This year the agIdeas International Design Forum celebrates 25 years of design innovation. Held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the annual design Forum will bring together 13 high-profile speakers, each handpicked by esteemed Australian designer, agIdeas founder and global head of Cato Brand Partners, Ken Cato, to share their experiences, tips and insights behind their ideas and inspirations. LBB caught up with Ken Cato for insight into how he has continued to attract world leaders to the Melbourne based event.
LBB> Celebrating 25 years of agIdeas is a massive milestone. What do you believe has helped secure and attract world leaders in design and creativity for so many years?
KC> A lot of international designers would never have travelled to Australia, so for many of them, the opportunity offers the chance to explore Melbourne from within the industry and to develop connections here. The event has an international reputation as one of the most diverse and interesting programs and as one of the best-run design conferences in the world. Speakers know they will be looked after and will be embraced by a passionate and enthusiastic design community. They know they will be valued and that is attractive when you are giving up precious time to contribute to a program. The endorsement and connection with Alliance Graphique Internationale has always been an important influence for those who are members of this prestigious organisation.
LBB> This year you have asked a bunch of global and local creatives to visually represent 25 years of agIdeas. Have there been any standout designs that you believe really captured the essence of agIdeas?
KC> We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and the response to contributing to the 25-year celebration. agIdeas has always been about celebrating the difference that design can make. The concept of 25 Australian and 25 international past speakers was to affirm this. The exceptional talent and scope that is represented in the gallery of 25's are exemplary of this. One of the international designers commented that the Australians out did the internationals. I think what is special is that each design is a unique response to the same brief. What is common is each is an example of beautiful craftsmanship from some of the most important designers on the planet.
LBB> Who or what company (in the Melbourne community) has been most instrumental in making sure the event is a success year on year?
KC> The incredibly committed and passionate staff and volunteers at the Design Foundation who go over and above the call of duty every year to bring together a program that is recognised as a world leader.
LBB> What’s your process behind selecting such a varied and talented line up of speakers?
KC> We take recommendations from past attendees, we speak directly to the design community in Melbourne and throughout the region through close relationships that we have with both the education sector and the industry. We rely on an advisory board of more than 50 international designers from around the world who provide a window into corners of the world we cannot see ourselves. We then look carefully at industry needs and find those people who stand out in the world for their ideas and exemplary execution of their craft. It also depends of course on the busy schedules of these designers and their ability to travel to Australia.
LBB> What advice do you give to creative speakers to prepare them for their talk?
KC> Show us the thinking behind your design. What inspires and drives your creative philosophy, what is your ideation process, how do you choose to execute your ideas and how do you bring your clients along on the journey to be innovative and different.
LBB> What do design and creative students get most out of the event?
KC> Industry perspective from a global perspective, knowledge of the creative process from the greatest designers in the world, an opportunity to network and connect with industry and peers, plus of course, inspiration and insights into the direction of the industry and where it is headed.
LBB> What are the challenges involved in putting together such a highly engaging forum that celebrates creative expression in the commercial world?
KC> It’s a huge commitment and risk financially. Whilst we seek sponsorship, the event is dependent upon attendance and you never know what that will be until a few days before the event. Every year we go out with the strategic faith that we will continue to meet the needs of the community that we are trying to support and resource.
In the past five years there has been an explosion of design events and online content. People also engage in different ways so it is important to keep adapting and making the event relevant. This is why we have changed to a one-day format supported by more in-depth master classes. We have built the program inside Melbourne International Design Week to allow for cross-pollinations of ideas and programming, and sharing resources with other educators and professional development providers.
Design is being recognised across the community as an important enabler of improved standards of living and increased economic prosperity. It has the capacity to improve the way our world looks and works. We have a research conference, business breakfast, and secondary forum. We have created master classes in some of the important industry sectors where we have economic advantage such as entertainment, technology and manufacturing. We see this as a way to support the capability of our region and complement what is being done by the education sector and the industry associations.
For more information on the agIdeas International Design Forum click here
The one-day event will be held as part of world-renowned Design Matters Melbourne International Design Week, Thursday, 14 May 2015.
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