Every year, Melbourne hosts the State of Design Festival, an event that celebrates the valuable contributions made by various design disciplines to our city. Under the theme of Change by Design, this year's festival aims to provoke public discourse around that fashionable buzzword 'sustainability'.
“It's about positive change where we can,” says festival curator Kate Rhodes. “Change in the broad sense can be transitional, revolutionary and transformative. It's about making things more possible.”
The festival breaks down close to 100 events into four categories targeted at different design audiences, but it's the segment Design for Everyone that really draws the crowd. Encompassing fashion, architecture, interiors, landscaping and food, Design for Everyone is a public and cultural program of intriguing talks, workshops and exhibitions.
The pop-up 'Edible Tapestry Tales' event, hosted and created by Francesca Unsworth and Rachel Khoo, will be a particular program highlight that is expected to bring in both food and design aficionados. Taking place in the famous Victorian Tapestry Workshop, 'Edible Tapestry Tales' will slow down eating for three nights in a six-course feast that incorporates local food products and pays tribute to its historical setting. Integrating the tapestry theme into a dining spectacle, the event acts as a challenge to our fast-food society, asking diners to become active rather than passive consumers.
Also a feature of the Design for Everybody program is Look.Stop.Shop, an eye opening design-led walk through Melbourne's retail centre. During the festival, the public will be given an opportunity to see 'sustainability focused' window displays and in-store installations by traders, boutique shops and department stores such as Myer, Gorman, Swensk, Alphaville, Alice Euphemia and Format Furniture.
Those with a fashion bent should visit the performance 'Lace by Design', a mobile fashion stage created by MaterialByProduct and presented by the National Gallery of Victoria. As a recipient of the much-coveted Premier's Design Award, MaterialByProduct are a design label known for their ability to harness ambiguous moments in the design process and challenge the separation between design disciplines. Occupying the space between art, fashion, interiors and architecture, MaterialByProduct has spent years exploring the reinvention of materials. For ‘Lace By Design’, MaterialByProduct are re-using curtain fabrics to create a series of stunning garments.
These pop-up events are just some of the ways in which the festival is encouraging wider participation in the design industry. Once viewed as an elitist enclave, the design industry has grown cognisant of the fact that talking about design shouldn’t be confined to their peer groups. As Rhodes explains, the success of the festival is largely attributed to “designers nominating the general public as [their] primary audience”.
The public is interested in design and the popularity of the State of Design Festival demonstrates this in numbers. Over 130,000 local and international visitors attended last year's festival, making it one of the most popular events on the city’s festival calendar. Rhodes attributes this statistic to the program's variety and accessibility. “The name Design for Everybody really rings true,” she says. “We invite everyone to attend. You don't have to be design literate to appreciate what's on offer.”
A look at this year’s State of Design program suggests that now more than ever, design can really help to innovate, promote sustainability and add value to business and society. As Rhodes remarks, “People care about design, it really can improve their lives.”