Nexus Designs celebrates the next generation of design talent with RMIT graduate Vivian Chunrui Li winning the 2023 Nexus Designs Janne Faulkner Prize for Design Excellence.

A graduate of RMIT’s Diploma of Interior Design program, Vivian received the award at a ceremony held at Space & Time in North Melbourne last Thursday. Vivian will receive a monetary prize as well as a stint at Nexus Designs’ studio to further develop her industry skills and portfolio.

Vivian’s submission and a selection of her final semester projects focussed on residential interior design were evaluated by the judging panel, who observed that the designer demonstrated both integrity and restraint. The panel assessed the portfolios of six students this year for the award.

Vivian’s work spanned a broad spectrum of projects from Nordic-inspired designs for a Victorian terraced house in Clifton Hill to a contemporary transformation of a former warehouse in Carlton. Her approach centres around creating spaces that are designed with intent and function at their heart, and meet both the client’s unique vision and lifestyle.


“We were impressed with the consistency and calibre of work Vivian submitted. Her understanding of the unseen elements of design solutions aligns with our studio’s philosophy, and demonstrates a clear understanding of the role of a good interior designer,” Nexus Designs director Sonia Simpfendorfer said.

Sally Evans, also a director at Nexus Designs, and part of the judging panel, said, “Vivian’s portfolio was presented in a simple and clear way. Through her attention to detail, she has demonstrated clarity of thought, and an ability to make firm decisions.”

“Vivian’s rationales were well thought through, demonstrating that her designs are the result of research to understand the client’s living needs. Delivering detailed renders too, Vivian has shown a dedication to her craft that signifies the high expectations she has of herself,” said Evans.

Impressed by Vivian’s commitment and dedication to resolving client needs and issues, the panel believes that Vivian will be a great asset to the industry.

Jenny Crowley, program manager of Interior Design & Decoration at RMIT University, observed, “As Vivian embarks on her design career, a placement at Nexus Designs is a fantastic opportunity for her to gain industry experience. Mentored by the team, she will be able to hone her design skills, ranging from research, to critical thinking, materiality, and the importance of context, both site and conditions.”

In addition to Evans, the judging panel comprised Sidney Ford (interior designer at Nexus Designs), Dr Phoebe Whitman (RMIT program manager of the Bachelor of Interior Design (Honours) program) and Nancy Everingham (RMIT manager of Academic Quality and Compliance).

Vivian’s award-winning submission was displayed as part of the 2023 Graduate Exhibition for the RMIT College of Vocational Education, Creative Industries.

About the prize

Established in 2019 in memory of Nexus Designs’ founder, Janne Faulkner, the prize is awarded annually to recognise the most outstanding 2nd year RMIT student enrolled in the Diploma of Interior Design, the Associate Degree of Interior Decoration and Design, or the Associate Degree of Graphic Design.

Image: Vivian Chunrui Li and Michael Malignaggi, Managing Director - Nexus Designs © @bellacoolaphoto