nora kinnunen


Design Redirected: the goal for a national design policy for Australia?

This article, below, was submitted to the State Library of Queensland, Asia Pacific Design Library’s new online initiative . The intent is for the online content is to develop knowledge of design throughout the Asia Pacific region. For me, it has a larger capacity to engage designers, policy makers, consumers in conversations about the agency of design in our future sustain-ability, by proposing larger questions of redirection, recoding and rethinking. This first article addresses the need for an overarching policy for design in Australia – a starting point without which we will continue to chase our tails, while the designing of our world continues regardless of our inattention.

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Design redirected: the goal for a national design policy for Australia

The Australian Design Alliance ( ) has commenced discussions, and has successfully raised money through crowdfunding, to write a submission to the federal government for a formal national design policy. As a non-affiliated member of the Queensland design community I propose that a new direction is needed for design discourse and that any future design policy needs to include goals and strategies based on an understanding of complexity of our designed and designing world.

For a design policy to be relevant for Australia’s future, we need a clear goal – a strategic direction – for design.

The agency of design is currently presented in two ways: a potential agent for economic growth and as a positive driver of the cultural sector. These contexts may legitimise some of design’s instrumental practice and can easily justify its inclusion into the national policy arena, but what can be lacking is the understanding and communication of the complexity of design’s agency, responsibility and culpability in Australia’s and our region’s future. Design is not merely a driver of all that is positive, rather it is totally implicated in the unsustainability of our modern culture.

We need to be able to deliver the solutions to the Asia Pacific region’s future challenges, and in order to do that we must pose questions that conflict with the status quo and redirect design away from the unsustainable. By creating a new imaginary of viable futures that looks towards Sustainment (the project that frames futuring actions) we could develop a long term collective strategy for design professionals, policy makers and public alike.

I also propose that we embrace a new language for the practice of design.  Contemporary rhetoric, including that of growth, development and sustainability is problematic in many ways, as it infers that economic growth can and should be achieved by calling upon sustainable design, rather than acknowledging that this growth is the very crisis that we need to address with design.

These buzz words of growth, development, sustainability, creativity, innovation, design thinking all that limit design’s agency to existing expectations within a growing restricted economy. A new language needs to be adopted that allows for envisaging alternate futures and new economies.  In this way the language of Sustainment – redirection, sustain-ability, futuring, prefiguring – is directional towards futuring actions and posits design within relational ecologies of human existence.

I ask that we reject the boundaries of the ‘design industry’ in favour of the recognition that we are all complicit in the designing of our future. While the work towards a national design policy may begin soon, I encourage everyone, not just design professionals to begin a concurrent dialogue about the potential of design redirected to create sustaining futures, to communicate radical ideas that demonstrate alternative ways of thinking, and initiate projects that have the potential to generate new economies. To adopt a new language that encourages redirection can enable the new conversations to penetrate the tradition of institutions. With this we can create a swell that engulfs the traditional design industry with a new designing that is a fundamental necessity for our future.