Text: Jan Henderson
Grand Central… The Central Institute of Technology in Perth is now widely acknowledged as being one of the pre-eminent design schools for budding industrial designers in the country. Looking at the swag of accolades and awards under students’ belts, Jan Henderson asks, what’s happening in the West?
There is a revolution happening in Western Australia and it’s not secession or the mining boom. In Perth, a group of dedicated teachers and talented students is making waves in the industrial design world with outstanding results.
This hotbed of creativity can be found at the Industrial Design course, Central Institute of Technology, Perth (CIT). Peter Kitely is the course coordinator and oversees the program that incorporates object, furniture and product design with a component of design for the built environment. In relation to other design schools around the country, CIT has achieved outstanding results with many of its students recognised for their inspiring designs.
To understand what is happening at CIT, we need to look at the specifics, the course. It’s structured over a three-year period. Certificate IV or first-year students concentrate on the acquisition of basic knowledge and the broadening of their skills, the second or Diploma year is a consolidation of that knowledge and the final year or Advanced Diploma is a time of self-discovery, with each student planning and developing their own individual projects and program of work. What is unique about this course is the dynamic and creative output from the students.
Talking to Kitely is energising, he is enthusiastic about the school, other staff members and of course the students. He is at pains to point out that the school’s multifaceted approach to the industrial design course is the reason that students are making a name for themselves. He cites dedication of staff and enthusiasm of students, communication between all students and teachers, the ability to change and be flexible with course programming and the encouragement of students to reach out and develop their creativity, as some of the reasons for their success.
As a small faculty with at most 70 students at any given time, CIT has fashioned a curriculum that is varied and flexible. Kitely, an industrial designer, is the only full-time teacher; however, there are several part-time colleagues who specialise in sculpture, fine art, furniture design, cabinet making and industrial design. Kitely believes that it is important for the students to learn to draw and to be exposed to a multitude of mediums to broaden their perspectives. He champions the hands-on approach and ensures that students learn by ‘doing’ not just reading.
One of his initiatives has been to institute conversations with colleagues in Singapore and he is excited by the opportunities that these will afford in the future. The Singaporean Government is investing in design and Kitely is hoping to foster exchanges for students and staff to further the relationship. This makes sense as geographically Singapore is close to Perth and both share the same time zone. The eastern states are still an area of interest, but Kitely wants his students to reach out beyond home ground, to Europe and our close neighbour, Asia.
There are many graduates who have completed the Industrial course and are now forging ahead in the Australian product design scene. Aaron Leahy is one such young man, who has claimed success at the very beginning of his design career. As a second year student in 2011, Leahy designed a lighting product during one of the creative design student workshops. The light, Tri light, was entered and then shortlisted to exhibit at Vivid during Furnitex in 2012.
As it happens, British designer and curator Suzanne Trocmé was in town looking for new Australian products to showcase in an exhibition at the London Design Festival.
Tri light was chosen and, in London, Leahy was offered an invitation to exhibit at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. There, his product caught the eye of a US manufacturer and now Tri light is in production there. Leahy is not the only student to win awards of late. Callum Campbell, a graduate in 2013, was the Concept winner of the 2013 Staron Awards with a design for a sleek and artistic shelf aptly named Float.
While at The Edge at Decoration + Design in Sydney in February this year, two CIT students entered, were shortlisted and both were winners. Shannon Riddle won first prize in the student design category with her table design, Point 45, and Kristina Melnikova was awarded runner-up in the concept design for her lighting design, Squiggle.
It’s fair to say that industrial design is flourishing in Perth and CIT is the reason. With passionate and dedicated teachers, and talented students, CIT is producing a new generation of industrial designers that are polished, innovative and able to compete and win on the world stage. Winning isn’t everything, but it shows respect from peers, support from industry and validates the expressions of the designer. The future is exciting not just for Western Australia, but for the Australian design scene as a whole.
Lead image, The Terranos cabinet designed by Jack Frost was exhibited at London Design Week 2012. Photo by Dean Turner.