A story about design thinking and playing with fire

the full moon over Lake Mungo, NSW

the full moon over Lake Mungo, NSW

Whilst I was at university I didn’t think I learnt a lot.  At least, nothing that seemed remotely related to getting a job at the end of my degree.  What I did learn however has served me well throughout my career, and has helped me develop the entrepreneurial attitude I have today towards both business and design.

I studied a Bachelor of Arts (Interior Design) and some of the most outrageous memories of my life are from this time.  During first year we were housed in an old bra factory in the northwest of the city’s grid.  The building had uneven wooden floors and a smattering of plasterboard walls creating a series of haphazard rooms.  If we wanted to knock down a wall or paint the floor or suspend enormous steel sound sculptures from the ceiling this wasn’t an issue – we were free to demolish, build and remodel the interior to suit our needs (no building permit required!).

In second year we were moved into a brand new purpose built architectural icon designed by a world renowned architect.  It was lacking in only one thing; a bar. The head of faculty issued a design brief to the students undertaking the furniture elective in semester 1. The best design got built by the entire class, and at the beginning of semester 2 our brand new, black rubber, monolithic bar (that could be reconfigured depending on the event) was unveiled.  Every Friday night we held an exhibition of work produced during the week, and cash poor students had their bar tabs marked up on one of the painted columns.  (Until an incident with a smoke machine, the elevators and the fire brigade occurred, and our Friday night ‘exhibitions’ were never the same).

When I was in third year we were divided into studio themes across the entire course and all 120 of us went camping en masse to Lake Mungo in NSW (a dried lake that is one of the oldest human inhabited areas outside of Africa).  We sat around camp during the day sketching, reading, talking, painting and photographing the prehistoric environment.  By night we wandered around the desert under the full moon and made incredibly enormous sculptures.  With fire. 

Fourth year was an amalgamation of these three years into a final piece of work that showcased everything we’d learnt in the previous years.  And what had I learnt?  Well, I had some basic technical drawings skills, and computers were just starting to be used for 3D visualization (but not by me).  What I also had was a solid foundation in problem solving and an exceptional experience of design thinking.

Throughout my career I’ve had many opportunities to use these skills, and I’ve been fortunate enough to learn the practical elements of my career whilst ‘on the job’.  In an increasingly competitive global economy innovation is more highly valued than ever and the design thinking skills that we employ as a business have been a critical component of futurespace’s success.



Categories: Learning

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