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RMIT and HOW. come together for the Ian Howard Memorial Scholarship

With the establishment of the Ian Howard Memorial Scholarship, there is a singular opportunity to broaden horizons and experience the incredible design of Spain and Italy for one lucky student from RMIT Interior Design.

RMIT and HOW. come together for the Ian Howard Memorial Scholarship

Inaugural winner, Anh Tran (centre).

Everyone knows that support is required to enable the next generation of designers to grow and make their mark in the architecture and design industry bu most only talk about it. Now, however, with a scholarship at RMIT Interior Design in partnership with Paul Howard, Faith Sun and HOW., words have become actions through the inaugural Ian Howard Memorial Scholarship.

As a pioneer of Australian design, Ian Howard contributed so much to the now burgeoning design industry that has become such an integral part of our everyday life. As founder and CEO of renowned furniture manufacturer, Aristoc Industries, Howard changed the face of the industry. He appointed Grant Featherston as chief design consultant to his company in 1957 and this, along with many other initiatives, helped chart the course of mid-century design in our country.

Not only did Ian Howard give voice to Australian design but, under licence, his company produced furniture from such luminaries as George Nelson, Charles Eames and Fritz Hahene and when, in 1984, the company became CoDesign, a major contract furniture manufacturer and distributor was established.

Faith Sun and Paul Howard.

Today, Paul Howard, Faith Sun and HOW. are continuing the legacy of Ian Howard, supplying architects and designers with high-quality, sustainable furniture and encouraging collaboration and connection with clients, designers and manufacturing. But at the very heart of HOW. is the encouragement of young designers to help them explore and discover their craft through a partnership with RMIT.

The Ian Howard Memorial Scholarship was established to recognise a third-year Bachelor of Interior Design (Honours) student at RMIT. To be considered for the annual scholarship, students are invited to compile a portfolio of work that demonstrates their academic achievements highlighting excellence in design and technology. Applications are then shortlisted to three students who present their work to HOW., with the ultimate winner decided by a panel from RMIT. This accolade comes with a cash component of $15000 to enable travel for the lucky and obviously talented recipient.

Paul Howard explains: “The award is completely in respect and honour of my father Ian Howard who was considered inherently the pioneer of the mid-century commercial furniture industry. He was really the initiator of so many incredible things so it was an easy decision [to establish the scholarship]. One of the drivers and aims is to support emerging designers coming into the trade.”

Related: UNSW’s Red Centre becomes the Anita B. Lawrence Centre

Photograph courtesy of Ian Howard.

RMIT School of Architecture and Design was the obvious school of choice to enable the scholarship, initiated through a conversation with Geoff Fitzpatrick, design ambassador at the Design Institute of Australia.

Professor Martyn Hook, associate deputy vice-chancellor engagement and associate deputy vice-chancellor precincts and partnerships states, “this is an amazing opportunity for a young designer to get out into the world and start to connect. From our perspective, it’s really about how we think RMIT is going to be driving its engagement with philanthropy, to be based around student experience and industry connectivity with partners who share our values and our passion for design.”

The winner of the inaugural award in 2023 is Anh Tran, an undergraduate working at Carr who adds, “I was really inspired by the spirit of Ian Howard and how he encouraged young people. At the same time, when I look at his legacy and that he worked with so many great designers such as Mary Featherston, I realised that I feel inspired to keep learning and developing myself. One of the key components of the scholarship is about technology and innovation and this relates to what I have been doing. You need the process of learning but to never stop or be happy with just one outcome which means that you must look back in improving design. The idea of reflecting and refining is something that I really enjoy in design.”

Photograph courtesy of Ian Howard.

Tran will enjoy the ultimate pleasure and privilege of travelling to Spain and Italy to experience European-based furniture design and manufacturing first-hand. Included in the itinerary is a visit to the Actiu factory in Castalla, Spain, connecting with RMITs European Innovation Hub in the Barcelona design district of Poblenou. She will also have the opportunity to explore Salone del Mobile in Milan, Italy with a journey to Mornico al Serio in Bergamo for a tour of the Pedrali factory and a stopover in Venice.

It’s a wonderful chance to extend the horizon of a young interior design student as she visits the creative powerhouses of Spain and Italy and can be inspired in her own professional journey.

“I just want to see what is out there in the world. I realise that if I can open up my perspective, in terms of what the potential of design and interior design is in general, I can expand my ideas and thinking,” says Tran.

Perhaps the last word should come from Paul Howard as he explains what he hopes the scholarship will provide: “It’s something that I never had the benefit of myself. And I can say that if I had had the experience of travel, it would have changed the course of my career dramatically, which is one facet of the award. And the other aspect is just the pure satisfaction of seeing emerging designers land in the workplace, beginning to produce innovative stunning interiors – utilising their education and ‘design journey experiences’ with a strong command over the inclusion of suitable finishes and furnishings, we get a lot of enjoyment out of that.”


RMIT University

Emma Byrnes (RMIT images)

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