In 2013, Sydney Design, one of the world’s oldest running design festivals, decided to become more inclusive. As one of the few design festivals produced by a Museum, the festival is all about engaging audiences around design. What better way to do this than to open up the design process to a much wider group of people.
The Powerhouse Museum has a long tradition of using the competition platform as a way of sourcing and generating new, innovative and exciting content. Exhibitions such as Love Lace and Trainspotting are recent examples that have inspired both professionals and amateurs to be a part of the creative process. During Sydney Design’s first decade, the Museum staged the annual ‘Young Designer of the Year’, open to both professional and amateur designers. Of course, there is a valid argument that this doesn’t always produce the desired quality and that certain sectors of the professional design community can become disengaged – but ultimately it is about seeking genuine engagement with a much wider group of people.
Sydney Design’s essential message is that design impacts on everyday life and culture and that good design is an elusive and controversial commodity. Sydney Design aims to democratise and nurture design through the combination of events and exhibitions encouraging the interplay between the consumer, the designer, the process and the product. In addition, the festival provides an ideal space for engaging in contemporary debates around design.
Once such critical debate is the changing nature of content creation and the way in which this impacts on the work of a range of creative industry professionals. The internet and social media have changed the way in which we work and live – providing dynamic platforms for real democratic engagement and creativity whilst at the same time creating a flurry of misinformation, low grade or amateurish work and at times, unprofessional or even socially unacceptable behaviour. In any case, it cannot be ignored. Crowd sourcing models are here to stay and they are a legitimate way to generate creative responses – whether it’s a poster design for Beirut Design Week or a crowd funding campaign to secure the latest tooling for the more efficient manufacturing of a commercial product. In addition, it’s not uncommon to see a range of models both conventional and more experimental operating simultaneously in order to achieve the outcomes of any creative project.
The Sydney Design poster competition was being run through the Creative Allies website and invited designers to create a poster for Sydney Design 2013. In addition to the prize money offered, the Museum would have engaged the winning designer for further work and remuneration required to roll out the winning design into a more comprehensive marketing campaign.
Being a contemporary design festival is about staying fresh and relevant and to some degree, being willing to take some creative risks in the way in which you work. Crowd sourcing is not the answer for every creative project – but used judiciously and with a certain amount of good will and respect for experimentation, it can produce astounding results.
A few days into the competition to design a Sydney Design poster, submissions were suspended by Creative Allies, and then confirmed by the Museum, as the proportion of non-compliant, offensive and potentially damaging responses was disproportionately high. The temporary suspension allowed the Museum to take some time to evaluate the responses and feedback from the design community and to speak with a number of designers who had expressed strong views about crowd sourcing. Unfortunately, for the designers who were keen to enter (or who have entered), the Museum has now made the difficult decision that the competition process had been compromised and will be suspended for this year.
The Museum will now revert to the standard government processes for graphic design commissioning. We look forward to working with the selected designer to realise the full Sydney Design marketing campaign for 2013.