Above: A still from the animated film ‘The Secret Life of Things’ by Eco Innovators - the exemplary design practice for Design and the Environment. Top right: Kids Straw stool by Dale Hardiman. Part of a series of exemplary projects for Design and Visual Culture. Top far right: Orp pendant light by Christpher Boots. Part of a series of exemplary projects for Design and Visual Culture. (Photo: John Tsiavis) Bottom right: Black Magic cinema camera. The exemplary project for Design and the Economy.
Spring Issue 2013
FEATURE: MELBOURNE DESIGN NOW
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. But also the companies that are doing exceptionally well, like Black Magic, are highly specialised, servicing niche markets. Part of the success of manufacturing in Victoria is manufacturing for those niche products because we can’t compete on ubiquitous products, we can’t compete on price, but we can compete on smarts, capability and design ingenuity.
Australian manufacturers have been very slow to realise they can either keep waiting for a customer to call them and being squeezed on price or they can start making something that nobody else can make, control their set up and capacity. Many manufacturers who are going out of business are the ones that have never designed and made their own things. They were always beholden to either automotive or other companies. Some of them have transformed and identified things that they can make and sell. Some of them have embraced designers and some of them haven’t.
FI: What does this mean for the manufacturing industry? SLA: In Australia, manufacturing grew up around the service industry as contract manufacturing. This meant that manufacturers didn’t create propriety product because they were only making for other people. If we look at France, Germany, Italy, many of those manufacturers were set up differently. They invested in their own IP within their proprietary products and they work with a network of distributors and representatives to sell them.
FI: What would be your advice to manufacturers? SLA: I don’t think you can afford not to invest in designing your own proprietary product. The key is investing wisely. Make something for a market that you understand, that you can access, and that you can robustly compete within by embracing design and innovation. Melbourne Design Now will be exhibited at NGV Australia, Federation Square, as part of Melbourne Now, 22 November 2013 – 23 March 2014.