Queensland’s ‘maker’ culture is a growing force and will be explored at Brismakerfest when international and local ‘makers’ and designers take over SLQ, The Edge on Saturday 3 June to share their knowledge and skills.

At the BrisMakerFest, hear from Tom Allen who is an award-winning design strategist and social entrepreneur working passionately on projects with Seven Positive which generate positive social impact. He will be speaking on the topic of delivering innovative and effective products and services.

We spoke to Tom about his day-to-day routine and the real value of design for current and future generations.

Tell me a little bit about what you do day-to-day and how you made your break in your career?

I’m lucky to work with a mix of really inspiring people and have a lot of variety in each week; no one day is ever really the same. I really enjoy working from a range of different spaces, whether it is a client boardroom, university studio or workshop, school classroom, cafe, co-working space or my office. Have you ever been so involved in a project that you begin to suffer tunnel vision and find it hard to see things from a new perspective? I think experiencing this daily variety, reduces that risk! Working with a great bunch of different entrepreneurs, social innovators, business people, creatives, educators and students helps to continually challenge me and face problems with a fresh viewpoint.

A ‘normal’ day may include facilitating a workshop or course to empower people in government, the private or NFP sector with tools, processes and a culture of design, risk-taking and innovation. It might see me interviewing a leader for the Impact Boom blog and podcast; I’ve committed to publishing new insights each week. A normal day could see me delivering a lecture or workshop to university students, writing a trend report, designing new business models, strategising with school leadership or business owners, running programs with teachers and school students and learning a lot along the way.

Most would agree that if you’re passionate about what you do it comes a lot more easily. I’ve found that passion, combined with jumping in the deep end and getting outside of my comfort zone have provided me with the best opportunities to improve my practice.

Where do you think the value of design or ‘making’ is in your field?

If you’d asked me this question straight after graduating from university in 2005 my answer would have been very different. Since graduation, I’ve been very fortunate to travel, live, study and immerse myself in different cultures around the world. Those experiences really opened my eyes to life beyond Brisbane and Australia. It made me realise that we live in a very lucky country and it taught me a lot about the real value of design.

We have enough landfill and we certainly don’t need more of it…

I discovered that we really don’t need new ‘designer’ chairs, expensive consumer goods and flashy new gadgets that quickly become outdated and obsolete once a new season arrives. We have enough landfill and we certainly don’t need more of it, but parts of the design community can be quick to celebrate the design of new ‘stuff’ while misunderstanding the potential consequences.

To me, the true value of design lies in using it as a tool to respond to real world problems. We have an endless list of challenges, both on our doorstep and internationally. Design is a very powerful tool to bring people together, to identify the root of problems and to respond with innovative ideas and initiatives that create positive social and environmental change.

Embedding the right design mindset in our citizens and future generations will help create more resilient communities, capable of responding to change. Design can help prepare people to confront challenges, take risks and create a more equitable world.

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation simply means turning ideas into value.

So where does creativity and design come into the equation? For me, creativity is really about the generation of new ideas and design is what connects creativity and innovation.

We need more than good ideas to tackle the challenges that confront us. As a community, we need to know how to turn these ideas into action that creates value. Practiced well, design can take us from the ‘ideas boom’ to the ‘impact boom‘.

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