Wrapping up MADA Design Week 2022

Photo: Adam R Thomas @arthomasphoto

The 11-day program, Make Possible,  featured talks, workshops, research releases, forums, exhibitions, and book launches that drew upon the extensive expertise present within the research labs and education portfolio at the department of Design.

Melbourne Design Week is Australia’s leading international design event. The program  consists of a series of exhibitions, workshops, talks, films, and tours that take place throughout 12-27 March 2022.

The 2022 program celebrated the diverse ways design could work towards a better future.

Two pillars - civic good and making good - provided a focused exploration of the main theme.

Make Possible implemented this theme through the use of its “make” manifesto:

Make transformational
explored learning experiences through creativity, curiosity and collaboration.

Make innovative
highlighted designs with new technologies, experimentation and risk taking.

Make sustainable cities
through environmental stewardship and designing beyond the human centric.

Make healthy
communities by designing for wellbeing, safety and equity.

Make inclusive
research and practice by designing with diverse people, cultures and places.

Make collaborative
creative partnerships with local and international communities, industries, institutions and governments.

Highlights of the program included: Communities: Designing for Wellbeing, Safety and Equity a panel that featured current and graduating Monash University PhD candidates; Mapping Melbourne Medtech which focused on design collaborations in healthcare with Associate Professor Leah Heiss; The launch of ‘A Design Guide for Older Women’s Housing’ at the Victorian Pride Centre; The Queer Indie Games data exhibition with Dr Xavier Ho; Retro-Fit Kit: a simulated accessible home installed in MADA Gallery; and the Making Inclusive Spaces workshop with XYX Lab.

Each event highlighted one of the tenets in the “Make” Manifesto, displaying the different components of designing a better future.

A deeper look into the week’s events.

Make Sustainable: Decolonising Design.

The Decolonising Design value driven workshop challenged attendees to incorporate decolonial and value-driven design methodology within their practice. It focused on how Indigenous values might help us independently yet collectively reimagine how to care for people, community and Country.

The workshop was led by Amy Killen, Wendy Ellerton and Dr Desiree Ibinarrriaga. Attendees were introduced to the Seven Grandfather Teachings, a collection of indigenous values from North America. The values are attached to seven North American animals.

Dr Desiree Ibinarriaga is a Nahua (Aztec), Chamula (Mayan), and Euskaldunak (Basque) woman. She is a lecturer, collaborative designer and graduate research supervisor at the  Wominjeka Djeembana Research Lab.

Desiree explained that the animals were used to guide and teach us values that we could emulate in our own design methodologies.

“So it was like how this animal teaches you through their own being and their way of knowing, doing and surviving. How they can teach you through that value that they embrace,” said Desiree.

“The beaver is about wisdom. The buffalo is about respect. The bear is about courage. The crow is about honesty. The eagle is about love. The wolf is about humility and the turtle, it's about the truth.”

“So basically, when you are defining a project you need to do it with wisdom, research and analyse with respect, ideate with courage, select with honesty, implement with love, evaluate with humility and repeat for the truth,” she explained.

Participants were asked to workshop their own values, and explain how those values could be attached to an Australian animal. They were then tasked with using these values in different care related scenarios.

Desiree reinforced the importance of embedding values in our design processes and actions.

“There is a confusion, a struggle to understand how important it is to embed a value within our process of doing something,” she said.

“It doesn't need to be a design process, even if you're an accountant, or medic, or doctor or trainer or whatever, the process of your practice can be a little bit more valuable through values, morals and ethics.”

The workshop aimed to integrate indigenous ways of knowing within design practices that had traditionally been dominated by western methodology, which do not prioritise attaching values.

“Other kinds of design processes, such as the Double Diamond, are very valuable and deep… but they are missing the kinds of values that need to be attached to pretty much be ethical or moral”, explained Desiree.

“You can discover, you can design, you can develop and deliver, but without values it's just like doing something without passion or understanding of how it needs to be.”

Make Transformational: Monash University Caulfield Campus Student Experience Day

Photo: Adam R Thomas

The Student Experience Day invited high school students (yr 10-12), interested in design futures, to Monash Caulfield Campus to experience Monash’s unique design approaches first hand. Students participated in a design making activity that aimed to demonstrate the transformative potential of design solutions that intersect designerly thinking with new technologies. This workshop was facilitated by Associate Professor Gene Bawden and Dr. Indae Hwang.

Students were tasked with developing and creating a wearable super power that responded to contemporary global challenges such as equality, the environment.

To establish their powers, the students filled out empathy maps discussing their likes, dislikes, needs and has within their teams.

Working in teams the students crafted their wearable super powers out of a range of eclectic materials. The students worked collaboratively to bring their designs to life, utilising materials such as fabrics, tinfoil, cardboard, fairy lights, rope and streamers to meet their vision.

Highlights included wearable equality goggles, a kindness megaphone that spread positivity when you spoke through it and a changeable lens that showed different perspectives of equality.

Overall the event was a huge success with students. This experience day enabled the high school students to sample Monash’s approach, in a real, face to face design project.

Make Innovative: Queer Indie Games

Photo: Adam R Thomas

The Queer Indie Games data art exhibition centred on the experiences of gamers, highlighting the importance of authentic and positive LGBTQ+  representation in the media. Through the stories, game narratives, and experiences, the exhibition presented a curated collection of queer indie games for attendees to explore and discuss.

The exhibition was facilitated by Dr. Xavier Ho, Remedios Perez Escobar and Natalie Tran.

The Queer Indie Games research focused on games made by independent developers, which dared to defy standard gaming conventions.

Dr Xavier Ho is a creative technologist and visualisation designer at XYX Lab. He is particularly interested in queer studies, in the fields of game studies and design research methodologies.

“We really wanted to look at these very unique, fringe almost, independent games, where they're typically made by one person or a small team of people with minimal budget,” said Xavier.

The exhibition built on the player research of Xavier Ho, who analysed player reviews on itch.io, to gain insights about the LGBTQ narratives and experiences present within the indie games. Queer indie games with significant intersectional representation and numerous positive reviews were presented on rainbow strips, alongside a player review.

“The exhibition is really about displaying what people's reactions were, what they were saying,” explained Xavier.

“We can use these observations as a way to understand how LGBTQ people and narratives are portrayed in the games.”

The Queer Indie Games data art exhibition also served as a showcase of the independent games that were made by and for queer folk.

“It’s a way for people to figure out what games they might be interested in. So in a way, it's also signal boosting for these games.”

“You can pick up the ribbons, read it, and you can ask us if there's any questions.”

Students were invited to collect pamphlets that highlighted each game, so they could experience the narratives themselves.

If this topic interests you, you can read more about Dr. Xavier Ho’s research here.

Make Inclusive Public Spaces

Photo: Adam R Thomas

This interactive design workshop drew from the extensive research of the XYX Lab to make inclusive public spaces by designing with diverse people, culture and places. The workshop corresponded with the XYX contribution to ‘Who’s Afraid of Public Space’, at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. ‘Keep Running’ makes visible the Lab’s data, gathered through crowd-sourcing of women and gender diverse people as they embark on outdoor leisure and sporting activities in public spaces.

The importance of data to the design discipline formed a core consideration of this workshop. The workshop highlighted how data provides the evidence that designers - and their collaborators - need to make powerful, well informed recommendations and interventions with regard to public space.

Make Inclusive Public Spaces asked participants to experience the ‘Who’s Afraid of Public Space’ exhibition prior to the workshop. The exhibition highlighted the lived experiences of women and gendered people, taking key words and typography and connecting it to data and statistics. The data indicated that no space was excluded, that no space was truly safe.

Associate Professor Gene Bawden described the aim of the workshop as promoting grassroots solutions to grassroots experiences. He highlighted the importance of bringing the public in to discuss and participate in the solutions.

The workshop invited individuals across different disciplines to participate in the collaboration process, reflecting the value of public inclusion.

“If you have experienced it, then you should be part of the making and building of the solution,” said Gene.

“You can’t just sit by and say it’s someone else's issue.”

Participants were assigned a statistic from the ‘Keep Running’ research, and tasked with articulating the issues, statistics, and story through art. The participants were provided with crafting materials to create creative solutions to the statistics.

Through creating visual representations the participants were able to address the data in a publicly accessible way.

“They were able to understand the why that lies under the data, the human experience” reflected Gene.

“There is visual power that comes with being able to make something that people respond and relate to.”

Decolonising Yourself: Identity and Privilege

This guided workshop focused on deep, personal reflections about heritage, identity and different types of privilege. Through hands-on activities participants were invited to perceive their own cultural identities through different lenses, while broadening awareness of positions they may hold in society. Dr. Desiree Ibinarriaga facilitated this workshop.

Participants started the workshop by answering questions relating to their heritage, their traditional values, worldview or totem and their purpose in life.

Desiree explained that it was essential for individuals to understand their heritage and how they positioned themselves around their values and culture in society.

“It is really important to position yourself at the beginning and understand where you're coming from, where you are, and who you are in general,” she said.

“It was kind of like understanding the physical country or community you are in, and then understanding your own heritage… and how they play within your privilege.”

The workshop aimed to leave participants with an understanding of their own privilege, and how that could affect both themselves and the people around them.

In order to gauge their level of privilege, participants were given a selection of questions, including whether they had been mocked for their accent, if their family had lived below the poverty line, if they had attended university, and their ethnicity.

After completing these questions the participants completed a reflection. Together with Desiree they discussed acts of racism that they had either experienced themselves or witnessed. They were questioned on what they did or didn’t do, and if they had the chance what they would do instead.

“It was the intention to look through yourself, your head and your values, your family and the importance of diversity and culture and privilege”, said Desiree.

The workshop closed with an incense cleansing to remove bad energies and thoughts.

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