Michaela Webb, Creative Director at Studio Round sat down with Lou Weis, the program director of the upcoming State of Design Festival and asked him about how this year's festival program will be talking to a wider demographic, beyond design professionals.

Lou, I wanted to talk to you about how the State of Design this year is going to be able to open its programs and allow a wider demographic and audience to engage with that program. That is, not designers talking to designers, but to the general public to give an understanding of their discipline and what they do.

The critical function of design is to improve the performance and experience of a product or a service. The best way in which to explain why engaging designers is valuable to people who are not necessarily design-literate is to engage people in experiential events and the festival will do this mainly through the public program Design for Everyone, curated by Kate Rhodes.

This year a lot of design agencies are realising that if they want to communicate effectively, they should do it through dialogue rather than exhibition. A lot of the programming, like the Paper Plane Academy, can only be completed through audience participation.

Can you give us an understanding of the kind of public (non-industry) events in the program this year?

The theme for this year’s festival is Change by Design and the brief for the public program Design for Everyone was to respond to this theme; there will be 60 exhibitions and events around the city and in regional areas that respond to that theme.

Where has the theme Change by Design come from and what are you hoping to achieve with it?

Change by Design is a result of collaboration between State of Design Festival and the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development, the primary funder of the Festival.

Chris Ryan, the director of the Victorian Eco Innovation Lab, has mentioned the statistic that 70% of any product’s embodied carbon footprint is determined at the design stage.

The idea of Change by Design is that you don’t push forward with a profit motive or a social correction or any kind of strategy without having a designer embedded at the earliest possible stage of the idea development process. Simply put change is inevitable and we can make it sustainable if you design it properly.

Can we get an idea of dates and when the program will be launched?

We open on the evening of the 14th July. The first four days of the festival predominantly revolve around the city and more so, the Royal Exhibition Building with the trade show Design Made Trade.

On Wednesday the 21st the Premier’s Design Awards will be announced at the Pixel Building, Australia’s first carbon neutral commercial structure developed by Grocon and designed by Studio 505.

On the final weekend of 24/25 July it will be Melbourne Open House, which is the very simple beautiful idea to open up buildings within the city that are beautiful or interesting, whether they be heritage or new that the general public largely don’t have access to.

Thanks Lou.

Below are Studio Round's top picks for the State of Design Festival: