DesignFreo – we’ve launched! But why here and why now? Founder Pippa Hurst traces the DesignFreo story back to a lightbulb moment from her childhood.

The spark

I’m 12 years old and I’m sitting in a dark cinema somewhere in Perth.

Back then it was the practice to show a short film before the main feature and on this occasion it was ‘One designer, Two Designer’, an animation by legendary graphic designer and illustrator Alex Stitt (remember ‘Life, Be In It?’ and ’Slip, Slop, Slap?’)

It was at about the three minute mark that I had my ‘aha’ moment. The example was a teacup. No matter how good it looks, if your fingers can’t fit into the handle then it’s not fulfilling its function – it’s just bad design. Eureka! Something clicked. The connection between form and function was a revelation that sparked my lifelong love of design and ‘things that work’.

Have nothing in your house that you do not
know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris, 1880
William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1887. With that hipster look, William would be at home in Freo today.

Fast forward to Fremantle 2020. I’m living in Walyalup, a creative place that has long celebrated art and artists. What’s not so visible is the depth and breadth of Fremantle’s design community. Architecture, interiors and landscape; fashion, communications, product and digital design. For a small port in an isolated corner of the globe, we’re got a high concentration of design talent. And if awards are any measure, we’re punching well above our weight.

DesignFreo was conceived to shine a spotlight on our designers and also to explore some of the bigger challenges we’re facing. In a world of climate change, economic uncertainty and fast-changing technology, how do we design our future?

Then along came the pandemic, bringing the question into even sharper focus.

A team is born

It wasn’t hard to find like-minded locals who were keen to make DesignFreo happen. I’m in awe of the team of talented creatives that has come together to raise the DesignFreo flag.

We’re working to bring you a series of events that – in the words of team member Jen Lowe – will connect designers with the ‘real world’ and the ’real world’ with design. We’re excited by how much there is to share. And fortunate to have found in ICS a principal sponsor and partner with aligned values and a belief in what we’re doing. With their help, and with support from the City of Fremantle, we’re bringing DesignFreo to life.

DesignFreo’s founding team – find out who’s who here. Image: Roel Loopers

Why Freo?

DesignFreo embraces ideas and inspiration from near and far but we firmly believe that if we want things to change, our own community is the place to start.

We care about our town and its future. It’s a place with an open mind, a social conscience and a commitment to sustainability. We think it can be a ‘design city’ – a place that embraces good design. Fremantle has shown that it’s proud to lead by example and we’re on board with that.

2020 has challenged us all in every way. As borders close and we stay closer to home there’s never been a better time to look locally for the things we need to sustain ourselves and our communities.

People and ideas

DesignFreo wants to entertain and inspire you. We’ll talk up the awards, the magazine spreads and the style. But that’s not the story.

The story is the people with ideas; people creating things of beauty and value; people who care about the integrity of objects and the spaces we live in.

The story is the bigger picture. Who judges what’s good and bad design? What is worth fighting – and paying – for?

And the story is you – the design decisions you make every day; how design makes you feel; how it affects your health and happiness.

We’ll also point you in the direction of Freo’s best-designed places and spaces. Because we love a drink and a chat.

Let’s talk design.

And while we’re doing it, let’s hold this thought:
Walyalup has been colonised for less than 200 years. There are people living now who have been alive for half the time of white settlement. The traditional owners of this land, the Whajuk Noongar people, were here for the 80,000 years prior to the invasion. During that time they didn’t make anything extinct, muck up the water table, destroy the soil or inflict any of the other myriad woes that have since been brought to bear. When we design our future, let’s think about what we can learn from the custodians of the land on which we live, and how we might see ourselves as not separate from, but a part of nature. Let’s shift the lens and open the design dialogue to include all voices. It’s time to put a new usual into business as usual.

Banner image credit: Bread in Common by spaceagency architects. Image by Rob Frith / Acorn Images

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