a new activity we have just launched in three cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The Audio Design Museum is a downloadable tour, which takes people into the streets and allows the public to follow architects, jewellers, fashion designers, and graphic designers in a discourse about what they are seeing on the streets and around them. We’re getting people to look closer at what they see on the streets every day when they walk down them: to view their environment with the eyes of a designer. We want to create collective stories and emotional experiences to really engage.

The second project “Cusp” is currently in development. It will feature 15 designers and key works that we believe are likely to  impact the decade ahead. The exhibition will not just look at outcomes, but will unravel the design process for the audience. It will communicate the processes involved in design, from original concept or problem and how it was resolved to improve our world.

And finally “Design Emergency” an educational program that focuses on creative problem solving and goes directly into schools to work with both students and teachers. Imagine an ambulance, re-skinned so that it opens up with layers of tables and displays providing resources for a class to work through group challenges alongside two designers. It aims to stimulate children and their teachers to engage design thinking and creative problem solving and to use this “capacity building” knowledge both in and outside the classroom. Just as the National Arts Curriculum is about to commit to design and design thinking as key aspects of the arts curriculum, Design Emergency looks to work with both students and teachers to build critical creative capacity in students.

These initiatives are important because they help to build a society able to deconstruct problems and adapt to challenges with new solutions. The only thing we can be sure about the decades ahead is that the rate of change in society is accelerating exponentially. We need to build a society that thinks creatively and adaptively, as we will need a society that is able to react and adapt to massive change and challenge. This is where I believe the power of design lies today.


Cameron Bruhn , Editorial Director, Architecture Media,

was asked:    What role does the media play in the Australian design industry, and how does this relate to the emerging agenda of the Australian Design Alliance?

Like many professional pursuits, design interacts with the media in two very distinct modes — public and professional. This arises from a question of audience – designers communicating with the broader community and talking to each other. The audiences don’t necessarily make the distinction. The public stream isn’t just the mainstream media. Rather, it is any media interaction the community has with design, regardless of the medium that conveys the message. This includes the mainstream and special-interest lifestyle media and the profession-targeted media. For example, many of the professional magazines are readily available on the newsstand meaning that they have the potential to end up in the hands of year twelve students as they think about university options.

In the professional mode, we use the media to talk to each other, allowing us to understand who we are as a group and to see what our peers are doing and, perhaps more importantly, what they are thinking about. In this mode, the media acts for a constituency, reflecting the profession — but doing so in a way that is inquisitive, constructive and sometimes even celebratory.

Perhaps the most significant interaction of design and the media is in the area of residential architecture and design. Australians love it — on television, in magazines and online. This is not surprising given the nation’s obsession with home ownership. In this context, we are talking about the places we live, how we live day-to-day and the stuff we choose to fill our homes with. Of course there is an irony in this, given the very small number of new houses built each year that are designed by architects.

For an organisation like the Australian Design Alliance, there is a great opportunity to use the Australian shelter obsession as a platform for speaking more broadly about the value of good design — be that the design of a chair, a dwelling, a neighbourhood, a public transport system, a car, or one of the new cities we will need to build in order to accommodate a doubled Australian population. It is perhaps one of the reasons for all being at the same table and for the media to be one of the areas of discussion. In the act of coming together, there is a great opportunity to move the public media interest and content from the individual to the collective, to position design as more than just a lifestyle accoutrement that is the preserve of the rich, or a hobby.

The Australian Design Alliance agenda suggests a media strategy for the emerging organisation that draws on what we are saying to each other to speak out to the broader community and decision makers in government and business. The community is looking to us for good design outcomes. They are demanding design thinking and leadership that will create beautiful, sustainable places for the future.

Table 1   Develop case study resources to lobby and influence thinking in government / board rooms / Mayors program / business advocates.

Table 2   Champion design to influence government and promote the value of design thinking in a common vernacular that can be adopted for policy.

Table 3   Clarify what evidence the audience (government, business) requires to build the case for design in Australia.

Table 4   Media Strategy — draw upon [AdA] personnel to speak on issues of national importance.

Table 5   K-12 design education to be embedded in nationa curriculum (critical thinking, process, problem solving). To advance support for design in education — time critical issue.

Table 6   A knowledge bank of Australian design and the facilitation and promotion of social experiments between ‘design’ and community & business

Table 7   [AdA] needs to develop a road map/sector plan for where the design sector is at; define any gaps; define benchmarks; develop a policy for where design needs to go (goals/objectives) publicise/ demonstrate this.

Table 8   To educate politicians to the importance of design for delivering better cities.

Table 9   A national design policy based on relevant research with the objective of achieving sustainability (economic, environmental & social) and improving the quality of life. Implementation strategies should include establishing a new prototype project.

Table 10   Use case study material to create media program about the way design leads to “better quality of life”

The Australian Design Alliance [AdA] has evolved through a collaborative participation over many months, by many individuals and many associations to establish the Alliance’s role as the peak body for design in Australia. Australia now has a reference point for design issues to facilitate the work of government, industry, education and the private sector. The Australian Design Alliance is an incorporated, not for profit association.

Australian Design Alliance members include:

Australian Craft and Design

Centres (ACDC) —

ACDC is a network of peak organisations from all states and territories in Australia that represent the professional craft and design sector. The organisations engage with the sector at a local, national and international level and offer services and programs that support sustainable practice

Contact: Steve Pozel, Director, Object – Phone 02 9361 4555

Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA)

The Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) is the national organisation for professional graphic designers. Founded in 1988 it operates through State councils throughout Australia. AGDA Councillors are supported by a National Office and a National Executive Director.

Contact: Paul van Barneveld, National Vice President AGDA – Mobile 0419 714 298

Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) —

AIA is a national body consisting of almost 10,000 members across Australia and overseas. The Institute was formed in 1930 to promote better, responsible and environmental design and raise design standards in our cities, urban areas, commercial and residential buildings.

Contact: Brian Zulaikha, NSW Chapter President AIA – Phone (02) 9215 4900

Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) —

AILA is the non-profit professional institute formed in 1967 to grow and enhance the profession of landscape architecture and to provide leadership in the creation of meaningful, equitable and sustainable environments throughout Australia. Key programs are the AILA national and state web sites, Landmark, and state newsletters, national conferences, national and state awards.

Contact: Jon Shinkfield, AILA Representative – Mobile 0411 551 512

Australian International Design Awards, Standards Australia —

The Australian International Design Awards, a division of Standards Australia, is recognised by the Commonwealth Government and the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design [ICSID] as Australia’s peak design assessment and promotion body, and for its important role in fostering a culture of design and innovation in Australia. The Design Awards set an international benchmark for design excellence and quality in manufactured goods.

Contact: Brandon Gien, Executive Director AIDA – Phone (02) 9237 6060

Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) —

ANAT supports artists and creative practitioners engaging with science and technology, within Australia and beyond. Its innovative program includes immersive residencies, professional development labs, online research tools, publications, seminars and workshops.

Contact: Gavin Artz, CEO ANAT – Mobile 0417 083 174

Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) —

Established in 2004, CHASS promotes and provides advocacy services for the humanities, arts and social sciences. Supporting more than 85 member organisations, CHASS is an important network for knowledge and skills. It serves as a coordinating forum for teachers, researchers, professionals and practitioners in the sector.

Contact: Helen O’Neil, Executive Director CHASS – Mobile 0417 230 540

Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA) —

TFIA is the peak Australian Textile Clothing and Footwear(TCF) industry body. It is a member driven not for profit association first established in the 1940s. Today the TFIA provides effective and influential representation to Govt on TCF issues such as trade, environment and education.

Contact: Jo-Ann Kellock, CEO TFIA – Mobile 0417 348 924

Craft Australia —

Craft Australia is the nation’s peak advocacy organisation for Australian contemporary craft and design. It promotes the outstanding achievements of the sector and provides access to Australian contemporary practice through advocacy, communication and research. Craft Australia works in collaboration with the network of Australian Craft and Design Centres, the tertiary sector and the public and commercial galleries.

Contact: Catrina Vignando, General Manager Craft Australia – Mobile 0417 419 525

Design Institute of Australia (DIA) —

Formed in 1947, the DIA is a multi-disciplinary organisation of professional designers actively improving their recognition and status in the community. DIA is a member of the major international design organisations of Icograda, ICSID, IFI, APSDA & the Designer’s Accord It provides designers with a valuable networking base on state, national and international levels.

Contact: Geoff Fitzpatrick, Director-National Strategy DIA – Mobile 0438 549 341

National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) —

Established in 1983 NAVA is the national peak body for the visual arts, craft and design sector working through advocacy and service provision, to achieve a flourishing Australian visual arts sector and a more vibrant, distinctive and ethical cultural environment.

Contact: Tamara Winikoff, Executive Director NAVA – Mobile 0411 162 156

Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) – Urban Design Chapter —

The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) is the peak body for planners and professionals in related built environment fields, including urban designers. Urban design aims at the creation of useful, attractive, safe, environmentally sustainable, economically successful and socially equitable places.

Contact: Peter Robinson, Representative Planning Institute of Australia – Phone (02) 9281 9410

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