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We like big design weeks (and we cannot lie)

Melbourne Design Week has released this year’s program, and it’s dramatically bigger than last year.

  • My Canvas exhibition KVDRAT. Pigeons by Christien Meindertsma.

Melbourne is a city hooked on design, so it’s only fitting that they dedicate a week of their annual calendar to its exclusive celebration. Melbourne Design Week, an initiative of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in partnership with the Victorian state government, is a citywide event with a global reach. This year, the event just so happens to coincide with the NGV Triennial, and the resulting program is correspondingly huge.

“It’s dramatically increased in size,” says Ewan McEoin, Senior Curator within the NGV Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture. “We launched very quickly last year because of the timing with the state government, but this year we’ve had a whole year to work on it.

“With the Triennial, we’ve also got a massive exhibition here now and a lot more critical mass to go with it. The public appetite is significantly larger. The whole idea was to link the design industry with the audience of the NGV, and to build a satellite program around that.”

Common Resources by Dale Hardiman, on exhibition as part of DESIGNWORK 02, presented by Sophie Gannon Gallery.

Common Resources by Dale Hardiman, on exhibition as part of DESIGNWORK 02,
presented by Sophie Gannon Gallery.

As usual, the event hub will be within the NGV, which will open up its gallery spaces and conference rooms for a wide range of design exhibitions, talks and workshops around the 2018 theme of Design Effects. However, the reach of Design Week will this year extend much further from its city centre, filling galleries and various outposts not only in Melbourne but also in “Melbourne”.

“We like to have a theme to help make sure the satellite program responds in a unified way,” says Ewan. “Last year was Design Values, and Design Effects leads on from that. What we’re exploring is how design is affecting the world around us, and asking, ‘What effects do we want to increase and decrease?’.”

The responses to the theme have been diverse, touching on environmental concerns (such as in a large-scale commission by Studio Formafantasma, which looks at the use of precious metals in electronics), the effect of 3D printing on design (in Alterfact’s Ornament is Fine exhibition), to works that explore positive contributions to ageing, urban development, security, and the increased prevalence of Indigenous design.

formaFantasma has completed a large-scale exhibition.

formaFantasma has completed a large-scale exhibition.

Melbourne Design Week is one of those initiatives with a magnetic influence, attracting and incorporating a range of independent initiatives. One of these is Open House Melbourne, which has announced the launch of a new spin-off for Melbourne Design Week 2018 called Open State. This new program “reveals and celebrates a network of leading Victorian design innovators including commissioners of design, designers, design studios, design researchers, design educators, and manufacturers.” The same ‘open access’ model of Open House will be adopted for Open State, giving visitors a temporary green light to buildings such as Jardan and Schiavello’s respective headquarters, Medibank, the Australian Synchrotron, the VCA teaching workshop, and various sites of Indigenous significance.

In addition to the countless exhibitions, the Melbourne Design Week program includes no less than 120 talks and workshops. For these coveted speaking slots, the NGV has been scouting far and wide.

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“What we enjoy is seeing the strong public engagement with the design sector, and the coming together of international guest curators and critics,” says Ewan. “We’re bringing a whole crew out. One that I’m really looking forward to will be on 19 March. It will be a panel of about ten leading curators [from] around the world looking at the theme of Design Effects, talking about how they see design shaping the world around us, and the role of the provocateur. [The talk itself is called Design Effects: Idealism and Activism.]”

Melbourne Design Week 2018 will run from 15 to 25 March 2018 in various locations around the city (and beyond). The full program can be found at

The NGV is also on the hunt for its next Architecture Commission – get your designs in now.

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