Digital, Material, Engaged & Undisciplined: Introducing a Bachelor of Design at the Australian National University

Dr. Geoff Hinchcliffe and Dr. Mitchell Whitelaw (ANU)
2016 Conference

Computers, software and the network are staples of our everyday lives, and with them come new challenges to design practice and education. Approaches geared to the production of stable physical artefacts must be adapted to a setting in which the product is not only virtual but always evolving and never complete. How do we prepare our design graduates for this challenging new context? While there is overwhelming consensus that digital literacy and expertise with code is vital (Maeda 2016), we argue that a deeper engagement with material production is equally as important. This paper uses the development of the ANU’s new Bachelor of Design as a case-study to explore this proposition. It defines some of the most significant factors pressuring established design practice and details how our team at the ANU have attempted to adapt our curricula to meet those challenges. We detail the conceptual and theoretical foundations supporting our approach, and show how the digital and material are being brought together in novel ways to cultivate design graduates capable of contributing in a turbulent cultural and technical context.

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About the author


Dr. Geoff Hinchcliffe  (Australian National University)

Geoff Hinchcliffe is an academic at the Australian National University where he is developing new design programs within the School of Art. Geoff’s research and production focuses on new forms and practices in digital design and data visualisation. Creative interpretation and representation is at the centre of his work, whether in screen-based or physical form. Geoff has been fortunate to collaborate with institutions including Museum of Australian Democracy, State Library of Queensland, National Gallery of Australia, and the State Library of NSW.


Dr. Mitchell Whitelaw (Australian National University)

Mitchell Whitelaw is an academic, writer and practitioner with interests in digital art, design and culture, especially generative systems, data-aesthetics, and digital cultural collections. His work has appeared in journals including Leonardo, Digital Creativity, Fibreculture, and Digital Humanities Quarterly. His current work spans materiality, data and culture, with a practical focus on creating “generous interfaces” for digital heritage. Mitchell is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Art at the Australian National University.