agIdeas International Design Forum 2012


The dreaded ‘I’ word is burning a hole in the roof of my mouth as I reminisce about agIdeas– a three day design conference held annually in Melbourne. Overused like mad, the word ‘inspiring’ has lost, for me, any kind of significance. However the profound nature and impassioned talent of the 40 speakers who presented at the conference embodies the very essence of what it is to be inspiring. Representing all aspects of the design field (from Industrial design, to landscape architecture, from fashion design to illustration) from all over the world (Russia, India, Taiwan, South Africa, Italy, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, USA, UK & Australia), 40 design professionals spoke about their practice, their lives as leading designers, and their road to success to a mammoth sized audience. As much as it pains me to say so, agIdeas was awe-inspiring.


For those of you who have never heard of agIdeas, here is a little run down on what it’s about. (You can also check out the website for more info…

“agIdeas International Design Week is one of the largest and most prestigious design festivals in the world. Established in 1991 by Ken Cato and developed and presented by the Design Foundation in Melbourne, Australia. agIdeas offers an extraordinary program of events that celebrate design excellence and promotes the value of design driven innovation.”

“Each year agIdeas brings 40 internationally acclaimed creative people to Melbourne, those who have pushed the boundaries and excelled in their area of creativity. They present in program such as design conferences, business seminars, workshops, panel discussions and are present at social engagements.”


The days, weeks and months leading up to conference had me in a fit of excitement. The prospect of hearing from some of the design legends (Ken Cato, Alexander Stitt, Shaun Tan and Art Paul) was enough to give any design-junior butterflies. An event and opportunity like this only comes round once in a while– and you know that it’s important when your Uni lecturers tell you to skip class and get your bottom there. I didn’t need any more encouragement with such an awesome line-up.

Throughout the three days, in attempt to document the inspiring (there we go again!) words and influence of the speakers, I set about taking notes (if you can call them that). The resulting, highly illustrative, and rather meagre pages of my book are so very inadequate in encapsulating the experience, but do jog my memory and leave me feeling satisfied that I will not forget the occurrences of the three days.
I won’t bore you with the details of every speaker, but I will share with you some highlights.

Just 'gramming– Some snapshots of the event from my Instagram

Just ‘gramming– Some snapshots of the event from my Instagram

Across the three days I heard from Illustrators, industrial designer, photographers, furniture designers, marketing professionals, fine artists, even a milliner, however being a Graphic Design student it was words and work of the Graphic Designers (naturally), which really resonated with me.

Behind the scenes from the makings of 'How to train a Dragon' and cool bicycle lights from Knog

Behind the scenes from the makings of ‘How to train a Dragon’ and cool bicycle lights from Knog

The rather comical duo from Autobahn, a graphic design studio in the Netherlands, reminded me that even young people with seemingly little experience can achieve success– the key is having good ideas and a drive to create cool things. Straight out of design school Maarten Dullemeijer and Rob Stolte (don’t ask me to pronounce those names!) have a shared passion for Typography and together have created some pretty cool (whacky, yes, but damn cool) things. I was especially inspired by their lack of preciousness and easy-going approach to design– where they quite honestly just do things they think are cool without worry about success or making money. Of course this is a rather romanticised approach to have– but when success literally walks through the door (as it has for these two) you can afford to be this way! Here are some examples of their work…

Examples of some work from Autobahn

Examples of some work from Autobahn

Another one of my faves, for entirely different reasons was Alex Stitt. An Australian great in the industry, it was his quietly spoken manner and beautifully hand drawn graphics, which had me melting. In an age where everything is digital–enhanced, computer generated and in so many ways contrived, it was so refreshing to be taken back to basics (albeit back in time as well) and reminded of the importance of pen & paper.


Some other highlights were;
Ross Didier for his Kangaroo Chairs;
Shaun Tan for his quietly spoken words and beautiful illustrations;
Poras Chaudhary for his unbelievably crisp, dazzlingly colourful, all round ah-mazing photography;
MadeThought for their over-simplistic, yet conceptually stead fast graphic design work;
Jim Sinatra for his passion for the environment and dedication to Australian landscape architecture;
Vladimir Chaika for his creepy faces;
Jeffery Copolov, from Bates Smart Architecture, for sharing the concept and ‘behind-the-scenes’ details of the new Royal Children’s hospital And Ree Treweek for offering us an insight into her incredible imagination.

I encourage you all to get clicking on those links… You can also watch the highlights in this video…


In risk of sounding overly fanatical, the agIdeas International Design Forum saw three of the most inspiring days of my year so far. I feel so lucky to have been privy to the thoughts, words and minds of some of the worlds leading design professionals. I feel refreshed and inspired to pursue a career in the design industry and even more driven to find my niche in the market. I truly believe that everyone who attended the conference has shared something uniquely special, an experience like no other. Two words…

agIdeas rocked!