Archetypes of design practice

Stephen Trathen and Soumitri Varadarajan
2013 Conference

This paper reports on the development of archetypes describing design practice, and how they help explore changes in the education and employment of Australian industrial designers. The archetypes were part of a broader study based on the proposition of a widening disconnect between industrial design practice and industrial design education. As globalisation has reduced Australian domestic manufacturing, industrial designers have shifted to new models of non-manufacturing based practice. However industrial design education generally continues to take a traditional skills-based, design for manufacture focus. The research examined these changes through qualitative studies of the lived experiences of graduates (1996-2006). These in-depth studies were used to develop five archetypes, or representative examples, of contemporary design roles. The archetypes illustrate the impact of global and local changes and the emergence of new forms of industrial design practice. Together with other models developed in the overall study, the archetypes provide tools to consider needed reforms to educative and professional structures.

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About the author

Stephen Trathen is Assistant Professor Industrial Design at University of Canberra. After over a decade in industrial design practice, based mainly in Sydney, he moved to academia and has spent over 15 years in design education. He has maintained his ongoing interest in learning by subsequently completing postgraduate studies via a Graduate Diploma in Ergonomics and Master of AppSci by Research and PhD. He also continues to work towards developing industrial design education to reflect current trends and influence the future of design practice.

Dr Soumitri Varadarajan, is Deputy Dean, Industrial and Interior Design, RMIT University. With Simon Curlis he leads the Car Design Research Network, which focuses upon sustainable future transportation. He currently holds positions at universities in New Zealand, China and India. He has worked at Hitachi in Japan and directed studios in Israel, India, the Netherlands, China, Turkey, Portugal and France. In his practice, Studio Soumitri, he works to realize new services through prototyping them in communities. He runs studios from a range of aesthetic and material culture perspectives. His work in design for environment has been in teaching ecoredesign within the context of design for mass manufacture, prototyping green service solutions – waste and pedal power – and in setting up ecodesign capacity in Portugal and India.