Design Fringe returns with bold designs for the future



23 September – 26 November 2023

For the third year, Melbourne Fringe and Linden New Art present ­Design Fringe with its bold curatorial theme Speculation: Eight Billion Little UtopiasDesign Fringe is an open-access experimental design program that supports artists, designers and makers at all career stages. This year’s theme sets designers free to craft unconventional materials into playful and provocative object designs, imagining alternate utopias.

Speculation: Eight Billion Little Utopias invites Australian designers to reimagine our societies, communities, politics, and allows ideals to be catalysts for conversations through alternative visions of design practice. Work will be speculative in its fullest interpretation: through materials, methodologies, approaches and an understanding of what constitutes design and how it can be a source of vision.

Speculation makes space for a new approach to design, one where imagination and provocation become of central concern, not to solve problems or make products, but to start conversations and prompt us to think about imaginary futures. Design as speculative design.

Twelve artists including Ash Allen, Emma Jackson, Hung Hin Chan, Ilan El, Jacky Cheng, Jake Williamson, Marta Figueiredo, Maryam Moghadam, Moya Delaney, Pattie Beerens, Phong Chi Lai and Sarah Muir-Smith, have answered the speculative design call, and pieces include:

  • A sculpture that embodies art and design in the Age of AI—a metaphorical play between algorithms and human creativity.
  • A coffee table that speaks to the friction of designing in a culture of hyper-curation and the pervasive feeling of sameness from social media
  • A captivating room divider that explores issues of women’s health and empowerment.
  • A stool that plays on the concept of humour, explicitly referencing a body part to elicit feelings of play in furniture design while still achieving its utilitarian goals.
  • A patchwork artwork that also reflects the diversity within our world, reminding us that collective strength arises from embracing our differences.

We are living in urgent times which require a complete rethink of the way we consume and design for consumption. This year’s Design Fringe asks participants to speculate on what their utopia looks like, not necessarily with answers but rather as prompts for conversations. From recycling to a complete end in production, this year’s exhibition will open the way for our audience to think about what comes next, how we might change and what each of our utopia might look like.” – Curator & CEO, Vincent Alessi

Highlights of the Design Fringe program include:

Opening Night – Friday 22 September
Design Fringe will kick off with an awards ceremony announcing the winners who have exemplified creativity and innovation within their designs. A fortune teller will be on hand to cast predictions on your utopian (or, maybe, dystopian) future.
Keynote Talk – Designing Our Utopian Futures – Saturday 7 October
Dr Jillian Wallis, Associate Professor in Landscape Architecture at the University of Melbourne, Jean Darling, founder of Cirque du Soil, and Saran Kim, a University of Melbourne Master of Architecture graduate, will speculate on the boundless possibilities of our future utopias and explore the pivotal role of design in shaping the future today.

Tactile Tour  Wednesday 11 October
This tour will allow for people who are blind or vision impaired, to be escorted through a tactile tour with an experienced accessibility guide.

Meet the Designers – Sunday 15 October
A one-hour panel between Linden New Art’s Curator, Dr Vincent Alessi, and this year’s Design Fringe Designers, whose work offers critical and progressive ways for us to reimagine our societies, politics and ideals.

In-Conversation – Possible, Probable & Preferable Futures – Saturday 21 October
An in-conversation event between Dr Vincent Alessi, Director of Linden New Art, and a professional futurist to speculate on the multitude of futures we currently hold.

Design Fringe expands on Fringe Furniture’s legacy, Fringe’s much-loved open access exhibition program, ensuring that open access design opportunities are embedded in the contemporary design industry into the future. Diversity and accessibility are primary considerations for Design Fringe in 2023 and visitors will have access to an audio guide to the exhibition in different languages to maximise accessibility, tactile tours (where possible) and Auslan interpretations.

Exhibition Dates: 23 September – 26 November 2023, Linden New Art

Opening Night

Friday 22 September 2023, 6pm–8.30pm, Linden New Art

Keynote Talk – Designing Our Utopian Futures

Saturday 7 October 2023, 1–2.30pm, Victorian Pride Centre Theatrette

Tactile Tour 

Wednesday 11 October 2023, 10am–12pm, Linden New Art

Meet the Designers 

Sunday 15 October 2023, 1–2pm, Linden New Art

In Conversation > Possible, Probable & Preferable Futures 

Saturday 21 October 2023, 1–2pm, Linden New Art

Image 1: Phong Chi Lai

Image 2: Marta Figueiredo, I go to the depths of the ocean within the body of a woman, 2023, Photography by Jonathon Griggs

Design Fringe is supported by:

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