The Victorian government’s lab3000 hosted the awards to:

•  encourage entrepreneurial activity among design students

•  recognise design excellence

•  recognise responsiveness to the social, cultural and economic environment

•  encourage new ways of thinking about the design process

•  acknowledge creative potential

A group of three students from Swinburne University – Daniel Peterson, Samantha Austen and Jacqueline Diblasi – won the communication design section, with Limited Edition. It explores the way media and advertising exploit our innate craving for status and create the modern affliction known as ‘status anxiety’.

Through a range of research methods they established the framework for a social design experiment with a series of seven status anxiety-inducing statements, creating a language that questioned and provoked their audience.

A series of posters using these statements was placed around the university, directing viewers to an ambiguous event at a specific time and location. Upon arrival randomly selected participants received one of fifty-six handmade, limited-edition t-shirts displaying one of four statements, and they were asked to wear these throughout the following week.

Participants were advised not to speak of the experiment but to document the reactions to the t-shirts and the dialogue created. By maintaining an air of secrecy, the natural effects of status anxiety were allowed to communicate an awareness of its driving forces.

According to Limited Edition, the t-shirts continue to be worn, giving life to the project for as long as the stitching holds out.

Kevin Azzopardi, from RMIT University, won first prize in the fashion and textile design category for Forme Printing.

“The production of garments absorbs most of our time, especially when that production is driven by the hand,” says Azzopardi. “In order to speed up the making of garments, I have looked at systems that collapse processes to a minimum of tasks.”

A garment is usually printed purely for decorative purposes, but in this collection the print is elevated above mere decoration and is given a crucial functional objective.

The print is coded with construction information and informs cutting, hand stitching, sewing and other interactions between the hand and the cloth. “It is the print that provides form,” comments Azzopardi.

“Speeding up the production process allows my hand more time with the cloth,” he says. “In this collection I have used that time to develop an elaborate system of pleats, each held in place by a hand-executed stitch.”

Joanna Szczepanska, from Monash University, won the product design section, for VeggiePatch, an edible landscape for urban spaces. Using high-quality recycled materials, irrigation technology and permaculture principles it allows climate-concerned city dwellers to experience the pleasure of cultivating food in space-restricted urban areas.

Second prize for product design went to Shaun van Oorde-Grainger, from RMIT, for Phoenix Phonics, which seeks to address the needs of dyslexic learners whose major difficulty is the processing of phonetic information. Research has shown that dyslexic learners benefit greatly from multi-sensory teaching methods.

Each block represents a phoneme (the individual sounds that make up the English language) and the different sides of the blocks are engraved with the different graphemes (letter representations) for that phoneme.

When a block is placed in the writing area of the table an audio recording of its phoneme is played, while a projector underneath gives visual prompts and feedback. When multiple blocks are placed in the writing area their combined phonemes are played in order from left to right.

Leigh Ryan, from Monash University, won third prize for RAVI, a portable solar generator for small electronic appliances. The user places RAVI in the garden and opens the ‘petals’ to reveal the solar panels. The petals close once the battery is fully charged.  

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