Notes from a design writer in residence

By Penny Craswell

An opportunity to work three days a week from the Australian Design Centre as a writer in residence has given me insight into the organisation’s role in Sydney’s craft and design community, and made me think in new ways about my own role in this community.

Australian Design Centre office, designed by Those Architects
Australian Design Centre office, designed by Those Architects

The Australian Design Centre has been around for decades, first called Craft NSW then Object, before being rebranded last year as part of a move to new premises in William Street. Primarily known for exhibiting a range of work by Australian designers and craft practitioners across a range of themes, some of which go on to tour around Australia, the ADC also holds regular talks and other events, sells work by local makers in their shop, produces educational resources and has a vital role connecting the design community and advocating for design.

It has never been more important for local design to be championed in such a way. The opportunity to exhibit or speak at events here, and reach out to the centre’s large audience, plays a significant role in the development of the careers of designers. This week, 11 new designers will be showing their work here for the first time, selected graduates from UNSW Art and Design in the show Designing Bright Futures.

The space holds regular opportunities for the design community to meet and connect, share ideas, learn and celebrated design, with events such as the launch of the Authentic Design Alliance held last week.

Apart from anything else, it allows us to be local in an increasingly global world, and make sure that next time we buy a gift or design object that we are supporting someone local, rather than a nameless faceless corporation. The Makers and Friends Christmas Market being held here next week is a case in point.

As for my residency, I get to spend my days surrounded by interesting people, objects and ideas, see previews of the new exhibitions, and in return, I produce content for the Centre – so far, I’m writing an essay for an exciting upcoming exhibition and collaborating with the team to produce a series of Q&As with the Centre’s honorees. It’s a great swap that works for both parties. If you curious about the set up, apparently we’re not the only ones doing it – in Berlin there is a co-working space called Blogfabrik where freelancers pay for their office space in content for their magazine.

And it’s not just about swapping space for content, but also about collaborating in all those intangible ways, connecting ideas and people, and it has been one of the unexpected surprises of working for myself. As a sole trader and a “slashie” (in my case, a design writer slash editor slash communications advisor), it can be hard to retain a sense of community and belonging that offices bring, but here I have the best of both worlds – a home away from home, and the freedom to run my own business.

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