The Design Action Program is integral to the learning experience of Industrial Design students and recent graduates. You will get the chance to spend valuable time with experienced designers, allowing you to develop your design know-how, as well as with business and community people who utilise design, allowing you to test your skills in real-world situations. The Program encourages you to gain design experience offshore. Collaborative technologies and media will be actively used to support international project development. Our staff know the design ecosphere, and actively collaborate with the best names in business and research, who are engaged with meeting the contemporary challenges of this fast paced world. These organisations need the enthusiasm, the tech skills, the design thinking and the cultural understanding of people and markets that you acquire as students of design. However, your expectations may be different to those of the host for whom you will be working, and thus it is important that the expectations of all parties to any design activity are communicated clearly at the commencement of the activity. Your RMIT Design Action Program Coordinator and other staff will mentor you through this process.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits to participation in the Design Action Program – it depends upon what you want to achieve, and the personal, academic and design skills you already bring:
- You will bring back firsthand design experience.
- You will gain a deeper understanding of a preferred area of design activity and a demonstration of its practical relevance, which will provide an added dimension to your course work and projects, particularly your final project.
- It offers you the chance to apply and develop your design-thinking skills or technical skills within the workplace.
- It develops workplace skills such as project management, team working, negotiation with and management of clients, and provides a real-world window into how decisions are made. You will develop your core skills by collaborating with diverse teams of people.
- It develops your personal skills. Learn from the experience of different business and social cultures, and from your host-mentor: How does design activity really happen? How can I navigate politics in the workplace?
- It gives you the chance to try out your chosen career and potentially creates or widens your career options.
- It creates or develops networks and contacts for your future.
What kind of design activity may be undertaken?
RMIT design students have worked on a diverse range of projects with well known Australian and international organisations as well as small community organisations and entrepreneurs. They have undertaken design activity with:
- Multinational businesses, including General Motors Holden, Ford and Delloite
- Local design consultancies, including Charlwood Design, Catalyst Design and Invetech
- International designers, including Marcel Wanders of Droog Design in the Nethelands and renowned Melbourne lighting designer Marc Pascal
- Small design and manufacture companies, including Knog urban cycling products and Rakumba Lighting
- Social innovation and sustainability-motivated groups, including The Australian Centre For Social Innovation (TACSI), Urban Commons, and the consultancy EcoInnovators
- Community organsations, including Ceres Community Environment Park, Abbotsford Convent, and Carlton Housing Estate Residents Services (CHERS)
- Social enterprises, including the Social Studio
- Cultural organisations, including Melbourne Museum and local government
- International NGOs, including the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)
- Research groups, including Victorian Eco Innovation Laboratory (VEIL) at the University of Melbourne
How do you go about it?
Step 1: Find a suitable design opportunity or host organisation
Start at least three months before you wish to commence the design activity, and be proactive. Find an opportunity through RMIT Careers, through company, community, or government websites, or through design or social networks.
Register your interest in finding an organisation by emailing the DAP Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org), and share the Design Action Program information with organisations you are interested in working with, see: RESOURCES
The DAP Coordinator will hold briefing sessions about the Program each semester, so make sure you attend. Alert the Coordinator to your specific interests. They will be active in the design ecosphere and wider community and may spot an opportunity for you, or will match your interests and capabilities with opportunities already registered with RMIT.
For some project opportunities, expect to make a formal application and for the host organisation to interview you. Explore the online Work Ready Program material that RMIT provides for students, see: RESOURCESBe prepared with a cover letter (or email), an up-to-date CV, and a portfolio. An URL link to a digital portfolio will give organisations easy access to your work.
Step 2: Complete the DAP Proposal form and get approval from the Coordinator
If you have succeeded in finding a design activity you want to undertake, then complete a Proposal form, see: RESOURCESBefore you can formally accept an opportunity, the project needs to be approved by the DAP Coordinator. This is especially important for placements and work experience, as course learning goals need to be met and a supervisor and/or mentor appointed in your host organisation, for them to be accredited as coursework. The Coordinator will help to negotiate the scope and timing of the project work with your prospective host. Good communication with the Coordinator on your progress will sort out any issues early. Should the Coordinator approach you with a potential project or opportunity, they will have already gained a good understanding of the skill needs and scope before you are approached. Formal approval for the design activity should be straightforward.
Step 3: Formalise the arrangement by signing an agreement with your host
There are separate standard agreements (and schedules) for paid and unpaid design activity, see: RESOURCES Or, if your host organisation runs an ongoing program of design activities, they may have their own agreement for you to sign. Any agreement will cover such practical matters as insurance, intellectual property and confidentiality, and professional ethics and workplace rights. The time to discuss and clarify mutual expectations with your host is prior to signing an agreement. Become familiar with your rights in relation to intellectual property – this is important knowledge for every designer – and get your Coordinator to review any agreement before you sign it. Each party to the agreement (the participating host, RMIT Industrial Design, and yourself) should retain a signed copy. Once signed, you need to fill in a WIL place through the RMIT placement platform InPlace, see: InPlace
Step 4: Prepare for your project to start
Revisit the online Work Ready Program material, see: RESOURCES
Your host will induct you into their workplace. How formal or structured this is will sometimes depend on the size of the organisation. You will be briefed about the organisation, its history, structure, culture and values. Practical work matters will be explained, including your host’s expectations in relation to start and finish times, dress code, professional conduct and confidentiality, what the work will involve, and who you will be working with.
This is the ideal opportunity to share your expectations of what you would like to gain from your internship, placement, or work experience, and where you want to be at the end of it.
Step 5: Plan for regular progress meetings with your host and the DAP Coordinator
Regular meetings allow opportunities to discuss how theory and practice come together in the workplace, and what you are learning. Meetings with your host offer the chance to learn more about how successful organisations are run, and how they go about their planning you have performed in the workplace, and if any workplace safety or other issues arise, raise them early.
The DAP Coordinator may be involved at least once in meetings between student and host, and will also meet with the student separately.
Step 6: Bring the project to a close
Expect to have a final debrief with your host to sum up what you have learnt and to get an evaluation of your work. Exit meetings are part of normal practice for organisations that have good personnel practices and strong people values.
The host organisation will provide feedback to your Coordinator about you, and you will be expected to provide feedback to your Coordinator on your experience at your host organisation. Share your observations and ideas in a positive way – this may be your future employer.
Step 7: Share your experience
When the project is completed, take the opportunity to build on your experience by participating in the bi-annual Design Action Program forum.
Share your experience by writing up your story for future Program materials, or start a blog and build your professional profile online. But remember that you will need your host’s permission to include their logos or designs on your website, see: PRACTICAL MATTERS