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Those companies that are able to embrace design, lean manufacturing, and new technologies, are the manufacturers that have given me that sense of optimism. They’ve had to go through a process of transformation to make themselves leaner and more agile, more like thoroughbreds, in order to weather and perform.

Top left: Palace Table by Gregory Bonasera. Part of a series of furniture and lighting projects for Design and Visual Culture. Bottom left: Sticks and Stones stool and table by Ash Allen, also part of Design and Visual Culture. Right: Simone LeAmon, curator Melbourne Design Now. (Photo: NGV Photo Services)

hasn’t been the space in the cultural sectors to sufficiently celebrate and investigate it. What I’ve come to learn about designers in Melbourne is that there’s so much creativity, smarts, meaning, emotion and generosity embedded in the sector. Many people doing good work, and there have been very few avenues to present this output on an accessible public stage. Melbourne Design Now can harness the attention of the general public audience at NGV and give rise to great conversations and catalyse future action. I’m really hoping that the design sector will see this as a call to action – to get more motivated and look towards participating in more of these types of events. The moment designers can see it as being their cultural duty to present, investigate and to take interest in the work of the sector, the more the sector will accelerate for everyone in it. FI: Has this informed your view of what design is? SLA: The one thing that I have learnt is that design crosses many subjects and many disciplinary fields. So when we say the word design, we would be wise to be more open to it being anything and potentially everything rather than a very specific type of production.

What’s happened in Australia is that we’ve fallen into a trap of thinking of design as furniture, objects and artefacts alone, which comes out of the atelier or studio. The reality is that Australia has had a proud history of design but it is configured in ways that draw less magazine attention. For example there are very few places in the world that have the capacity not only to design but to also engineer, build and deliver a car or any vehicle from start to finish. We need to start drawing a new conversation out. Australian design isn’t only about the designer-maker or design for small batch production runs. It has much greater consequences and greater intelligence than this. Design is an agency for thinking about what we want in the world. It’s not pure process and it’s certainly not just about providing visual solutions. FI: A lot of the objects you have curated are not only designed in Melbourne but also made here. What have you discovered about the health of the manufacturing industry? SLA: I’ve always said that design and manufacturing are natural collaborators. And for too long, we’ve been talking about design

over here and manufacturing over there. I really believe the key to encouraging a more optimistic view of manufacturing locally is talking about design and manufacturing together. Certainly, I know that designers think their opportunities are constrained because of this apparent perception that there is no manufacturing locally. That is just not quite right. As a designer here, you need to get to know what is happening in manufacturing locally. The sector here isn’t the same as it is in Europe; it is built upon a completely different service industry – of contract and shop manufacturing. If the design sector and manufacturing sector could come together (as the design and manufacturing sector) rather than two different sectors, we would have a tremendous environment because the designers are pretty smart people and the manufacturing capabilities, expertise and capacity that I see in local manufacturing is really robust. It is also apparent that some rearticulation needs to occur. Sometimes, manufacturers are caught in a paradigm of doing business as they would have 10 years ago – they’re finding it very hard to evolve into the present. Those companies that are able to embrace design, lean manufacturing, and new

Furnishing International Spring 2013  
Furnishing International Spring 2013