The Design Conference 2023, Brisbane, Australia.


We share the most impactful design themes featured at The Design Conference 2023 in Brisbane, Australia

After attending The Design Conference this month for the second consecutive year, I’m excited to share my experience and key takeaways from this amazing event.

This three-day event (7-9 June) at Brisbane’s iconic Powerhouse seeks to unite and inspire our creative and business communities, with keynote presentations, firesides and insightful discussion panels featuring a lineup of national and international guests at the top of their game.

Each year is a transformative experience where I’ve walked away feeling invigorated with a renewed sense of purpose and passion for what I do. So I thought I would share it with you!

“Be bold. Let the transformation begin.” – The Design Conference

Designer/illustrator Bernardo Henning speaks about his campaign for John Lewis kids, where his playful scribbles were reimagined as three-dimensional shapes acting as props for the kids to interact with.

1.      Never stop playing.

This theme serves as a reminder to embrace our sense of play, child-like wonder and curiosity as creators, professionals, and businesses alike. To continue asking “what if?”, to continue experimenting, and not let the fear of making mistakes hold you back.

Wonderful Brisbane-based creatives Ellen Powell (Founder of The Somewhere Co), designer and artist Rachel Burke, and potter Bonnie Hislop demonstrated their unique sense of colour, playfulness and whimsical aesthetic that injects a ton of fun into the everyday. From The Somewhere Co’s vibrant patterned lunch satchels to Rachel Burke’s fabulously kitsch tinsel coats, to Bonnie Hislop’s vases adorned with rainbows, glitter and tongue-in-cheek catchphrases, their pieces inspire boundless joy.

The power of play, imagination and exploration has also driven the success of many agencies including Beetroot, based in Thessaloniki, Greece. Keynote speaker Alexis Nikou, co-founder of Beetroot, demonstrated that we should never underestimate the power of self-initiated projects. Their constant doodling and scribbling have not only contributed to many client projects, but also led to them creating a multi-disciplinary art exhibition called “The Greek Monsters”. The series playfully reimagines the classic monsters of Greek mythology to symbolise the poor representation of modern Greece in the media at the time. The exhibition gained widespread popularity, eventually touring internationally and raising the agency’s profile.

Play increases engagement, creativity and innovation which can have an amazing impact on your design, project or business.

Dimitri (Jim) Antonopoulos from TANK, Melbourne, spoke about diversity.

2. Celebrate and amplify diverse voices.

Throughout the conference, we were encouraged to embrace our differences and celebrate them in others. Our unique backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, ages, and diverse identities of all kinds, when tapped into collaboratively, are truly powerful.

“We’re only scratching the surface when it comes to diversity and inclusion.” – Dimitri Antonopoulos

The Design Conference continues to spotlight an incredibly diverse range of creatives, both geographically and elsewise. This year’s conference, for example, hosted keynote speakers ranging from Greece to Argentina, Singapore to South Africa, the Netherlands to New Zealand.

Many presenters relayed their personal stories of the challenges they faced throughout their childhood or in their professional life, feeling the pressure to assimilate and the stifling of their unique identities. When the barriers placed on them were lifted and their authentic self was allowed to shine through, this translated to all aspects of their life.

Encouraging and reading different perspectives, and amplifying marginalised voices will enhance your overall perspective and strengthen the outcome of your design, project, or business.

Kevin Finn summarised his presentation with a powerful quote: "Every day we are collectively designing the future - and history is watching."

3.      Create meaningful design.

“Empathy and understanding is the essential ingredient for good design.” – Meg Perkins

As designers, we must aspire to create meaningful design that goes beyond aesthetics, with the hope of shaping and benefiting the world around us.

In the grips of constant change and technological evolution (and yes, obviously artificial intelligence), the future of design may seem uncertain. We are seeing a shift towards what’s truly important to us as humans – as creators, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

Businesses face mounting pressure to prioritise ethics, environmental sustainability, and social impact, while audiences increasingly seek alignment with brands that share their values.

As Kevin Finn, founder of TheSumOf, spoke about in his fireside session, this means purpose-led brands with impact are forging the way forward. So, be intentional with every decision you make and consider the kind of future you want to work towards.

The Design Conference once again served as a catalyst for personal and collective growth. We are reminded of the impact that design can have – to instil meaning, drive change, shape behaviours and create positive impact for brands and businesses. Thanks to organiser Matt Haynes, the keynote speakers, and everyone involved for another spectacular year!

Looking for help with design? At Focused Marketing we have a team of multi-disciplined designers and creative professionals ready to assist you with your next design, project, or business venture. Contact us today to make it happen!