Designex’s new bright pink and orange graphic identity made it clear from the outset that this year’s show had something special in store. A number of new initiatives brought design creativity to the trade fair, including seminars, curated exhibits and the inclusion of more furniture and independent design. Held at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre from 14 to 16 May, the fair included stands from important names in the design, architecture and building industries such as V-Zug, Great Dane, Cosentino, Trend and CSR.
Stand design was strong, complemented by design structures by Designex themselves. The Ebony Bar, designed by Daniel Dalla Riva from 6 Hats, was a welcome retreat in sexy black amongst the buzz of the fair. Then there was the Happy Place, a seminar series venue designed by Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of DesignOffice made out of doonas. Dubbed “7 Kinds of Happiness,” the seminar series ran over three days and included speakers ranging from design critic Alice Rawsthorn to the teams from the Broached Commissions and the Venice Biennale 2012. International design stars dropped in via Skype, including Ilse Crawford, Stefan Sagmeister, Rotor and WorkAC.
This year’s Designex included a lot more furniture than in previous years, helped along by two initiatives run by Sydney-based journalist and design expert Anne-Maree Sargeant. With The Nest, Sargeant brought together emerging and established designers who combine Australian design with local manufacturing in impressive new ways. Meanwhile, The Hive, also curated by Sargeant, included a mixture of different covetable items for the interior by a range of high profile international furniture brands, all enclosed within a web-like joinery piece in white that ran through one of the halls.
Nearby, the DIA-run Australian Graduate of the Year Awards (AGOTYA) celebrated the work of student designers from around Australia. Hettich’s Design Challenge also showcased the work of emerging designers, setting four young practitioners the task of creating a piece using Hettich products. The work was completed over three days, with each student working at a desk behind glass for the public to observe. At the end of the process, three judges (including yours truly) gave feedback and awarded Simon Taylor of Vert Design as the winner.
With cooking demonstrations, launches, drinks events and Sonoma coffee and pastries going all day and evening, Designex was full of life, a vibrant celebration of design.