Sydney Design enjoyed a modest introduction to the world in its inaugural 1997 event and since then has grown to not only be one of the only design festivals in the world produced and managed by a museum, but one of the world’s biggest events of its kind. This year, Sydney Design 2013 focuses on one question: Can clever design save the world? An impressive list of exhibitions, events, talks and much more will endeavour to answer this question while incorporating the inclusive and collaborative ethos that has made the Powerhouse Museum so renowned.

For Sydney Design team manager Lily Katakouzinos this year will mark her tenth year producing the event and her enthusiasm is immediately evident. “Design is a fairly overused term in our society,” Katakouzinos says. “Like most things, it tends to have a lot of baggage. It is often referred to in quite shallow ways, as in designer goods, designer sunglasses, designer style and I think this is the less interesting side of the design story… I also want to highlight that design has real potential in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems, be that environmental concerns, human and societal concerns, urban living, sustainability, food production etcetera.”

So far from being a niche event dealing with some sort of foreign concept, design really does impact every element of our lives and the exciting approach that Katakouzinos and her team have taken in this year’s festival is sure to enhance that feeling of inclusiveness. “Design professionals are uniquely skilled in the area of problem solving. Limitations and problems are their bread and butter so to speak. So the notion of design saving the world can be seen in a very serious light. Like the work that architects and Sydney Design keynote speakers, David Sheppard and Eko Prawoto are doing in rebuilding earthquake devastated communities and designing stronger more resistant structures for the future right through to the work of a socially responsible designer Tasman Munro who takes a more lighthearted approach to using design to facilitate more connected and sustainable communities.”

Is there an innate laziness to modern design, with people preferring speed and affordability over considering the social and environmental impacts of their choices? “I don’t know if it is lazy or just difficult to rethink things,” she says. “It goes against our nature in some ways. We tend to take an iterative approach to problem solving rather than starting afresh. I think it probably always takes some time before accepted models or paradigms are broken down to allow for completely new ways of thinking to take place. It’s not a lack of innovation, but a failure to start from the beginning again and to rethink the systems that support what we currently do.

While Katakouzinos has been buried in the practicalities of this year’s event, she too is excited about enjoying it as an audience member and there really is no better person to ask about the ‘must sees’ of Sydney Design 2013. “I’m really excited about seeing our Edible Walls installation come about in the Museum’s new café space,” she says. “We are going to see a range of edible plants, herbs and fruits on display. It will also be great to see the George Nelson exhibition and I’m looking forward to the 3x3x3 Challenge in which we have asked three local design teams to articulate design solutions to various problems we face in the world today.”


Sydney Design runs until August 18 at the Powerhouse Museum and various participating venues across Sydney.

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