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Smart State Designer of 2008

indesignlive.com spends 5 minutes getting to know industrial designer, Rob Geddes of PROdesign, who was recently named Queensland’s Smart State Designer of the Year.

Smart State Designer of 2008


August 11th, 2008

Queensland Industrial designer, Rob Geddes, has been announced as the 2008 Smart State Designer of the Year at the qdos (Queensland Design on Show) Awards.

The $5000 Award annually recognises a career of design excellence and a leadership role in Queensland’s design sector.

Here, indesignlive.com finds out a bit more about Rob Geddes – an intriguing designer doing great things in the Sunshine State.


What makes you smile about your job?
I can’t help but smile when clients are DELIGHTED with our concepts – as if we’ve pulled a big white rabbit out of a hat. That’s fun. That alone keeps the good ideas flowing.

Why did you become an industrial designer?
Industrial Design was all I wanted to do. I’d read about the course during Year 12 at school, and I can still remember where I sat in QUT’s Kindler Theatre for a familiarisation evening. I’ve always built things from scratch, improvised and made models. I love to draw. It all just fell into place.

I work shoulder-to-shoulder with a positive and talented team of people. It’s a job where you daily dare to dream the future, and make it happen…and we play with great toys.

Hardest thing about being a designer?

The ones that get away. Those brilliant designs that don’t get picked and the clients who won’t listen or can’t see the gems we create for them – that’s tough, that’s frustration.

And then there’s that solution you just can’t seem to come up with… it’s there, you know it’s there, you know you can do better than the last concept, but it’s just not coming. That’s when you need to work on something else, something creative and let the mind work on it in energy-saving mode. As a designer, you’re never really off duty. Examining a new package in a supermarket or the construction of a chair can put a strain on relationships.


Why Queensland?
That’s simple, it’s where I fell in love, and where most of the people I care about live. I’ve travelled, but I came back, joined up with a group of designers here, married a Brisbane girl and have two Brisbane kids, the home the whole thing. It’s a fabulous place and with such blue sky futures, anything is possible. Our Queensland style of business is relaxed and direct – I like it. But I have worked to get us to believe more in ourselves in Queensland – to lose the Queensland cringe, and to get us more international profile – its working more and more.

What is your perception of the design culture in Qld?

There’s a strong, fresh design culture in Queensland, willing to try new things – not slavishly following any particular traditional style, but willing to experiment and create new design cocktails. In my view it reflects the beach culture and resorts we have here. Their casual beach chic draws on influences from around the world, but quickly distils into a new Queensland casual. Well resolved, efficient and stylish – a sophisticated casual, confident minimalism, often with a touch of panache, yet perhaps irreverent – showing a sense of fun.

That’s a gross generalisation of course. There are so many designers here producing work as diverse as you’d get anywhere. It’s just that we somehow inject more life into our designs than those from gloomy, stuffy climes. If only we could bottle the sunshine – well, we do!

What do you find inspiring in Qld?
The colours, the sunshine, the holiday atmosphere – that affects the spirit. …and the change that’s happening all around. You only have to take a drive through the city, the improved design of our public spaces and street furniture, the indoor/outdoor lifestyle – stop at a café, where will it go next? That’s exciting.

The Qld design culture is evolving very quickly: Have you noticed a change during your time in the industry?

Absolutely. In the 70s and 80s there were only a few design studios in Queensland and a handful of industrial designers. It was all marker rendered concepts on Canson paper, pencil and ink drafting with stencilled lettering on tracing paper, and hand-made models and prototypes. As a result the designs tended to be simple shapes, geometric with simple transitions – we had to be able to detail it in plans, elevations and multiple sections. We used airbrushes for presentation! Sometimes taking a week to do one rendering. Things moved slowly. A few trends from around the world eventually got to our shores in seamail design magazines. You’d visit the uni library to thumb through those you couldn’t afford. We didn’t even have faxes. Imagine that!

Now the information at our fingertips is mind-blowing, the speed of creating accurate and convincing 3D visuals, and 3D assemblies, changing them and prototyping them has been so compressed its crazy. Now, too, clients understand the need for design because they face competition from global players that use design to great effect.

Of course these changes have happened around the world, but with Queensland, these change have happened just as we’ve been maturing as an economy, as an internationally-focussed state. The world is seeing the potential of design to value-add just as we have the capacity to deliver it locally at an international standard. Anything is possible. This is certainly the feeling I have with the Queensland design industry. …we are globally connected with the information age, and many of our designers have practiced overseas, or done work for overseas clients. A number of international designers have moved here too. …and Queensland cringe is nowhere to be seen. There’s more a quiet Queensland confidence!

If you didn’t live in Qld what would you miss the most?
Friends and family [and blue skies and short winters, and Nobby Beach].

What’s coming up for you in terms of future projects?
We’ll continue doing more and more for our clients, but I see our role evolving. Our successes build greater confidence with clients of our abilities and our vision. Rather than being the hired problem-solver and stylist we are being consulted more to advise the next big thing for them.

Of course we need to continue doing all the detailed product development work we do, but we’ll be more involved at the strategic end, as well as more involved in the follow-through with manufacture and integration into marketing.

We also intend expanding our own design development of Environmental Vehicles. We’ve set up a joint venture company and created some good designs to date, but there is much more ahead for us in this expanding area. A current project we are trying to get rolling is the development of a range of electric drive commuter buses. In this era of climate change and emissions controls and the push for mass transit solutions it is amazing that city buses have remained essentially unchanged since they left horses in the stable. We are going to change all that. Text book industrial design! Exciting stuff.

How do you keep inspired with such a challenging career?
Inspired? That’s easy. I see innovation or the possibility of innovation everywhere, and I see design detailing in so many things. Working for clients means that deciding the project is done for you – the rest is just responding to the initial brief or wish list, so the inspiration is in the HOW TO design – that’s a challenge I can’t resist. Inspiration for our own projects is more in the WHAT TO design, and comes from the most unlikely sources because I never turn the radar off.

Anything else in your future?
The state government sponsored DIA Smart State Designer of the Year award comes with a travel bursary as a prize. I’m currently planning my trip to scope-out as much as I can about world trends, design leadership and the future of industrial design in a brave new Australian context. So I should come back bristling with energy and inspiration. I’m also checking out a number of the leading Design Centres around the globe to see what lessons we can learn and to gather further ammunition for a Queensland design revolution. It’s almost like being a student again at the beginning of my foray into the world of design – exciting – and far from being jaded by years in the job I have a very real sense that design is emerging as the giant we had long believed it should be…. and as a designer, I want to be right in there shaping it.



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