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Learning from Saturday Indesign’s Design Discussions

This year’s Saturday Indesign was bigger and better than ever before! Alongside the partying and networking, a series of panel talks on the hot topics in design provided insight and inspiration for the whole day.

Learning from Saturday Indesign’s Design Discussions

Taking place across the three design districts in Melbourne on 2 September, Saturday Indesign 2023 featured a packed schedule with 34 exhibitors and over 2000 architects, designers and design lovers in attendance. 26 different locations across Melbourne’s CBD, Richmond and Collingwood played host to a variety of events, while the day culminated with hundreds attending the Saturday Indesign Afterparty at Industry Lanes. A very special thank you goes to our transport partners, Neolith, and bag partners, Living Edge.

Saturday Indesign is filled with fun – anyone who stayed late at the Afterparty can attest to that – but it’s also a day for some serious design thinking and knowledge sharing, not to mention the opportunities for networking and building relationships across the industry. This year’s Design Discussions formed a core part of the program throughout the day and covered a wide range of topics, from wellbeing at work to the experiences of graduates in architecture. We delve into the panel talk topics and provide a comprehensive guide to the stellar selection of expert speakers who inspired us.

Publish Me!

Senior figures from across media, marketing and PR came together at Ownworld in the Collingwood Precinct to discuss how to read today’s media landscape and stand out from the crowd.

Led by Indesign editor, Alice Blackwood, the discussion covered tactics for cutting through the noise and advice for making your news newsworthy. How do you gain traction with editors and what makes a good pitch? On the supplier side, meanwhile, the question turned to gaining traction with their A&D audiences by using quality inspired content that is outside the norm. In today’s complex media landscape, tips and tactics for social media were also front and centre – including critical advice on how, when and of course what to post.

Panellist and founder of Communications Collective, Genevieve Brannigan, brought her many years of experience in media and was expert in her insights. Manuela Millan, founder of Meanwhile in Melbourne, spoke from her first-hand experience as both a publisher and designer – and the audience really hung off their words. Overall, this design discussion emphasised the importance of ‘telling your story’, staying authentic to yourself and your brand, publishing with integrity, and the power of good copywriting.

Designing for Sensory Wellbeing

Hames Sharley director, Sonja Duric, shared her fascinating research on neurodiversity and creating environments that holistically cater to the senses. Duric is part of a team behind a research project – The Working Brain – which focuses on mental health and neurodiversity in the built environment.

Duric presented some of her insights at a Saturday Indesign event hosted at Surface Gallery with Style Timber Floor in the Collingwood precinct. The team behind Working Brain explain the aims underpinning their research: “We want to test ideas and experiences, engage with the community and capture data that can be translated into positive outcomes in the built environment. We are researching from the viewpoint of the designer, and our multidisciplinary team includes a psychologist and psychiatrist. We also have personal lived experiences which  motivates us to undertake this research.”

The multidisciplinary nature of Duric’s research is particularly exciting and chimed well with Saturday Indesign’s ability to bring together all kinds of diverse voices across the design community. In the context of workplace design, Duric talked compellingly and insightfully about ensuring that spaces are not only visually appealing but also emotionally enriching and sensorially engaging.

Design Investment: A Journey of Sustainable Luxury and Timeless Value

Kicking off the day at Winning Appliances’ stunning Richmond showroom was a panel talk about investing in quality design and the points where sustainability and luxury overlap. The Saturday Indesign crowds gathered early and packed out the seating area as the panellists shared their stories. Indesign assistant editor and moderator, Timothy Alouani-Roby, was joined on-stage by Freya Robinson, associate at Fender Katsalidis, Harry Boileau, general manager at Winning Appliances, and Luke Stokes, associate at SJB.

The discussion began with the thorny question of how designers decide what they can actually compromise on in a project. The panellists each brought a unique perspective with their different positions in the design industry: Luke as an architect, Freya an interior designer, and Harry as a product supplier.

A crucial insight centred around re-framing the question of luxury as unique to individual needs and non-prescriptive. The panellists then discussed how luxury relates to sustainability, particularly in terms of the maxim, ‘buy well, buy once’. Quality products, whether specified by a designer or chosen by a consumer, constitute an important dimension of sustainability in terms of lifespan and durability. With an audience show-of-hands, attention was also drawn to the widespread importance of generational items of furniture and objects that can simply stand the test of time. The designers also noted the increasingly significant consideration of re-use and retrofitting when plotting out a project from the very beginning.

Illuminating perspectives

In the intimate and beautifully designed AJAR showroom, an international panel gathered to discuss lighting. The talk at this Collingwood Precinct venue was hosted by Indesign Media assistant editor, Jarrod Reedie. Rebecca Martinez, international area manager at Santa & Cole, had travelled all the way from Barcelona to appear at Saturday Indesign; she shared insights from her travels across the world, particularly design inspiration from Scandinavia and the benefits of travelling with your own portable light.

Martinez was joined by Liz Ride from Studio Tate and Sonia Simpfendorfer, director of interior design at Nexus Designs. Illuminating insights from each covered the evolving trends and new technologies in lighting, as well as general questions of ambience and atmosphere.

Well(beings) at Work

The meeting points of wellbeing and workplace continue to set new agendas across the design industry. Jan Henderson, editor and program director of the INDE.Awards, was on hand at Tait in the Collingwood precinct to moderate a panel featuring Jo Dane, founder of Educology, and Dale O’Brien, partner at Gray Puksand.

It was all about the post-pandemic context, with the question of wellbeing placed at the centre of today’s people-led working environments. The panellists discussed how wellbeing continues to define our emotional and physical connection with work, diving into biophilic design and cool product innovations that ensure a healthy connection to nature in the future of work.

Growing Graduates into Leaders

In the impressive Brickworks Melbourne Design Studio, part of Saturday Indesign’s CBD Precinct, the exciting voices of young leaders in architecture and design were focused on the journey of graduates across the industry. Moderator Timothy Alouani-Roby of Indesign Media first asked each panellist to share their first experiences of professional practice, revealing some very different trajectories. Hayball associate, Emma Parkinson, has worked in practice in some form throughout her studies, while Brahman Perera, interior designer and founder of the eponymous studio, initially struggled to find work after university. Daniel Moore, meanwhile, tells a varied story, with experience running his own practice and as the current Victorian State Manager at the AIA.

One of the key insights was that wide-ranging experience is a healthy thing for growing graduates into leaders. In particular, the panellists drew attention to the importance of ‘people skills’ and building relationships. An intriguing question was raised as the designers discussed the idea of ‘fake it until you make it’ – all agreed on the danger of this approach, but also spoke about the importance of learning to be comfortable with uncertainty in the profession.

Each panellist also provided fascinating and constructive thoughts on architecture education, with a general idea emerging that students would benefit from more exposure to practice during their time at university. Designers and members of the public gathered for the talk, but it was the students in the audience who seemed especially inspired (perhaps to become the next generation of leaders in the profession), with several staying behind to continue the discussion with the panellists after the event.

Australian Designed & Made: Successful Design Collaborations

What does it mean for a design collaboration to be successful? What are the challenges and rewards of manufacturing locally in 2023? These were just some of the topics under the microscope at this Richmond Precinct event hosted by Cosh Living and Cantilever. Indesign Media’s Jarrod Reedie was joined by a panel of renowned designers and business owners:  Justin Hutchinson from Kett, Travis Dean and Kylie Forbes (both Cantilever Interiors).

From these positions of great experience, the panellists shared fascinating insights into how their brands began working together to celebrate local design. It was a first-hand account of how different operations can come together to form a successful and impactful collaboration in design.

Hybrid At Heart: Future of Kitchens and Bathrooms

The future direction of kitchen and bathroom design was the hot topic at this panel talk hosted by Sub-Zero Wolf, e&s and Omvivo in Saturday Indesign’s CBD Precinct. Aleesha Callahan, editor at Indesign Media, was on hand to chair the discussion with panellists Michael Drescher Director (DKO), John Bornas (creative director, Workroom) and Mim Fanning (interior designer and founder-principal of Mim Design).

From appliances and textures to colours and finishes, all aspects of design in these pivotal parts of the home were up for discussion, with the panellists providing plenty of insight and inspiration. It was especially important given the time most of us have spent at home in recent pandemic years, so the guests drew attention to some of the latest design trends coming out of this hybrid era.

Designing for Beauty and The Environment

An esteemed panel of speakers came together at Jardan in the Richmond Precinct to discuss balancing aesthetics with environmentally conscious design. In particular, the panellists shared inspirational insights into new and unexpected ways of making these two spheres come together. The topic was a crucial one, given the climate crisis as well as the need for designers to do what designers do best – make aesthetically rich spaces for us to use.

The panel explored the brands the brands, product designers and architects pioneering a new course in future-focused design and manufacturing. Led by Indesign Media’s Aleesha Callahan Editor, the speakers were Nick Garnham and Max Cairns – director and head of design at Jardan respectively – as well as Sally Evans, director of graphic design and product development at Nexus Designs.

Don’t be Afraid of Colour and Pattern

This design discussion wore its (colourful) heart on its sleeve, and the message was all about how to be bold with colour and pattern. Arthur G, part of the Richmond Precinct for this year’s Saturday Indesign, was the setting and Bree Leech ­– interior designer, photographic stylist, Dulux Colour forecaster and stylist at large – moderated the panel talk. Interior designer, Ruby Shields (WOWOWA) and Stephanie Moffitt (design director at Mokum) joined Leech to attack the beige and minimal in design.

The panellists shared their own bold visions of how to design with daring colour. They celebrated new approaches to styling through pattern, colour, texture and form – we were certainly left inspired to use all of these and more in designs that are expressive and eye-catching!

For the Love of Art

At the atmospheric K5 showroom nestled in the busy streets of the Collingwood Precinct, this design discussion focused on bringing art into design projects and all kinds of spaces. Making sure that art was given due thought and consideration, the panellists sought to challenge the way we think about art – specifically drawing attention to how your artistic choices might relate to a wider space. 

Aleesha Callahan, editor at Indesign Media, was joined by contemporary Australian Artist, Dean Bowen, CEO of K5 Furniture, Erna Walsh, and general manager of commercial projects and global business at HIDA, Tetsuya Ozaki. The panellists made an important point about the importance of investing in quality art and craftsmanship in order to enjoy an object in all its durability and long lifespan. The attention spanned across furniture, paintings, sculpture, lighting and functional ware to ask how art and craft infuse everyday life with character and joy.

Travel-tecture: Is Sustainable Luxury the Future of Travel and the Places We Stay?

The question of luxury and where it meets with sustainability was again up for discussion, this time at Reece & Neolith in the Richmond Precinct. Editor and INDE.Awards program director at Indesign Media, Jan Henderson, convened a panel of experts comprising Brenton Smith, director at Bates Smart, and Hayley Mitchell, principal at Mitchell & Eades, to discuss sustainable luxury through the lens of travel. 

The panel focused on post-pandemic holidays and resort living, with a particular emphasis on the changing dynamics of demand. The speakers drew attention to how consumers are looking for hospitality that is both sustainable and engages with local culture. With hotel and experiential hospitality sectors front of mind, it was a journey into the new age of adaptable design.

With so many ideas up for discussion and a long list of expert speakers to dissect them, it’s easy to see why Saturday Indesign is such a thrilling, inspirational and action-packed day of design. The event will be back in 2024 – and this time it’s in Sydney! In the meantime, make sure you check out the program highlights from the 2023 Design Discussions available here.

The Saturday Indesign team would also love to hear about your experiences if you were in Melbourne for this year’s big day. Share your stories with us at #saturdayindesign and see more highlights at Saturday Indesign Instagram!

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