NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

An Indigenous voice in design: Six years of solid impact … Looking back and connecting the dots

In 2016 I wrote an article for NiTRO titled “Styling Australia’s New Visual Design Identity”, which sought to explore how to incorporate the amazing features of Indigenous iconography into design without denigrating or disrespecting the original owners and creators.

By Dr Russell Kennedy 

The International Indigenous Design Charter was officially launched at the 2017 World Design Summit in Montreal, Canada.

In 2016 I wrote an article for NiTRO titled “Styling Australia’s New Visual Design Identity”. The article spoke of a Deakin University research initiative called the Australian Indigenous Design Charter – Communication Design which sought to explore how to incorporate the amazing features of Indigenous iconography into design without denigrating or disrespecting the original owners and creators. The article concluded:

 “if we change the way we look at things, then the things we look at will need to change”.

Both Australian and International Indigenous Design Charters have been recognised with multiple awards including the International Good Design Australia Awards and Victoria’s Premiers Design Awards … It has been embedded in design briefs, particularly within design competitions and submissions for major civic projects.

In 2016 the Charter had been endorsed and published online by the Design Institute of Australia (DIA). The Deakin research team had also just received a DFAT Cultural Diplomacy grant (Commonwealth of Australia) to expand the project’s scope and to develop an International Indigenous Design Charter. I’m please to say that the field trip to the Nordics titled, “Was.Is.Always: South to Northen route to an International Indigenous design Charter” did go ahead including a series of workshops.

The Was.Is.Always project explored issues surrounding the use of Indigenous knowledge in design practice. Dr. Meghan Kelly, Prof. Brian Martin (Bundjalung/Muruwari/Kamilaroi) and I, supported by seven Indigenous students/research assistants, led workshops in Greenland, Denmark and Sweden with Inuit and Sami community members, academics, and design practitioners. The outcomes of this field research were merged with other related workshops and meetings in the Americas and Asia to form the first draft of the International Indigenous Design Charter (International Indigenous Design Charter: PDF).

The International Indigenous Design Charter was officially launched at the 2017 World Design Summit in Montreal, Canada. Charter co-authors Dr. Meghan Kelly, Mr. Jefa Greenaway (Wailwan/Kamilaroi), Charter Ambassador Ms. Elly Chatfield(Kamilaroi) and I introduced the International Indigenous Design Charter to a global audience of design practitioners and government stakeholders. Serendipitously, this was also the year the Uluru Statement from the Heart, was ratified at the National First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru. The Uluru Statement calls for a constitutionally entrenched First Nations Voice to Parliament, and a Makarrata commission to oversee a process of treaty-making and truth-telling. This milestone Australian document reinforces the need for the Indigenous Design Charter. Australia has already started to both decolonise and indigenise its identity but to do so we need cultural and professional guidance. Both the Australian and International Charters provide a series of steps and protocols to help guide design professionals on how to work with Indigenous custodians to seek leadership, knowledges sharing and to respectfully incorporate them into projects when and where it is appropriate. The development of Indigenous protocols for design practice requires an open, relational, and deep listening approach to cultural knowledge sharing. Universities are uniquely placed to explore complex problems that our collective future depends on. They can do so in a rigorous, ethical, collaborative and enduring way. Peer review regulates subjectivity and biases. (Bliemel & Zipparo, 2020).

The impact of this research over the past six years has been quite amazing. Both Australian and International Indigenous Design Charters have been recognised with multiple awards including the International Good Design Australia Awards and Victoria’s Premiers Design Awards. To connect the dots back to the 2016 NiTRO article illustrates how the Indigenous Design Charters have been embraced by all levels of government, professional designers, and architects. Since to 2016, the use of the International Indigenous Design Charter has increased dramatically. It has been embedded in design briefs, particularly within design competitions and submissions for major civic projects in Melbourne and beyond. Following is a list of a few of the success stories.

2016

  • Official endorsement by the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) (ICoD)

  • Workshops with Inuit and Sami communities and Universities in Greenland, Sweden and Denmark. (DEFT Cultural Diplomacy Grant)

  • Official endorsement by the International Council of Design (ICoD).

2017

  • Indigenous Design Charter workshop – ICoD International Indigenous Design Network (INDIGO) Regional Meeting. Santiago, Chile

  • Indigenous Design Charter presentation – ICoD Platform meeting, Montréal, Canada

  • Official launch and panel discussion, International Indigenous Design Charter – World Design Summit, Montréal, Canada.

2018

  • Australian launch, International Indigenous Design Charter – 2018 Melbourne Design Week at the Koorie Heritage Trust,. Melbourne Australia

  • Winner of the Good Design Australia Award 2018 – Indigenous Designer Award

  • Winner of the Premier’s Design Awards 2018 – Best in Category (Design Strategy)

  • Winner the Premier’s Design Awards 2018 – Award of the Year

  • International Indigenous Design Charter Exhibition and lecture (Jefa Greenaway): Hong Kong Business of Design Week, sponsored by Creative Victoria

  • Written and face to face contribution (by invitation) to an Australian Government (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs) Inquiry into on the impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples – Kennedy, Kelly, Greenaway.

2019

  • Vice-Chancellor’s Award: Deakin University – Award of the Year

  • International Indigenous Design Charter Symposium: Indigenous design thinking conversations. Melbourne Knowledge Week. Federation Square, Melbourne. International Indigenous Design Charter

  • Designated best practice document: The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Contemporary design competition

  • Exhibition. Indigenous design thinking conversations. Melbourne Knowledge Week. Atrium Space, Federation Square, Melbourne

  • Written contribution (by invitation) to an Australian Government (Senate Environment and Communications References Committee) Inquiry into the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Prevention of Exploitation
    of Indigenous Cultural Expressions) Bill 2019 – Kennedy, Kelly, Greenaway.

2020

  • Victorian Architecture Awards: Bates Smart Award for Architecture in Media – National Award

  • Designated Australian Government best practice document: Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct (Canberra) architectural design competition

  • The International Indigenous Design Charter was cited in the Government Architect of NSW’s Draft Connecting with Country framework, a policy document supporting “understanding the value of Aboriginal knowledge in the design and planning of places.”

2021

  • The International Indigenous Design Charter was included within the Green Building Council of Australia’s criteria for assessing projects for accreditation against the new GBCA Greenstar ratings tool criteria

  • Designated best practice document: Victorian State Government’s Level Crossing Removal Project Indigenous Design Guidelines

  • Designated best practice document: Curation of INBETWEEN 2021: The Australian Exhibit for the Venice Biennale. Australian Institute of Architects

  • Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant to research the performance of the Indigenous Charters and to work with OCAD University in Toronto Canada to develop a Canadian Indigenous Design Charter (Monash University, Deakin University, University of Melbourne).

2022

  • World Architecture Festival (WAFX) Award. Future Project: Infrastructure. The project noted that it’s the world’s first road project to use the award-winning International Indigenous Design Charter principles.

In his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University Steve Jobs said:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever”

Looking back and joining the dots it is evident that this research has proven to facilitate beneficial changes in behaviours, beliefs, and practices. It is interesting to note, that although several journal articles and conference papers have been written and published by me and the research team, most of the high impact outcomes resulted directly from the non-traditional research outputs listed above. These NTRO examples are the best measurement of real-world impact and really do demonstrate the true benefit of this ongoing research.

References

Bliemel, M & Zipparo, (2020). Who care about university research? The answer depends on its impacts. The Conversation. 1 Dec, 2022. Retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/who-cares-about- university-research-the-answer-depends-on-its-impacts-149817


Dr Russell Kennedy is a Senior Lecturer and Head of Art and Design at Deakin University.  He was a Senior Lecturer at Monash University 1994-2010 and a Research Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology 2011-2014 where he completed his PhD titled, Designing with Indigenous Knowledge: Policy and protocols for respectful and authentic cross-cultural representation in communication design practice. President of ICoD, the International Council of Design (2009 – 2011) and board member (2003 – 2013). Kennedy is a Fellow of the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) and Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (The RSA). He is a co-author of the multi award winning Australian and International Indigenous Design Charters.

More from this issue

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