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Indesign Magazine
Indesign Magazine

Sydney, it’s Make or Break Time

The Sydney Design 2016 program has just been released, and asks festival-goers to consider creative design that’s a little more turbulent.


July 26th, 2016

Sydney Design 2016 will celebrate the very best of design at venues across Sydney from 2-11 September. But now in its 20th year, we can’t help but asking, has it grown up yet?

With Salone del Mobile 2016 all wrapped up and London Design Festival just around the corner, the Sydney Design organisers have just released their 2016 programme presented by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) (that’s the umbrella brand for the Powerhouse Museum, the Sydney Observatory). Since Sydney Design remains one of the very few design festivals around the world produced and managed by a museum, concerns that the event’s focus can be habitually too academic, too institutionalised, too shadily commercialised, or even too retrospective, have not gone unnoticed.

MAAS Acting Director, Dolla Merrillees is probably correct in saying Sydney Design is “unique” in its origins and offerings “at the intersection of science and technology, design and innovation, aesthetics and industry.” Squared up against the international design festival circuit, Sydney Design is small – but plays an important role in connecting our design community together from streams as broad as architecture, landscape, industrial, interiors, fashion, food, jewellery, graphic design and public programs.

Keeping previous gripes and misgivings in mind, then, it is obvious that the festival’s organisers are trying to take Sydney Design Festival in a novel, troublemaking direction. Designed around the theme ‘Make or Break’, Sydney Design 2016 explores the tensions between success and failure, disorder and creation. Bravely staring destruction, mistake and breakdowns dead in the eye, Sydney Design’s 2016 program might just be the right platform to ask how the architecture and design community can deconstruct production methods and cumbersome design histories to reach some actual answers, instead of just (more of the same) insights.

Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) NSW Councillor and Strategy Director at Frost*collective, Cat Burgess, is positive that the festival will continue to play a key function in creating productive, cross-disciplinary dialogue.“There has never been a more exciting time for design, especially in Australia. Creativity can solve old problems in new ways, and is being increasingly understood as critical to successful businesses and communities. Sydney Design Festival allow us to highlight the value of design and to celebrate the vibrancy of our industry”.

For those in Sydney throughout September – or those who can be convinced to come and visit – here are some of our must-see picks that will surely be enlightening, controversial and original.

Break It to Make It deFrost Series
What got you here, won’t get you there! At some point you have to break your business in order to make (or re-make) it. If you aren’t prepared to disrupt your own business, you risk being left behind as new players come into the market with new and better ideas.

Join Vince Frost, CEO and ECD of Frost*collective, and Andy Bateman, Founder and CEO of Everyone, as they unpack the common challenges faced by many creative businesses. ‘Break It to Make It’ is presented as part of the monthly deFrost design talks series, with this iteration happening 8 September. More information is here.

Committee For Sydney Not By Accident – Designing Sydney’s Future
Bringing together a panel of high-profile Sydneysiders to discuss their favourite places in Sydney, this event will be a celebration of the city’s best examples of urban design and place-making. It will also contribute to Committee For Sydney’s ongoing research into ‘Density Done Well’ – examining what the ingredients for success are in creating good quality liveable and loveable density.

Exploring both well-known suburbs and under-appreciated gems, this event is an opportunity to hear from the people who are shaping Sydney.

General Assembly Designing Human Experience: Physical vs Digital
A discussion on the intersection of user experience (UX) and digital design with architectural design, presented by General Assembly as part of the Sydney Design Festival.

Is there a universal law of design? Can you really divide digital and physical based on design and what can each discipline learn from each other? Great design isn’t just noticed, it’s experienced. This event brings together designers and architects creating experiences in the physical space with developers and UX and digital designers who craft the way we interact with products and services in the digital space.

Vo Trong Nghia Architects Green Ladder
Also be sure not to miss out on Vo Trong Nghia Architect’s unveiling of their Green Ladder presented as the fourth instalment of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation’s Fugitive Structures.

A latticed bamboo construction that incorporates a dense forest of natural materials, it’s a balanced and exciting reconsideration of design that is avant-garde in appearance and sustainable practice. Vo Trong Nghia Architects designed the Vietnamese pavilion for the World Expo in both Shanghai (2010) and Milan (2015). Working on a range of cultural, residential and commercial buildings, the practice also focuses on greening urban areas with long-term goals for Vietnam’s sustainability. The exhibition runs from 24 June to 10 December 2016.

Sydney Design will run from 2-11 September 2016.

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