Last week at the inaugural Queensland Design Policy Summit, Design Institute of Australia Ambassador Peter Florentzos’s opening remarks mapped out how policy has been developed in many and varied countries around the globe. He also iterated the ways in which design can be used as a verb, not a noun. Design, the word, used as a signifier of process rather than product.

The first session started with a discussion under the heading Design and Business, which ranged widely across and in and out of the subject. Lindy Johnson took up design as a process issue, working as she did, with clients who failed to use design at all. Marek Kowalkiewicz also made insightful comments on design as practice. The second session brought up other sets of topics from a panel with a background in the science sector. Yassim Abdel- Majied proved to be articulate and engaging in the way that she addressed the issues as seen by an engineer, despite having a little less time on the microphone than she deserved.

For the third panel session, Design and Education, QUT Associate Professor Gavin Sade established a relaxed style to the session, which brought out some examples of the way design education might engage with indigenous communities and other cultures. There was also a clear commitment to the Asia Pacific region. Natalie Wright and Terry Deen reflected on the successes of the Queensland Design Strategy 2020 in ‘Building design knowledge and learning’, including QAGoMA’s APT and State Library of Queensland’s engagement with educational projects that embraced design and architecture.

Design and Cities was the last session that the moderator made clear was not to be primarily focused on the design of cities, perhaps, because criticism of some recent planning policies in Brisbane might have surfaced. However, in the end, the discussion was more about whether we see Brisbane as a ‘World City’ or Brissie, the town that never quite got its flood policy in place.

Looking back, politics never seemed to sour the debates and by the end of the panel sessions the day was feeling like a real success. Local politician Leanne Enoch, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business gave the closing remarks.  Unfortunately, the word innovate has been used and abused too many times by the Prime Minister for me to be excited by it. However, Minister Enoch’s shared thoughts on the importance of design in policy and policy making for the benefit of our Queensland’s businesses and community, were encouraging.

Lastly, it was Peter Florentzos who returned to the podium with a summary of the day’s proceedings and an invitation for Minister Enoch to add ‘Minister for Design’ to her portfolio. The conference was just a beginning, Peter announced with enthusiasm. He then declared a manifesto was needed, and with it, a renewed commitment from all of us to the development of design policy.

If we should all have a say in this policy discourse, as Peter suggests, mine would be that as well as putting the customer first, we should consider the ethical responsibility of design – and the politics of production: who makes/designs things, for whose benefit, under what conditions, and at what cost to the environment?

Maybe it’s time to revisit Ken Garland’s iconic and very influential Manifesto from the 1960s?

The QUT School of Design hosted the inaugural Queensland Design Policy Summit on Thursday 9 June 2016 as an adjunct to the international ACM Designing Interactive Systems (DIS’16) conference in Brisbane.

Image: Prof. Margaret Petty, Head, School of Design, QUT. Photo by: Chris Ahern of Villain Designs


Queensland Design Policy Summit program

Dr Charles Zuber

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