In turbulent times, design is more relevant than ever. Good Design Australia patron, Gerhard Vorster, believes that design’s “tangible contribution to improved living standards (is) at a time where Australia has to deal with slipping commodity prices, trading partner uncertainties and an ageing workforce. We can and will design better products, better services, better businesses and experiences and a better future for us all.”

This was borne out by the recent Design as Strategy Forum, presented by Good Design Australia in partnership with UTS and Aurecon, which was generally agreed to be an inspired, thought-filled, information day. Appropriately held in UTS’s much-heralded Dr Chau Chak Wing Building (Building 8) (I still find those mirrored stair walls a mite disorienting) design covered place, product and service, society, business and strategy.  

Diverse leading company executives, academics, economists, lawyers, financiers, public servants, architects and marketers talked about the importance of empathy, making sure you take the time to listen to and really understand the client, and the likelihood that marketing is being re-defined to foster the customer experience, which is expected to take over from product and price as the main form of brand differentiation.

Understanding the customer journey and working with customer networks while also embracing personalisation is the goal but is not yet widely communicated within the design profession. But it needs to be; “conversation is the oxygen of civilisation,” said Good Design Australia chair, Maureen Thurston.

The twitter feed had a plea:” Don't let design become another shiny thing”, and economist Ian Harper urged the unleashing of “collective creativity through involving unlikeminded people” and working within “economies of agglomeration(where) human beings spark each other on to greater creativity.” The potential of design was also noted by Timothy Horton of the Architects Registration Board. “The EU says design is the bridge between problems and innovation.” 

Leaders, who are often better at dealing with risk adversity than having people skills, need to become more involved and invest time for cultural change to happen.

Vorster, meanwhile, posited a system that would lead to meaningful design, with five stages: vision, pride, accessibility, action and resilience (and a touch of playfulness and even madness).


A notice offering something for our times seems to tick the boxes. “Let's build the world’s first BIG WORLD HOME” (by Big World Communities) promises a new affordable housing model, ordered online, delivered flat-packed, made from structural-thermal-waterproof integrated panels, digitally manufactured and off-the-shelf components, and run off-grid.

Organisers say it can be assembled within a few days using a hammer and a drill. It costs $65K to build and is being crowdfunded with contributions directly covering the material costs. It will be built as part of the Sydney Architecture Festival (launch party set for September 29 at the Commune in Bourke Street, Waterloo).  

Land costs are not covered and Big World Homes works with developers, councils, community groups and individual landowners. There is vision, pride in the project, it is potentially highly accessible, and requires a lot of action and resilience to succeed.

There will be more design ideas too in Melbourne. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is holding talks about the future of design as it relates to energy, mobility, money and water. On at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Theatre |until 12 October.

Deborah Singerman runs her own writing, editing, proofing and project managing consultancy specialising in the urban built environment, workspaces and community. @deborahsingerma; [email protected]