Archive, Industrial Design Council of Australia / Australian Design Council / Australian Design Awards, Australia, 1956-1996
This archive records the activities of the Industrial Design Council of Australia (IDCA), later known as the Australian Design Council and the Australian Design Awards, from its formation in the 1950s through to the mid 1990s. The comprehensive sets of meeting minutes provide an insight into the internal operations of this organisation. The brochures and publications record the types of marketing materials produced by the IDCA to promote design, and by manufacturers of Australian designed products.
Over almost five decades the Design Council has been the most active body promoting industrial design in Australia. The Council was established in 1958 and funded by the Commonwealth government in response to lobbying by a number of design associations. It was conceived as a national umbrella organisation, based on the British Design Council model, with the aim to establish, maintain and promote high standards of design in manufactured goods, and to foster the appreciation of design in the community at large. The IDCA flourished during the 1960s, introducing the 'Good Design' label, the Prince Philip Prize and opening Design Centres in capital cities. In the mid 1970s the Council ceased operation due to funding difficulties but was later granted renewed funding by the Commonwealth. The Australian Design Award was first introduced in 1977 and became an important revenue stream for the IDCA and promotional tool for manufacturers and the design industry. Again in the early 1980s the Council's national office was threatened due to the withdrawal of Commonwealth funding. Following another government review, the IDCA was re launched in 1987 as the Australian Design Council and given a role in design training. In 1991 the remnants of the Design Council and the Australian Design Awards program were subsumed into Standards Australia. The three-tier program of DesignMark, Design Award and Award of the Year was introduced in 1993 and first awarded in 1994. Since the mid 1990s the Australian Design Awards has grown in size and profile with the annual awards program its main activity.
The archive charts the success, struggles and politics typical of such organisations that rely on government funding. It also documents some aspects of the growth of industrial design in Australia as a profession and an industry. In recent times the notion of design has become popularised in the media and more accessible to the mass consumer market. This archive allows some insight into this development of design in Australia.
The material was donated to the Museum when the Australian Design Council disbanded in 1993 -1994 after it became part of Standards Australia in 1991. The archive initially contained records from the 1970s onward. But from 1994-2000 the Australian Design Awards, part of Standards Australia, supplied additional records to complete the archive.
The Industrial Design Council of Australia was incorporated in June 1958. It was established and initially funded by the Commonwealth Government in response to lobbying by a number of design associations in the late 1950s. It was conceived as a national umbrella organisation, based on the British Design Council model with the aim to establish, maintain and promote high standards of design in manufactured goods, and to foster the appreciation of design in the community at large. It also aimed to be a centre of information and advice for industry and Government departments on all matters of industrial design. Essington Lewis (1881-1961), formerly of BHP, was the inaugural chair and RMIT educator and writer Colin Barrie was the first director. The IDCA was admitted to membership of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) in 1961.
In 1963 the Council began to review Australian products for inclusion in the Australian Design Index. In 1964 the first 'Good Design' label appeared on Australian designed and made articles. This label could be affixed to a product in the marketplace for three years.
The first Australian Design Centre was officially opened in Melbourne in 1964. The opening exhibition presented a selection of products from the Australian Design Index and 'Design in Steel' which showed how designers used steel in many different products. Lecture series and seminars were held in Sydney and Melbourne during this year especially for design delegates and people involved in engineering, management, industrial design and marketing. Topics included 'Design and Australia Abroad', 'Design for production' and 'Human factors in design'.
In 1964-65 the Commonwealth government announced its continued support for the IDCA, with a base grant of £20K and a matching dollar for dollar grant of £15K for all donations to the Council from other sources. The Commonwealth and NSW governments also gave financial assistance to set up a Design Centre in Sydney. In Jan/Feb 1965 a Design Index and Discover Design display was presented at the Bank of NSW in Pitt St, Sydney.
The Sydney Design Centre was opened in April 1965 at 8-12 Bridge St, Sydney. The Centre was on the ground floor and displayed a permanent exhibition of Australian products chosen from the Council's Design Index. Special temporary exhibitions were also displayed. During the five years the Design Centre was at Bridge St Sydney it was visited by 200 000 people. In 1970-71 it moved to new premises at Berry St North Sydney. The Australian Design Centre moved to the Rocks in 1982 and continued to operate until the late 1980s.
In 1966-67 the Commonwealth financial support continued. The Council headquarters moved to the Reserve Bank building, 60 Collins St Melbourne and its Design Centre in Melbourne was closed. During this time HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, became involved with the Council and established an annual award in his name to promote greater awareness of good design in Australian engineering. The purpose of the prize was to recognise a product or system of Australian design closely associated with Australian life and industry, and to recognize a product which has made or is likely to make a substantial contribution to Australia's economic progress.
The first Prince Philip Prize for Australian Design was awarded in 1968 during the Prince Philip's visit to Australia in May. Over 90 entries were received and the winning entry was a self-propelled grain header, designed by Kenneth Gibson and entered by David Shearer Ltd of Mannum, South Australia. The Prince Philip prize continued to be awarded until 1987 when the Australian Design Award became the highest design accolade.
The first issue of 'Design Australia' was published in Spring 1967, thereafter bi-monthly, and was to become the official journal of the IDCA. The council was involved in the introduction of a postgraduate course in industrial design at UNSW, and obtained donations to fund two scholarships for the course. In 1967-68 the IDCA presented a major exhibition - 'The first two hundred years' in the Australia Square, Sydney.
The Australian Design Centre in Melbourne opened again in May 1969, due to the financial contributions of the Victorian government and industries.
The Dunhill Industrial Design Award was created in 1969-1970 and proposed to be an annual event. The award was for a product that was already on the Design Index and had been listed in the past 12 months. The first award was won by Mr Fred Lowen of Twen Pty Ltd, Victoria, for his 'T-one' chair. The Dunhill annual lecture series were established in 1969 and first given in 1970. well-known international designers visited Australia and toured to all capital cities from 1970-1974. The talks received useful publicity and the papers from the talks were published in book form.
In 1969 an Australian Design Centre was opened in Adelaide on Rundle St, with the support of the South Australian government. The 1969 Prince Philip Prize was announced in Adelaide and the winner was a South Australian Company - Transtar Villas (Aust) Pty Ltd with their design of a FRP plastic house. The 1970 Prince Philip Prize was awarded to Repco Ltd for the Repco Yarn Spinner.
In the late 60s and early 70s the financial position of the Council improved, with increasing contributions by governments. But in 1976 the Council temporarily ceased operation due to funding difficulties. After strong industry support the Council accepted renewed grants from the Commonwealth conditional on the implementation of a revised and less centralised organisational structure.
In 1977 the Australian Design Award was launched as a publicly visible way of recognising good Australian design. Prince Philip prizes were now only awarded to products which received Australian Design Awards. TV presentations of these awards on ABCTV received audiences of over 4 million.
Beginning in March 1979 the IDCA published an annual yearbook of ADA winners.
In 1981 the Commonwealth ceased funding the IDCA, which threatened the National office - the state offices were partly funded by the State governments. But in 1983 the Commonwealth again provided some funding assistance to the Council. Over 1985-1986 30-40% of the Council's funding was from State and federal government, the remainder from industry services and the sale of design label rights.
Following another government review, the IDCA was re launched in 1987 as the Australian Design Council and given a role in design training. In 1991 the remnants of the Design Council and the Australian Design Awards program were subsumed into Standards Australia. The three-tier program of Australian DesignMark, Australian Design Award and Australian Design Award of the Year was introduced in 1993 and first awarded in 1994. Since the mid 1990s the Australian Design Awards has grown in size and profile with a large annual awards program as its main activity.
Each year since 1992 the Powerhouse Museum has made a special selection from the winners or finalists in Australian Design Awards program and presented the Powerhouse Museum Selection Award at the annual awards night. In recent years the Museum has displayed the winning products in the Success and innovation exhibition for one year. Many of the winning products and some design models and documents have been added to the Museum's permanent collection of Australian industrial design.
Since 1998 the ADA has used internet voting by over 100 judges as the first round of the judging process and each entry submission is posted on their website. In 1999 Standards Australia changed from an association to a public company limited by guarantee. In 2001 the Australian Design Awards and Standards Australia moved from Homebush to 286 Sussex St Sydney and in 2007 again moved to 20 Bridge St Sydney.
In 2003 Standards Australia listed its commercial business, SAI Global, on the Australian Stock Exchange. Following this Standards Australia's income was derived principally from investments (66%), royalties from SAI Global (16%) and fees for service from the Commonwealth Government (13%) for activities in the national interest, in particular international standardizing activities, and some miscellaneous activities.
Bogle M., Design in Australia 1880-1970, Craftsman House, North Ryde, NSW, 1998
Curedale R., The development of industrial design consulting in Australia, Masters of Design thesis, University of Technology, Sydney, 1990
Jackson S, 'A tradition in recognising excellence' Curve, Issue 4, July 2003.