The formation of the Design Institute of Australia, from its beginnings in Melbourne in 1947 as the ‘Society of Designers for Industry', to the incorporation of the ‘Industrial Design Institute of Australia’ in 1958, to its current title in 1982, is outlined in the following timeline.
Further historical and descriptive insights are contained within the article written by Ron Rosenfeldt, one of the initial members of the first Society in 1947.
|Circa 1947||Formation of the original organisation - the SOCIETY OF DESIGNERS FOR INDUSTRY.|
|15th August, 1958||Incorporation of the INDUSTRIAL DESIGN INSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA in Melbourne as a Company Limited by Guarantee.|
|7th October, 1961||First meeting of the Federal Council of the Institute attended by representatives of the original Chapters viz. Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.|
|20th November, 1966||Federal Council ratified the New South Wales Chapters amalgamation with the SOCIETY OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGNERS OF AUSTRALIA.|
|9th December, 1967||Bill Gillam, a professional Association Manager employed by the Victorian Employers' Federation, was appointed the first Federal Executive Secretary of the Institute. On his advice, the Memorandum and Articles of the Institute were completely redrafted together with Federal Council By-Laws setting out a model Constitution governing the administration of Chapters. A Federal financing system was implemented and a national membership register established on the basis of records supplied by the original Chapters which were still operating very informally. The Institute was already a member of ICSID, the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.|
|4th September, 1971||ACT members were granted Chapter status by the Federal Council|
|23rd March, 1974||A Chapter was constituted in WA.|
|27th/28th Oct, 1976||First International Design Forum organised by the Institute in Sydney at the Opera House and Hyatt Kingsgate Hotel.|
|18th July, 1977||A Qld. Chapter was constituted.|
|April, 1979||First issue of "DESIGN IN AUSTRALIA" magazine published by the Institute.|
|2nd/3rd August, 1979||Commemorative Forum presented at Sydney Opera House and Hilton Hotel.|
|April, 1980||Institute accepted as member society of ICOGRADA, International Council of Graphic Design Associations.|
|29th/30th Oct, 1980||Meeting of Asian Regional Group of ICSID hosted in Canberra by the ACT Chapter of the Institute.|
|30th/31st Oct, 1981||Arthur Pulos and Kenji Ekuan visited Australia on a lecture tour arranged by the Institute.|
|October, 1982||Institute granted membership of IFI, International Federation of Interior Designers.|
|December, 1982||ACT Chapter combined with the NSW Chapter.|
|20th December, 1982||Name of organisation changed to DESIGN INSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA.|
|2nd June, 1983||The Institute was made an accredited society of the Ian Clunies Ross Memorial Foundation.|
|17th August, 1984||The Institute was registered in the Northern Territory and is now registered in all States and Territories of Australia.|
|21st March, 1985||Inauguration of the Institute's Designer Awards, first presentation made at Awards Dinner by the then Federal President, Desmond Freeman.|
|17th/18th Oct, 1988||First off-shore meeting of the Federal Council of the DIA held at Westin Stamford Hotel, Singapore (to coincide with the International Design Forum).|
|January, 1989||Arrangement made to enrol financial members with "Design World" magazine in 1989.|
|1st July 1998||Unification occurred between the Design Institute of Australia, the Society of Interior Designers of Australia and the Australian Textile Design Association. Amendments to Memorandum and Articles of Association to cater for the amalgamated body. The DIA now a National body instead of a Federal body and State Councils instead of Chapters.|
|2nd July 1998||Past President’s Forum held with the aim of forming concrete action plans for the Institute.|
|October 1998||First issue of the DIA newsletter “Artichoke” launched to the unified membership.|
|January 1999||National and State Discipline Practice Groups formed. Commencement of arrangements to establish consolidation of financial accounts and centralisation of banking through the National Office to assist the State Councils with their finances.|
|26th – 30th Sept 1999||Combined ICSID, IFI and ICOGRADA Congress held in Sydney – Sydney Design 99.|
|1st January 2001||ACT branch Council formally constituted. National AGM held in Canberra to celebrate the DIA’s newest Council.|
Prepared by Ron Rosenfeldt LFDIA
First written July 1997
Published version March 1999
The specialist who could design for industry was not unknown in England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Such men as Pritchard, Stephenson, Thompson, Sir Joseph Paxton and Sir Benjamin Baker were in fact industrial designers in the true sense of the word: they designed for and with new materials together with the new technological processes of the day.
With the growth of the industrial revolution, designers became divorced from industry. Led by such men as John Ruskin and William Morris, they turned their backs on industry and endeavoured to recapture the golden age of medieval handicrafts. Industry on the other hand, went ahead developing new processes and machines, which were breathtaking in their possibilities. Product design became more of a mechanical process, its practitioners ranging from managing directors to shop foremen. It was not until the twentieth century that mass production was perfected to the point where the brains behind the conception of the product could be separated from the output of those who were responsible for its physical production.
Ultimately the missing technician was identified and took his place in industry to assist in the production of new and better products. Australian industry was in its infancy in the 1920s and 1930s and was far behind the developments taking place overseas. The prevailing attitude within management was either to copy a product from a glossy magazine or directly from the imported article. Another approach was to produce a product made under license to an offshore company, thus saving on design and development costs. It could often present a reduction in tooling costs as tooling could also be imported.
On the other hand it must be accepted that unlike America, Britain and the countries of Europe, there were no experienced industrial designers in this country who were available to service industry. In a way it was people like Frederick Ward, Frances Burke, Hera Roberts, Roy de Maistra, Michael O’Connell and others in Melbourne and Sydney who were designing quality furniture and printed fabrics for small scale production in the early 1930s that brought about the beginning of a consciousness of good design in products.
With the advent of the Second World War in 1939 and the consequent isolation of this country, new processes and techniques were brought here from overseas and developed alongside those created by our own technicians. A wealth of knowledge was gained, but more important was the growing recognition of our industrial potential and the belief in our ability to do things that hitherto had been thought to be beyond our capabilities.
Secondary industry expanded both in size and in range to meet the ever increasing demand of the war effort. Complete new industries were developed together with their specialised ‘know-how’. New technological processes, new materials and greater demands gave an impetus to the productive capacity of the nation. It remained only to adapt these developments to the days of peace.
During the early post-war years, the demand for goods outstripped supply. The manufacturer, with his newly acquired skills and capacity, produced everything and anything. Goods that had been in short supply for many years were readily sold on the home market. Many of these products were basically of pre-war vintage; while some were ‘glamorised’ by the manufacturer, others were apologetic copies of overseas articles. In most cases this was obvious by the heavy handling of detail. Only when markets began to tighten and industry found itself faced with competition, both within Australia and without, did manufacturers and distributors alike realise the necessity of improving the products they made or handled. The stage was gradually being set for the advent of the industrial designer in his rightful role.
With this background the development of a design organisation became an exciting experience, particularly when viewed over the passage of some fifty years. I do not think that any of the early members of the Society could have foreseen then the way in which it has developed into a national institute and the status it has achieved throughout the wider community.
In 1996 I agreed to carry out some research into the early establishment of the Society of Designers for Industry and the eventual formation of the Industrial Design Institute of Australia. Copies of early drafts of these notes were sent to a number of the original members of the SDI seeking confirmation or otherwise of the material contained therein. In addition they were invited to supply any useful information that would add interest to the narrative. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to those members who took the time to respond, for without their assistance and encouragement this project may have fallen by the wayside.
The first gatherings of interested designers were held towards the middle of 1947 in a flat occupied by the Falconer-Green brothers. Its location was in Kensington Road, just off Toorak Road in South Yarra. Those present were Bill and John Falconer-Green, Frederick Ward, I. Mc L (Peter) Hutchison and Ron Rosenfeldt. The purpose of these meetings was to consider ways by which local designers could meet together to discuss matters of mutual interest. Towards the end of 1947 we had increased our number by including others who were practising in various areas of design in Melbourne. Among them were R. Haughton James, Max Forbes, Grant Featherston, Vic Greenhaigh, Scorgie Anderson, Frances Burke, Selwyn Coffey and Charles Furey.
With our numbers growing we required more space for meetings. Happily, the Falconer-Greens offered their studio, situated on the South side of Toorak Road between Chapel Street and Punt Road, until we could find more suitable accommodation.
Our initial intention was to establish a sort of 'Council of Industrial Design', perhaps something along the lines of the CoID in London, but on reflection this presented a number of major problems, not the least of which was our lack of official recognition. It became clear that our energies would be better spent in establishing a professional body of designers that could in time become the springboard for the future development and establishment of an Australian Design Council supported by governments and industry. It was agreed that we would become the Society of Designers for Industry.
In 1948 a constitution was prepared for the Society by R Haughton James and Peter Hutchison. In due course R Haughton James was elected as its first President and Peter Hutchison as Secretary/Treasurer. Finance for the infant Society was raised by members’ subscriptions and whatever we could gather in donations from sympathetic individuals. In addition an enormous amount of personal time was given by members in many ways. In 1948 committee meetings were held in RHJ's office at 117 Collins Street, between Russell and Exhibition Streets, before his removal to 153 Lonsdale Street, also between Russell and Exhibition (circa 1951). The basis of the constitution for the Society of Designers for Industry was that it should govern the designer’s professional behaviour within the Society and the relationship between the member and his client. In the wider sphere, it should concern itself with public lectures, meetings and discussions. In general it should work towards improving the professional standards and the public acceptance of the designer. Above all, by every means available, it should create in the mind of the buying public the desire to understand and possess well designed products.
The constitution proposed that the management of the Society would be in the hands of the “Council composed of the President, Vice President, a Secretary and a Treasurer together with other members to make up a total of nine”. It also stated that, “the Annual General Meeting shall be held during November each year at a time and place as the Council shall determine”.
From 1948 through to 1958 the membership of the Society steadily increased and in the ensuing years included local designers such as Colin Barrie, Clem Meadmore, Bruce Anderson, Jack Crow, Ted Worsley, Bruce Cooper, Ted Healy, Don Jordan, Pat Heffernan, Richard Beck, Ern Scammel, Alan Warren, Peter Bauer, Jane Long, David Davenport, Owen Foulkes, George Kral, Lester Bunbury, Fred Lowen, Gerard Herbst, Joyce Coffey, Philip Wise, Don Brown, Howard Johnson, Walter Gherardin, Roy Burslem and Lionel Suttie.
Architect Professor Peter McIntyre has called those days “the Golden Age”. It was the immediate post-war period and we were all, like Robin Boyd, Sir Roy Grounds and others of that generation, inspired with the task of building a new world. We were full of optimism and confidence. It was the era of the Bauhaus legacy and Corbusier’s dictum, “There exists a new spirit”. He also said “The styles are a lie” and we all believed that good design, honest design, was part of the way to a better world. Whether we had the talent is another matter, but it is remarkable how many icons of that time are still regarded as symbols of the best of local design.
Looking back now it seems we were favoured with some larger than life characters with memorable personalities. Some of them had a great sense of fun and a capacity to enjoy life. They also had vision, an infectious enthusiasm, and a sense of mission. It may be that every generation thinks that it has its special people, and it is a cliche to say “we will not see their like again”, but there are some unforgettable characters and those who knew them will retain many warm memories of them. Lester Bunbury was such a person, a colourful and flamboyant character of the time, whom some thought saw himself as an Australian Raymond Loewy. However, credit must be given to Bunbury for he was a brilliant designer. Others come to mind, like the doyen of furniture designers, Fred Ward, whose work exemplified his integrity with its simple and graceful lines and natural finishes. And of course there was Grant Featherston with his elegant chairs, Clem meadmore, now an internationally famous sculptor based in New York, Frances Burke with her superbly designed fabrics, Gordon Andrews, among other things the designer of our first decimal currency banknotes, and Alistair Morrison (better known to his contemporaries as Professor Afferbeck Lauder, the brain and author of the book defining the wonderful language of ‘Strine’). Apart from his undoubted literary skill, Morrison was known particularly as one of Australia’s top graphic designers.
During 1950 Peter Hutchison resigned as secretary of the Society and was replaced by Ron Rosenfeldt. In 1955 R. Haughton James retired as president having played a vital role in its organisation and promotion. Jimmy was one who had many interests and made a contribution in so many fields, a man with a fertile mind.
Ron Rosenfeldt was elected to the office of president and served until 1958 when the Society of Designers for Industry became the Industrial Design Institute of Australia. Charles Furey became treasurer in 1952 remaining until 1957 when he went to Sydney to design for ACI. Ted Worsley was appointed secretary in 1955 and held office until 1957, when Howard Johnson was elected to that position and remained there until 1960.
In 1952 Fred Ward was commissioned to design the furniture and furnishings for University House at the ANU in Canberra, and so left Melbourne to reside in the ACT. However he maintained his interest and connections with the Victorian Society until a Chapter was established in the ACT.
Late in 1953 at a small meeting in Melbourne, Ward discussed the possibility of some influential people in Canberra lending support to the SDI in any move it might make to establish a Design Council. In due course the SDI corresponded with both the SIAD and the CoID in London seeking information in relation to their respective structures, areas of operation and the possibility of obtaining copies of their constitutions, Memorandum & Articles of Association or equivalent. Correspondence on both sides was rather sporadic and I suspect that our counterparts in the UK had their own problems to resolve as we did in Australia.
We had good support from sections of the media. Articles appeared in the daily press and national magazines, some of which were written by members of the SDI. They were published in the Herald, Sun, Argus, Home Beautiful, and several trade journals such as Rydges, Industrial Victoria, and The Furniture Trade Journal. The authors were Grant Featherston, Charles Furey, R. Haughton James, Don Jordan, Ron Rosenfeldt, D. Hoiden Stone, Alan Warren and Peter Bauvais from Sydney. Articles written by Robin Boyd also appeared.
Radio and later television were used to illustrate the advantages and the use of good industrial design. The talks were given by members of the Society through the ABC and the commercial stations. Time was made available because of their belief in the news value of the subject. The talks were given by Frances Burke, Mrs R. G. (later Lady) Casey, Grant Featherston, Charles Furey, R. Haughton James and Ron Rosenfeldt.
As a fledgling organisation we were appreciative of the assistance given to us by such enthusiastic people as Keith Newman, who was editor of Home Beautiful and also the Australian representative of the British design journal, 'Design'. In addition two PR people who generously assisted in promoting the cause of ID were Ian Sabey and Gwen Atkinson.
The Society endeavoured to participate in exhibitions whenever possible. It designed and prepared a display of members’ work which was shown at the Australian Industries Fair 1955. Considering the short time the Society had been established, the interest shown by the general public and manufacturers alike was very gratifying. On another occasion an exhibition of well designed products was prepared by Grant Featherston for the Teachers Training Extension Course. In conjunction with Home Beautiful and the Victorian Furniture Trades Confederation the Society helped to organise the "Talking House" at the 1955 Ideal Homes Exhibition in Melbourne. Another interesting project at this show was the display of well-designed contemporary furniture and fittings alongside those classified as "most bought". The general public were invited to state their views in writing and the best entries received prizes. This proved to be a very popular scheme and profitable to the sponsors. Details of this project were publicised by the media. Photographs and stories were also published in the CoID magazine Design in the UK.
Members were always prepared to cooperate with interested organisations who wished to be informed on the many aspects of industrial design and, in particular, how its application to manufactured products could help to improve the standard of living. Industry was also interested in the advantages industrial design could bring in reducing production costs and creating the potential for increased sales.
* Professor Burke was not a member of the Society but supported its ideals.
Regular meetings for members were held. On occasions small groups would meet in private homes, or in a member's office to consider some particular aspect of design. Hired accommodation was organised for larger meetings and also for special events such as the SDI weekend conference for members at Warburton in Victoria, a delightful village situated in the ranges and on the banks of the Yarra River some 80 kilometres east of Melbourne. In fine autumn weather early on Saturday morning, 1 March 1955 a number of members turned up complete with wives or partners. Bedrooms selected, gear stacked away and morning tea organised, the conference got under way under the shade of several old river gums. I believe we were there to discuss such weighty matters as the future of design in Australia and the direction in which the Society should be heading. However in his article written some years later for the magazine Design in Australia, Ted Healy comments, “I have no idea what we were doing there, but what I do know is that we always had a bloody good time”.
Meetings were organised at which guest speakers from allied professions as well as from industry in general gave papers. At times films on overseas designers and design practices were presented together with films on related subjects relevant to members’ professional interests. Several meetings were arranged at which student designers were able to talk with practicing designers. These were planned to give the student some indication of what he or she could expect when operating in industry.
It became possible to arrange a number of visits to industrial plants when manufacturers were working night shifts. These events were always popular as designers were able to improve their knowledge of various materials and production techniques currently available.
It is interesting to note that industry was becoming more aware of the activities of the Society, which was exemplified by the good relationship with the Guild of Furniture Manufacturers and other trade organisations in Victoria. On several occasions the Guild invited us to assist in assessing entries in furniture competitions. Later in 1959, when the SDI became the IDIA the Guild proposed that we should jointly investigate the possibility of establishing a course in furniture design. (Heady stuff in those days).
During 1957, SDI monthly meetings were held in the Royal Society of Victoria building at 9 Victoria Street, Melbourne. These continued through into 1958, when the Industrial Design Institute was established.
In addition a seminar was planned for the 25th to the 27th January 1958 at Manyung.
Annual General meetings of the SDI in November were lively events and were followed by a dinner with a very convivial flavour. There were two notable venues: the Italian Society Restaurant in Bourke Street and the New Boundary Hotel, Hoddle Street, East Melbourne (circa 1955/57). Honourable Secretary Worsley's notice to members announcing the AGM to be held on the 27 November 1957 at the New Boundary included the statement, “Further information, at a later date, will provide details of the Annual Dinner and Dance.” The dance did not eventuate, but as Ted reminds us, "It was hilarious. We hired a piano which was played for us with great gusto by a friend of Charles Furey. Next day Frances Burke rang to say that the meeting was conducted 'with the maximum of gaucherie'.”
It was through the media and through personal contact that designers in other states became aware of the SDI with the result that several became members and ultimately established state chapters. Derek Wrigley was the first designer from Sydney to join the Society in the early 50s and in due course he discussed the idea of establishing a Chapter of the Society in NSW with Alistair Morrison, Arthur Baldwinson and Gordon Andrews. A meeting took place at Al’s house in Roseville Chase. A public meeting was held which a number of designers attended and the following became early members of a NSW Chapter of the SDI: Derek Wrigley, Arthur Robinson, Eric Towell, Peter Hunt, John Day, Alexandra McKenzie, Thomas Dowson, Adrian Knaap, George Waddington, Al Morrison and Gordon Andrews. In 1955 Peter Hunt was President of the NSW Chapter, Eric Towell and John Day, Vice Presidents and Derek Wrigley, Secretary Treasurer.
[ When I was canvassing thoughts from other designers I had rung Gordon Andrews, Bim Hilder and Gerry Lewers to see if they would help get an SDI(NSW) off the ground. The original meeting of Arthur Baldwinson, Al Morrison and myself took place at Als house in Roseville Chase. At the public meeting and subsequently when the SDI got moving I have no recollection of Al, Arthur or Gordon taking any part, until the IDIA was formed in 1958 when Gordon became the inaugural Chair (I think) by which time I was in Canberra, trying to form a possible Canberra Chapter of the future IDIA and working with Fred on the inauguration of the IDCA. You could confirm this with Peter Hunt, but he left for Melbourne at some time around then. The rest is true to the best of my knowledge. - Derek Wrigley OAM LFDIA ]
An SDI display stand was installed at a Department of Trade exhibit in Sydney depicting Industrial Design as a profession in Australia (circa 1955). Additional designers joined in Sydney including Carl Nielsen, Roger McLay and Trevor Wilson. In about 1959 Ted Healy moved from Melbourne to Sydney and was followed a short time later by David Davenport who also moved from Melbourne. Both became members of the NSW Chapter.
In mid August 1958 the NSW Chapter held its Annual General Meeting and the elected Council consisted of the following members:
Arthur Robinson, Trevor Wilson, Carl Nielsen, George Waddington
Inquiries came from Hugh Whisson in South Australia. Hugh joined the Society in 1957 and was ultimately instrumental in forming the SA Chapter. Lew Sutton Jones, Bill Rufus and Don Beavis were also early members from that state.
In Melbourne members together with wives and friends frequently invaded the upstairs dining room of the Society Restaurant at the top end of Bourke Street. Ted Healy recalls that on one memorable occasion, “An inebriated graphics gentleman ordered the wine on the strength of its 'Dicky Beck' label, following which it was Clem Meadmore's turn to present us with an annotated jazz concert. After two bars of Bix Beiderbecke, everybody got up and started to dance leaving Clem talking to himself. It must have affected him because later that evening he inadvertently placed his papoose wrapped child on the counter at Pellegrini's coffee bar across the road, where it fell off.” It survived, as did Clem who is now in America and well established as a sculptor'.
It should be mentioned that Richard “Dicky” Beck was one of our foremost graphic designers at the time, and had won an award for his design of the most successful wine label ever. It was designed for Wynns for use on their bottles of Coonawarra Estate wines. Consequently it seemed that the occasion should be celebrated in the most appropriate manner. It is interesting to note that the basic design is still in use today some 35 years later.
The Melbourne Olympic Games took place in 1956. The Olympic Charter prescribed that a Fine Arts Competition must be held. However, during the XVIth Olympiad the International Committee decided to stage an Arts Festival in future Games. For the first time, therefore, arrangements were made in Melbourne to produce an Arts Festival to form part of the Olympic Games programme instead of a competition. The Society was invited to participate in the organisation of this event. It was on the initiative of the members of the Society that the Organising Committee agreed to an exhibition devoted to industrial design, an exciting project which was undertaken and executed by Max Forbes, one of the early members of the Society. The exhibition was another landmark in the recognition of the Society by the general public. The Olympic Civic Committee was greatly pleased with the arrangement and presentation of the Arts festival and in consequence produced a book which included a section on industrial design to commemorate the occasion.
In 1957 Derek Wrigley was invited to join Fred Ward in the Design Unit at the Australian National University, Canberra, which was to become a nucleus for the further promotion of design in Australia. Together Ward and Wrigley influenced officers of the Commonwealth Department of Works towards purchasing better designed furniture for government offices as well as providing simple, low cost furniture, interiors and graphics for all buildings in the university. Wrigley played an important role in establishing an ACT branch of the NSW Chapter. The early members were Fred Ward, Arthur Robinson, Charles Bastable, John Pitson and David Walker. Derek Wrigley was Chairman. Hans Pillig and Harry Sprintz were to join later. The membership, although small, held many professional and social meetings, but Canberra at that time did not seem to have the critical mass to support a really professional organisation. It eventually foundered in a sea of apathy. Two subsequent attempts were made to resurrect the chapter, but neither succeeded.
Also in 1957, Peter Hunt transferred to Melbourne where he played an active part on a number of committees. In the same year Ted Worsley retired from his position as secretary of the Victorian Chapter and was replaced by Howard Johnson. Peter Hunt was appointed treasurer.
1958 was to be a memorable year for Design in Australia, and it would involve the two State Chapters in a great deal of discussion and correspondence. Two major events were happening at the same time. Firstly there was the change of name of the Society of Designers for Industry to become known as the Industrial Design Institute of Australia. This required the preparation of a new Memorandum and Articles of Association which was diligently handled by the Society's legal advisers, E. Edgar Davies & Co., of Bank Place Melbourne, who very generously donated their services to the Society.
A notice was sent to all members by the then Honourable Secretary requesting attendance at an Extraordinary General Meeting to be held at the Royal Society of Victoria, on Wednesday, 25 June 1958, at 8 pm. The documents were explained and presented to the meeting by Mr Davies, put to the vote and carried unanimously. The Company was registered by the Attorney General on the 11 August 1958. The title of the Institute was then registered in each state of Australia.
Subscribers to the Articles of the Institute were Colin Barrie, Bruce Cooper, David Davenport, Ted Healy, Peter Hunt, Howard Johnson and Ron Rosenfeldt. Following the adoption of the new title and acceptance of the new constitution the members present elected the first Council of the IDIA to guide and manage the affairs of the organisation: President: R. Rosenfeldt, Vice President: P. Hunt, Secretary: H. Johnson, Treasurer: T. Healy, Members: C. Barrie, B. Cooper, D. Davenport. It was agreed that the Council should look at preparing the bylaws.
Ted Healy sums up the activity before the formation of the Institute in these words: “We used to meet as a committee in Ron's office on St Kilda Road where we would argue for hours over the Articles and Memorandum. They say war is hell - it's nothing to setting up an Institute. In the fog produced by Bruce Cooper's fags, we would drink coffee and try to stay awake while Peter Hunt regaled us with his fascinating tales of the possible and impossible in perfect legal terminology. I don't think that it would be asking too much for present day members to observe a two minute silence each year for those who sacrificed their youth in this noble cause. Seriously, it was an arduous business with meetings often held weekly and a great deal of time and effort on the part of the principal players”.
Thus the IDIA became the incorporated organisation of professional designers in Australia with admission to the Institute to be by examination and the membership to be comprised of Fellows, Associates, Licentiates and Students and to broadly cover three groups. The Institute’s articles lists these three groups as follows:
(A) To promote support and protect the character, status and interest of the profession of Industrial Designers generally and in particular of those who are engaged in:
(i) The designing of goods for mass production by industrial processes (hereinafter referred to as Product Designers);
(ii) The designing and/or laying out of interiors of buildings and other constructions (hereinafter referred to as Interior Designers)
(iii)The production of designs or illustrations for publishing, merchandising or publicity (hereinafter referred to as Graphic Designers).
It was unfortunate that through a shortage of funds at this early stage of the Institute’s development, it was impossible to arrange for interstate conferences. This was particularly so in the case of Federal AGMs which were not held for several years. Sadly this state of affairs led to poor communication with the consequence that misunderstandings developed between NSW and Victoria. Finally the first Federal Council meeting of the new Institute was held in Melbourne in 1960 when representatives of three states gathered together to discuss the problems of the IDIA. There is no doubt that the geographical distances together with the cost of travel and accommodation was a major contributing factor in creating the misunderstandings that had occurred.
A second Federal Council Meeting was held in Melbourne at the offices of the new Federal President at 22 Greville Street Prahran on the 7th October 1961 Those in attendance were Peter Hutchison, Federal President, Alistair Morrison and Ed Dykes from Sydney, Hugh Whisson, SA, Bruce Anderson and Ron Rosenfeldt as Immediate Past President, both representing Vic., our newly appointed professional secretary, Mr. Max Gee, was also in attendance. It turned out to be a very forthright meeting which undoubtedly cleared the air. It resulted in many of the problems both real and imaginary being amicably resolved.
The second major event was the establishment of the Industrial Design Council of Australia. Towards the end of 1956 Fred Ward suggested that Derek Wrigley and Peter Hunt, representing the NSW Chapter, together with Ron Rosenfeldt and himself who would represent the Victorian Chapter should attend a meeting in Canberra to discuss the possibility of setting up a Council of Industrial Design. There was seen to be a need to educate the consumer to appreciate the value of better designed and manufactured Australian products.
The meeting subsequently took place in the Fellows Room at University House. Fred Ward had assembled an impressive committee of inquiry with the help of Ross Hohnen, the registrar of the Australian National University, Canberra. Every one was sympathetic to the case that was put and it was considered that some survey should be carried out by the SDI in Sydney and Melbourne to try to establish the need for better designed goods produced by industry and for the need to educate the consumer to appreciate the value of better designed and manufactured Australian products.
Ron Rosenfeldt and Derek Wrigley collaborated in the production of a joint report for a further meeting to be held in Canberra. The committee was convinced by the survey and Sir Roland Wilson arranged for 100 pounds to be made available to get the organisation on its way.
Finally the Industrial Design Council of Australia was incorporated on the 13th June 1958. Subscribers to the articles were Roland Wilson, ACT; Marcus Oliphant, ACT; Ross Hohnen, ACT; Fred Ward, ACT; Leicester Webb, ACT; Derek Wrigley, ACT; Eric Cox, ACT; Essington Lewis, Vic; Joseph Burke, Vic; Peter Hunt, Vic; Ron Rosenfeldt, Vic; Eric Westbrook, Vic; Walter Scott, NSW; F.E.Towndrow, NSW; Eric Towell, NSW.
Colin Barrie was engaged as the Design Council's first National Director in 1958. He operated out of the ANU for a short time before establishing the IDCA National Office on the fourth floor of ICI House. Subsequently he moved the office to Degraves Street, Melbourne where, in 1959, he established the first Australian Design Centre.
Design education had been established in all states of Australia during the nineteenth century through the founding of the Mechanics Institutes, some of which later became the basis for the establishment of technical Colleges. The subject matter taught might generally be described as Applied Art, covering drawing subjects, painting, life drawing and architectural rendering. Others added pottery and decorative metal work to their syllabus. An important part of the history of the Society has been its association with the development of courses for the training of young designers. Over the years, a number of its members have been responsible for teaching students the finer points of industrial design.
The first ID course in Australia was established in 1945 at the Melbourne Technical College (later to become known as The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology). It was one of the courses within the School of Art with Vic Greenhaigh in charge. However it was not until 1948 when Alan Warren, a senior member of the Art Department, took over that the course became more structured and ultimately by 1950 it had developed into an I D Diploma Course. Alan Warren retired in 1955 in order to establish an ID course at Prahran Technical College and Pat Heffernan, who had been seconded to the MTC Art Department from the Victorian Teachers College, was then appointed as lecturer in charge of ID. He remained there until he took up a position as head of Art and Design in the Gordon Institute at Geelong in 1958. Gerard Herbst, a practicing designer who had been trained in Germany, joined the Art Department at MTC in 1958 as Head of Industrial Design. He was an exponent of the Bauhaus design philosophy. In 1956 Derek Wrigley discussed with the Vice Chancellor, Sir Philip Baxter, the possibility of establishing a School of Industrial Design at the NSW University of technology. The idea was well received and grew until finally, two or three years later, the school eventuated under the direction of Professor Leslie Haynes.
In 1958 the University of NSW organized a two day symposium with the title of 'Design in Australian Industry'. It ran from the 2nd to the 3rd of December. Among the panel of speakers were four designers: R. Haughton James, James Riley, Roger McLay and Ron Rosenfeldt.
Around 1948 a group of students attending the Interior Decoration course at the Melbourne Technical College (now RMIT) approached the then Head of Architecture, Harry Winbush, suggesting that the course become known as Interior Design. It was established under a capable teacher, Frederick Sterne who changed the three year Decorator course into a four year diploma Interior Design course. In the same year the students decided to form an organisation which they called the Interior Design Association of Australia. The Association held monthly meetings with Jack Crow as its first president and Ron Opie as treasurer. They wrote letters to schools promoting the new discipline. Early members of the IDAA included Keera and Bill Lelievre, D. H. Bill, J. L. Delbridge, W. Hardacre, and Joan Stewart. Jack was a member of both SDI and IDAA. He comments "By this time (1952) the organisation had grown in strength and we leased our own meeting rooms in the heart of town. We gave lectures to the public on aspects of Interior Design. During the Arts Festival associated with the Olympic Games we held an exhibition of our members' work, which was visited by a number of overseas visitors."
During an SDI dinner, in 1958, to which several members of the IDAA were invited, it was suggested that they might care to join the SDI as its members were considering the possibility of developing an Institute. Following the incorporation of the Institute on the 15 August 1958, Bill and Keera Lelievre, Ron Opie, Harry Sprintz, D.H. Bill, D. Zoureff, Wal Hardacre, Bruce Hyett and J.L. Delbridge became members of the IDIA in October of that year. Jack states in his notes that, "in later years, more members of the IDAA joined the IDIA which after 1958 became the dominant design organisation in Australia."
In the first year of its establishment, the IDIA gained a membership of some 32 members: 24 from Vic., 3 from NSW, 3 from the ACT and 2 from SA.
There developed an undercurrent within the design movement. It was considered by some that the true industrial designers were those who were concerned with the design of products for mass production. This undercurrent became more apparent after the Industrial Design Institute was established, and some of those who were engaged in product design believed that the membership was being opened too widely under the IDIA title. It was considered that the word ‘industrial’ was essential to the relevance of the product designer in industry and should not be confused by the addition of other disciplines. This was a valid argument in the early formative years of a young profession struggling to establish itself in a hard commercial world where aesthetics was still considered to be part of the art and craft era.
This gave rise to the creation of a breakaway group in Sydney under the title of The Society of Industrial Designers of Australia in late 1958. The first meeting was held in a coffee lounge at Newtown with thte foundation members being Charles Furey, Ted Healy, John Holt, Adrian Knaap, James Riley, Bill Moody, Paul Schremmer and Harry Widmer. The new Society remained completely independent of the IDIA and consisted of 17 members, five associate members and 11 student members. However in 1965 the SIDA eventually became amalgamated with the IDIA NSW Chapter. The amalgamation was ratified by Federal Council on 20 November 1966.
In 1967 the Institute had its first official representation at an ICSID Conference. It was represented by Colin Barrie and Lionel Suttie. Charles Furey arranged a small photographic display of members’ work which was shown at the next ICSID Conference in London when he represented the Institute in 1969.
Although the Federal Council had met several times since 1961, it was not until 10 October 1969 that the first Annual General Meeting of the Industrial Design Institute of Australia, as a national organisation, was held in Sydney. In his Presidential report to the meeting Ron Rosenfeldt said, “Many well recall the trying days and months which finally culminated in the successful and worthwhile amalgamation of the Interior Designers Association of Australia with the Industrial Design Institute of Australia. This, together with the establishment of a permanent Federal Secretariat, made it possible for a closer binding together of State Chapters into a coherent and workable unit.” Appreciation
Finally I would like to record that a great debt of gratitude is owed by past and present members of the Institute to the inspiration of Frederick Ward who first sowed the seeds for the creation of the original SDI and later the IDCA. For his quiet and persistent efforts over the years he was awarded the first Life Fellowship of the Institute in 1960. He was also awarded the first prestigious Essington Lewis design award from the IDCA in recognition of his efforts in establishing the Council. In 1969 he was awarded the MBE for his services to Industrial Design in Australia.
‘If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you aren’t doing anything very innovative.’