Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.
Melbourne has been selected as the 2018 partner city for Asia’s annual flagship design industry event.
For our city to secure the Business of Design Week (BODW) partnership – held in Hong Kong from 3 to 8 December for 130,000 delegates from more than 30 countries – is a pretty historic moment. It’s the first time since the event’s 2002 inception that a city in the southern hemisphere has been appointed as a design partner. And we’re in not too shabby company either: former BODW partners have included Chicago, Barcelona, Sweden and last year, Italy.
By assuming the partnership role, Melbourne will host a design pavilion and lead a Victorian Design Trade Mission for about 170 organisations including designers, architects and universities, helping them network and gain exposure to market opportunities in Hong Kong, mainland China and beyond.
This is one of the very first international opportunities to show off the state’s top design, says Ewan McEoin, Senior Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture at the National Gallery of Victoria. And we’ll be all the richer for it. "The people of Victoria benefit from the flow-on of this project – gaining a better understanding of the contribution design makes to many aspects of our lives," he says.
Interestingly, our contribution to BODW casts aside the preconception that design is all about furniture and consumer goods by revealing that many designers in Melbourne are focused on health outcomes, from hearing aids to hospitals and prosthetics.
"Similarly, it reveals a rich vein of innovation in service design – how we access government services, transport, education,” says Ewan, “and this draws into focus the fact that Melbourne is an international leader in designing ‘soft infrastructure’ that wraps around our physical world making it more accessible and user-friendly."
What’s more, he adds, our presence at BODW shows the great contribution architecture and urban planning make to the quality of our housing and significant infrastructure such as sporting and cultural precincts.
The BODW program features more than 70 leading design speakers, conferences, forums and exhibitions and draws an audience from design and non-design firms, start-ups, SMEs, multinationals, entrepreneurs, innovators, policy makers, industry associations and design educators. In previous years, it has played host to some of the world’s biggest brands including Absolut, Airbnb, Alessi, BMW, Braun, Camper, Coca Cola, FC Barcelona, Georg Jensen, IKEA, Lamborghini, Lego, Moleskine and Samsung.
CEO of the Design institute of Australia, Jo-Ann Kellock, explains it was "not so much a surprise as a delight" that Melbourne won the partnership role and is certain it will raise our city’s standing on the world stage. "Hong Kong has long been an international hub city and the attention on Melbourne’s prolific design industry will generate a global profile for the Melbourne design community, which is boosted by our liveable city status," she says.
The partnership is also set to boost international markets for Victoria’s design sector that generates revenues of $5 billion annually, including some $400 million in design-related exports.
"Victorian design, and Victorian businesses who use design, will be shown to a broad international audience with the aim of creating export opportunities for our state," says Jo-Ann. “Designers play such a critical role in innovation and value creation and our trade mission to Hong Kong brings together designers and stakeholders to curate and prioritise Victoria’s best ideas, award-winning projects and leading technologies. The BODW showcase is an example of a successful design sector collaboration between government, peak bodies, leading educators and multiple design disciplines."
And it’s a collaboration destined to build on our existing overseas business success. China is currently the largest export market for Victorian design services: 28 per cent of all exporting Victorian design firms have clients in mainland China and one in 20 has clients in Hong Kong. They’re followed closely by other important Asian markets for Victorian design: Singapore (17 per cent) and Malaysia (15 per cent).