Industrial and graphic design in the ‘Innovation Nation’: the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange in design education.

Assoc. Prof. Lisa Scharoun and Assoc. Prof. Carlos Montana Hoyos (University of Canberra)
2016 Conference

Current Australian government policy promotes the country as an ‘Innovation Nation.’ This policy focuses on the areas of culture and capital, collaboration, skills and talent, with the ultimate goal of “inspiring people to be more creative” and thus creating an “ideas boom” with valuable IP and inventions that will effectively set Australia apart as a creative economy leader in the ‘Asian Century’ (Osborne, 2016). The discipline areas of Graphic (GD) and Industrial design (ID) are both areas that deal with creative concepts and innovation. They have become more and more aligned in recent years such that industry knowledge in both areas is highly beneficial for future employment. Graphic Design (GD), an area traditionally associated with the knowledge of the visual communication of signs, symbols and visual systems whereas Industrial Design (ID) is traditionally an area associated with the production of material objects. In contemporary practice, particularly in the design of new technologies and design thinking for business, the areas are interconnected. According to Buchanan (2001, p.6), “In fact, signs, things, actions, and thoughts are not only interconnected, they also interpenetrate and merge in contemporary design thinking with surprising consequences for innovation.” This paper explores the roles, overlaps and collaborations of ID and GD in professional practice and how these can be implemented in both ID and GD education, especially in cross-disciplinary, work-integrated learning projects. Through an overview of previous professional practice experiences by the authors, a brief literature review, and case studies of multidisciplinary projects the authors aim to show how interdisciplinary collaboration in GD and ID are essential for employability in the current climate.

Buchanan, R. 2001. “Design Research and the New Learning,” Design Issues, 17:4, pp.3-23.

Osborne, P. 2016 “Turnbull Seeks Innovation Nation,” The Australian.

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About the author


Assoc. Prof. Lisa Scharoun (University of Canberra)

Lisa Scharoun is the co-founder and leader of the Cross-Cultural Design Lab and an Assistant Professor in Graphic Design at the University of Canberra. Her research and teaching focus is on global graphic design strategy and understanding the impact of international design study tours on employability. She has exhibited her design, photography and fine-artwork in the United States, UK, Australia, China and has won numerous international prizes for her work.  Lisa is also a board member for Design Canberra.


Assoc. Prof. Carlos Montana Hoyos (University of Canberra)

Carlos Montana Hoyos is currently Associate Professor of Industrial Design in the University of Canberra. As a professional designer, Carlos has worked in-house for several industries (including Unilever and Colceramica in his country, and Whirlpool Europe SRL in Italy), in diverse areas of design. Several of his projects have received multiple design awards and been exhibited internationally. As a design educator and researcher, Carlos was an adjunct assistant professor in the product design engineering course of EAFIT University in his country (2001-03), as well as a Fellow and Assistant Professor in the Industrial Design program of the National University of Singapore (2006-10). His current research focuses mainly on cross-cultural and multidisciplinary approaches to design, with projects on Design for Sustainability, Biomimicry and Design for Health and Sports.