Budding Australian designers are showing their ingenuity and ambition, some achieving international recognition before graduation. These talented people are the designers of our future, showing us a taste of great ideas to come.

The focus of undergraduate and postgraduate study for all of the design faculties featured is showing a strong emphasis on design for sustainability, experimentation with materials and designs that make life easier for people in all activities of daily life.

The importance of industry-based learning and experience, leading to employment and connections with business, is also a priority. International exchanges and collaborative projects with international universities are giving students greater insight into cultural differences and approaches to the creative process.

The University of Canberra (UC) has offered Industrial Design for almost 40 years, and graduates work in important industries and design consultancies all over the world.

UC has maintained and evolved strengths in design for manufacture, and the Industrial Design course is changing constantly to meet the current needs of industry, employers, students and society in general. Within this context, Industrial Design at UC has adopted the European Bologna model since 2011 and the undergraduate degree is now run over three years.

In 2013 the Industrial Design course becomes part of a new Bachelor in Design, merging current industrial design, landscape architecture and interior architecture disciplines. This will promote more interdisciplinary research and teaching-and-learning opportunities, and offer students greater scope of design projects and the option of graduating with a specialisation in industrial design, with minors in other design disciplines.

The most important design education issue for the staff of the UC Industrial Design course is to offer a great learning experience in a multidisciplinary environment and to create adaptable and resilient professionals who can promote positive change in society.

“Although we still develop ‘traditional’ industrial design projects in areas such as furniture, packaging, electronic appliances and tools, for example, our main focus is in design process and thinking, not only applied to the final product, but rather to the design of an integrated and holistic solution, through the design of complete ‘systems’ and ‘life cycles’ that combine user-centred design and design for sustainability tools. The new Bachelor in Design will explore important emerging design fields, such as service design, providing our graduates with new design thinking tools,” says Dr Carlos Alberto Montana Hoyos, Associate Professor and course convenor – Industrial Design, Faculty of Arts and Design.

“The University of Canberra is the ideal location for Canberra’s future new hospital, and in view of current collaborations of UC with professional sports teams, the Industrial Design course is forming strategic alliances to tap into the strengths of our health-related and sports courses and local links, emphasising studio projects related to health, sports and wellbeing,” explains Montana Hoyos.

“Current masters projects include advanced studies in digital design and CAD, as well as refined and detailed projects in areas of a student’s choice, such as furniture design, product design or transportation design. More research-oriented projects at the masters level include exploration of eco-design tools, new applications for digital and rapid-prototyping technologies, service and education design for pharmacies, research in biomimicry and industrialisation of rigid origami,” says Montana Hoyos.

Collaborations with external partners include user-centred design research with Canberra Hospital and Calvary John James Hospital to develop future intensive care units, and Work Integrated Learning placements that involve exhibition design, such as internships with the National Gallery of Australia and Questacon.

PhDs in design also include a broad range of research projects in design education in Australia, effects of complex-body movement simulators for sports, design evaluation through national and international design awards, user-experiences and emotional design in light, user perceptions of creative public seating objects, comparative studies of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural design education methods and cultural identity and social sustainability of design within Australian Aboriginal communities.

Industry placement is a major focus of UC, and employability of UC graduates has been very high historically. A current focus is to prepare students not only in design skills, but also in project management and entrepreneurship. Cross-faculty electives are offered in business and marketing, and links with Innovation ACT provide opportunities for industrial design students to work with inventors and innovators.

With well-established international partners in Europe, Asia and the Americas, UC students receive scholarships and financial support to pursue six-month exchange programs that are fully credited to their studies. Partner institutions include Istituto Europeo Di Design in Spain and Italy; Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland; and Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico.

“Today’s globalised workforce is more competitive than ever and industrial design graduates are taking diverse career paths. Worldwide, design schools range from the art-oriented to the technology-focused. It appears that Australian industrial design in general has a strong technological focus. UC supports a multidisciplinary approach where specialisations blur, and proposes current trends in the ‘dematerialisation’ of the product, such as interface design, interaction design, user-experience design and service design,” explains Montana Hoyos. 

“Within this context, UC research in design education has defined a range of prospective areas for employment of industrial design graduates – from those who take on the traditional industrial design role to others with broader application of industrial design skills and approaches.”

Swinburne University of Technology offers a Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design) and a double degree, Bachelor of Design and Bachelor of Business. It also offers a Bachelor of Engineering (Product Design Engineering). This course allows students to study Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering in an integrated program. It is the only bachelor degree course of this kind in Australia.

Sustainability and socially responsible design methods are embedded through-out the Industrial Design program. “We ensure students create outcomes that can create a better quality of life for the less fortunate, and ensure that the life cycle of a product has been resolved,” says Dr Blair Kuys, program coordinator for Industrial Design and Product Design Engineering.

“Students need to realise the effect their product has on the environment during all stages of the design process. This in-depth product analysis aims to create project outcomes that have meaning and contribute to Swinburne’s intentions of being a world-leading university in science, technology and innovation.”

Students in the Bachelor of Engineering (Product Design Engineering) program learn principles of engineering in the same environment as all other engineering students at Swinburne. The level of engineering studies in Product Design Engineering is accredited by Engineers Australia; hence, graduates from the course are recognised engineers internationally.

“Industrial Design studies are studied concurrently, which means that students spend time studying at the Faculty of Design with other design students and under the guidance and supervision of expert staff in industrial design. Product design engineering students are able to apply their engineering knowledge in their design projects throughout the course,” explains Dr Soullis Tavrou, Product Design Engineering program coordinator.

“What is unique about our Product Design Engineering course is that students are able to apply their engineering knowledge in their design projects throughout the course. For example, when they have finished their studies in Material Science and Strength of Materials, they are given a project in designing furniture where they are expected to select the most suitable materials based on their composition, economic and environmental impact and then make all the engineering calculations that will enable them to achieve minimum material usage with maximum strength,” says Tavrou.

Swinburne emphasises an imperative that industrial design outcomes follow sustainable practice, and encourages undergraduate and postgraduate students to develop quality products with environmental concerns in mind. “Innovations in new product development will always exist, but the sustainable processes and materials that create these products need to be smarter,” says Kuys.

Swinburne University is well known for its Industry-Based Learning program, established more than 40 years ago. Students from Industrial Design and Product Design Engineering have the opportunity to work in industry for a year after their second or third year of study, and placement can be local or international. The program offers industry placement after the second year. Students have the option to gain valuable industry experience for six months to one year in some of Australia’s premier design studios.

Study tours and outward-bound mobility are key components of the overall strategy for internationalisation at Swinburne. “Swinburne industrial design offers exchange to seven different countries. We also offer study tours to Europe and Asia at the end of each year. That includes industry visits to world-leading companies such as BMW, Braun, frog, Kiska and VW,” says Kuys.

The Product Design Engineering course has student exchange agreements with universities in Asia, Europe, the UK, North America and South America. “The first international student exchange agreement was signed with Hanze University in Holland more than 10 years ago,” adds Tavrou.

“Industrial Design and Product Design Engineering education must always evolve to meet the current and future demands of people,” says Kuys. “New and emerging technologies and manufacturing processes must be taken advantage of to improve the way designers work. A perfect example of this is the rise of rapid manufacturing technology as this can now be achieved with quality, less-expensive, rapid-manufacturing processes.”

Monash University in Melbourne offers leading undergraduate, postgraduate and research programs in Industrial Design, and a Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design) double degree, which it says is popular with industry.

It is a ‘Group of Eight’ research-intensive university of which only two in Australia offer Industrial Design degree programs. It is also the only Australian member of the international Partners for Advanced Computer Engineering (PACE) program, a General Motors Initiative.

The university has specialised industrial design teaching facilities with an automotive-design clay-modelling studio (unique in Australia) and a large-format rear projection screen for 3D imaging. The undergraduate Industrial Design course is taught by practicing industrial designers and design researchers working at the forefront of their field. With smaller student numbers, lecturers are able to give one-on-one guidance to students.

“At a postgraduate level, we are committed to driving excellence in practice-based design. A focus on studio-based research enables candidates for masters and PhD degrees engage-ment in real-life issues to produce high-quality innovations,” says Selby Coxon, deputy head, Department of Design and coordinator industrial design, Faculty of Art Design & Architecture, Monash University.

“Key research themes follow ‘building of a sustainable urban future’ and include transport design and design for health and wellbeing – designing public transport, improving the quality of life for the elderly, increasing safety in the mining industry and tackling the damaging effects of oil spills upon native wildlife,” explains Coxon.

Master of Design graduate, Mandy Lau, has her sight set on improving the lives of others. During her studies at Monash, Lau developed the play set called Reach and Match, which is an educational toy that helps blind children learn Braille.

“By designing an engaging learning experience for blind children she is helping them to improve their literacy and life skills. Reach and Match has been endorsed by the United Nations, recently won a red dot design award, was a finalist in the Index Awards and is a Dyson Award nominee,” says Coxon.

PhD candidate, Kanvar Nayer, is engaging in collaborative design research in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Nayer is incorporating research findings into an intuitive interface design to enable sufferers of dementia to engage with various media from music to films.

Master of Design graduate, Robert Smith, designed a vehicle interior for a mining personnel carrier for a wider project into vehicle safety supported by the Australian Research Council.

Dr Robbie Napper worked with bus manufacturer Volgren to explore the mass customisation in transport design. His research has culminated in Volgren’s production of a new line of route buses.

“Partnerships with industry are mutually beneficial for the company and the research candidate. The research outcomes provide stimulus to industry, often producing exciting design outcomes that would not otherwise have been explored,” adds Coxon.

One of Australia’s leading designers and innovators, Professor Mark Armstrong, has been appointed as the Eva and Marc Besen International Research Chair in Design. In undertaking this role, Armstrong will continue as Director of Blue Sky Design while leveraging his industry knowledge and contacts to contribute to the university’s design-based research capability.

“Monash University is a leading exponent of transformative design practice, driven by ideas that have the potential to change our understanding of important social issues and global concerns, especially in transportation and the critical area of health and wellbeing,” says Coxon.

Monash offers students an unparalleled international design experience, in particular in Tuscany, Italy. The Monash Prato program provides students with the unique opportunity to study in international design studios and engage with the Italian design community.

“Prato is a vibrant Tuscan town, near Florence. The Monash University Prato Centre can be found in an 18th century palazzo in the historical heart of city. The cultural experience of living, studying and creating in a medieval city is a big part of all faculty studies in Prato,” says Coxon.

“We anticipate engagement with Southeast Asia to grow with the establishment of our Master of Industrial Design (double masters) at the Southeast University – Monash University Joint Graduate School (Suzhou). This offering is unique, as Monash is the first Australian university – and only the third international university – to establish operations in China,” says Coxon.

“Monash industrial design graduates are at the forefront of the shift toward design as an international concern. The responsibilities of designers are many. They respond to physical, social and psychological needs. They also realise aspirations, add value to a culture and can ultimately inspire change in a society.”

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