I currently sit on the National Board of The SIDA Foundation. The foundation provides grants, scholarships and sponsorship that enhance the education of interior designer and decorators. I joined The SIDA Foundation because I have a deep interest in the future of my industry and want to help nurture and support it. Ours is an industry overwhelmingly dominated by small and very small business – a important sector that needs and deserves support.
In May 2015 at Melbourne’s Federation Square, the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) held their annual award program – the Australasian Graduate of the Year Awards (AGOTYA). This year I was asked to be on the judging panel. It provided me with a unique opportunity to see first hand the quality of the next generation of Australian designers but also prompted me to think back on my own career and the state of my industry more generally.
I see these awards as an important vehicle to not only recognize the diverse talents of our emerging Australian designers but also to ensure that our creative industries continue to thrive. Australia’s economy has been well served by our natural resource endowments (particularly in recent years with the mining boom), but it is also becoming clear that we need to rebalance going forward and support additional sources of growth, particularly in the services sector, including among many others, interior design and decoration.
I have also seen much change in the industry – including a growing interest in interiors and our homes as “retreats” from a increasingly busy lives (aided in no small part by Australia’s housing boom and number of reality/renovation TV shows), but also the emergence of the internet and social media as a source of promotion, information and increasingly procurement.
There have also been some new challenges brought about by these changes. To name just a few: wholesalers traditionally exclusive to designers becoming both wholesalers and retailers and marketing direct to the public; the rise of cheap imports pricing out some of our high quality local manufacturers – particularly in furniture; large retailers offering free (sometimes unqualified) design advice; and customers wanting a “look” and trading down to achieve it all at once.
As a design community I believe that we need to work harder to convince Australians of the value (both financial and emotional) we can add to their lives with good design and that quality furniture (where possible Australian made) and products are an investment like any other that can last a lifetime. In return we should be adequately remunerated for our expertise and our creative concepts.
My hope is that as the next generation of young designers step up to forge their careers, they will enjoy an industry full of opportunity for great design and designers, where artisans are supported and not forced to compete with mass produced imports.