Sydney Design Festival Approaches

Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs series, Aki Inomata, 2009–16

This September will see Sydney Design Festival enter its 19th year with a remarkable showcase of the best in design the country has to offer. The organisers of this year’s festival have chosen ‘Make or Break’ as the guiding theme, examining the design process of putting forward a vision and then the necessity of revision in arriving at a well- designed final product.

Taking place across a huge range of venues from September 2-11, over 130 events will look at a broad range of design practices and principles.

Sink or Swim, Photo: Denni van Huis

Sink or Swim, Photo: Denni van Huis


On Tuesday 6 September the Australian Graphic Design Association will present Pecha Kucha: Sink or Swim. This quick-fire presentation format will bring together graphic, digital and motion designers and other iconic visual visionaries where they will be given a mere 7 minutes to outline their career insights, turning points and moments of doubt and growth. Featuring artist Ken Done, Stuart O’Brien of Houston Group & Jess Scully of Vivid Ideas it is sure to inspire all your creative aspirations and illuminate the careers of these dynamic speakers.

Kintsugi with Studio Enti, Photo: Studio Enti

Kintsugi with Studio Enti, Photo: Studio Enti


The best way to experience design is firsthand: what better way than to immerse yourself in a design process and get your hands dirty with Studio Enti. For this year’s ‘Make or Break’ theme they require you to bring along a broken piece of crockery or ceramic to repair using the traditional Japanese art of Kintsugi. This technique, where broken wares are pieced back together with a vein of gold or silver has been adapted for you to learn to bring back to life and celebrate a scar that adds a new beauty and value to an object. This forms a beautiful illustration of how the design process can expand beyond just the manufacture of beautiful and functional products and can manifest itself in processes such as the repair of a dysfunctional item through unique material science.

Skate bike, by Skate Bike America Inc, Boynton Beach, Florida, United States of America.

Skate bike, by Skate Bike America Inc, Boynton Beach, Florida, United States of America.


This expanded definition of design continues with Design Delights and Mishaps, a tour led by Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences curator Tilly Boleyn. This exclusive basement tour will look at not only the elegant, the brilliant and celebrated items in the Powerhouse Museum collection but will also encompass those items relegated by history as design ‘oddities’ and ‘failures’. Some of which are only expressed as a sketch, blueprint or prototype, others, such as the ‘skate bike’, that after production it became apparent were a design mishap.

Don't Play With Your Food! by Harriet Beex & Matt Torr

Don’t Play With Your Food! by Harriet Beex & Matt Torr


Design can express itself in the bigger picture too: take for example our modern food production and distribution systems. This can become ‘invisible’ in the course of daily life, but remains hugely important to ourselves and our environment. Great artists and designers may provide, however, a means of making this tangible to us once more. Harry + Matt, an Auckland-based design duo (consisting of Matthew Torr and Harriet Beex) have developed a sensory experience that merges gastronomy, performance and spatial design. This unique opportunity titled Don’t Play With Your Food will encourage participants to act and react to food-based stimulants in an entertaining three and a half hour food extravaganza.

But the best work of design will surely be how you, the audience, will spend the week and a half of Sydney Design Festival. Visit to shape an experience for yourself.