Features

9 to 5 talks: Design, Message and Courage

July 26, 2011

British designer Ilse Crawford shares her insights on the global design industry at the first of the 9 to 5 talks at this year’s State of Design.

The conversation series of ’9 to 5 Talks’ kicked off last night with one of the most highly regarded voices within the global design industry, British/Scandinavian designer Ilse Crawford.

Crawford spoke to a panel of Melbourne design professionals, addressing questions about her role as both an educator and practicing designer. Crawford’s career continues to flourish, and in her current role she wields significant creative influence in various areas of the industry. To the interest of last night’s audience, the renowned creative director, designer, brand consultant, writer and teacher has been focused across an expansive spectrum of design. Credited for seeding a handful of young European design talents, Crawford continues to push the boundaries of experimentation and strategic implementation through both her practice and as head of the Department of Man and Well-Being at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in The Netherlands.

Speaking to a room of engaged Australian designers at the Wheeler Centre last night, Crawford was quick to admit that aesthetics do not drive her design projects in the most traditional way, regardless of what you might think. As she explained, it is always the brief – and attention to specific details or objectives – that make her design practice a success. And though the best Australian designers are well in tune with this ideology, her humility and eloquent reminder was worth hearing again, first hand from the designer herself.

That said, those present were well aware of how gorgeous a space can become when treated by Crawford and her team – an always-distinctive result that ranges from posh to understated, and often screams “I’m simple, but you love it…” Subtlety is part of her charm, even if displayed poorly on a delayed Skype projection. And yet, while the art of simplicity is still vital to today’s most engaging design, Crawford was able to flip the focus on us last night, slightly changing the conversation into a lecture, to remind the audience that design is always a matter of communication and ‘message’; an act of translating values, ideals and ultimately a reflection that carries much more weight than just a brand and image.

Courage in a client, I recall her saying, is most often a fleeting element in a design project. As designers, it’s important to know how to work this productive element when it’s around, in order to maximise the potential in everything you decide to work on. But designers must also realise the correlation between this ‘courage’ and time spent in idle (too often the case in a design process). Again, she stressed the value of communication in design, and how the communicating part is our responsibility, not the client’s. After all, that is what designers are meant to do.

The 9 to 5 Talks featured talks from Ilse Crawford, Troika, Kyung-Won Chung, Milton Glaser and Gareth Pugh at the Wheeler Centre as part of State of Design.

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