Design Canberra Festival Design Canberra Festival

Phoebe Porter, Elements of Balance. Photo: Andrew Sikorski.
Phoebe Porter, Elements of Balance. Photo: Andrew Sikorski.

Icelab demonstrates the power of design in imagining a better world.

We asked the Director of Icelab, Michael Honey, for his take on the future of design in Canberra. The small team of 11, spread across Canberra and Melbourne, have not only created the Bauhaus look and feel for this year’s DESIGN Canberra festival, but have enabled Australian design, literary and historical heritages to become digitally accessible in engaging ways.

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the natural world, by mountains and rivers and seasons. A river is a design solution to the problem of finding a route from mountain to sea which only goes downhill. There’s wisdom in nature – in the shape of a canyon, the petals on a flower, the wings of a bird – if we will listen to it.

What would you change about Canberra?
I’d try to get citizens more involved and invested in decision making. It’s easy to sit back and let others do the work, then complain when things aren’t the way you like. I’d build way more inexpensive housing close to the city, and reduce our dependence on driving. Cities are for people, not cars.

What is the biggest challenge that humankind needs to solve? How can design help?
The breakdown of our ecosystems —climate, water, wildlife— is our most pressing problem, but the challenge is political, not technical. We have the expertise to fix those problems, but we lack the capacity to organise effectively. We can design better systems for decision-making, for finding ways to live together better. Living better with less will be an essential skill: we have to design cleaner, kinder ways of living.


Michael Honey of Icelab