We chat with Victorian Premier’s Design Awards 2021 jury member Richard Henderson, Founder and CEO, R-Co about the intersection between design and business.

By Georgina Jerums

Richard Henderson makes the case for why design is about much more than just good looks.

Good design, Richard points out, goes way beyond trendy aesthetics.

Some of the best examples can enrich our lives…. and, at the risk of going slightly Oprah for a second, can even make us better people.

Yes, really.

A rebranding veteran of over three decades, Richard certainly walks the walk, having led teams creating the messaging behind the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, the Sydney 2018 Invictus Games and the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Man looking at camera

Richard Henderson

In terms of impact, the massive seven-year Sydney Olympic branding program was a standout, he says, as it “captured the spirit of an event, encouraged national pride and contributed to society and the economy”. As well, the discipline of strategic design thinking, empowered by passionate creativity, delivered “Return On Imagination and a global legacy”.

But here’s the million-dollar question: how do you give a voice to society-enriching design, especially in Australia where many in the general public, as Richard laments, “can easily reel off the name of a Brownlow winner but struggle to name one Melbourne designer? "

The VPDAs, notes Richard, create an opportunity to change all that. They can help “move the dial” of design awareness with the public and create a much-needed forum for an in-depth exchange of ideas among our state’s design community. “We need to celebrate creative heroes who are making a difference, who can act as ambassadors,” he points out.

“Placing a focus on the value of design thinking and not aesthetic attributes is essential," he continues, “and award programs such as the VPDAs recognise the spirit of excellence; they provide a forum for design dialogue about the importance of design and the role it plays in making things better.

“Melbourne has a heritage of design awareness and there are many great designers whose work contributes to the character of the city and Victoria’s reputation. We need a deeper understanding by government, industry and community of the contribution that design thinking can make to the quality of our lives and our relationship with the environment. Design isn’t solely about the creation of artefacts. it’s about using creative thinking to contribute to better, more efficient and uplifting outcomes across every aspect of human endeavour. If we adopt this consciousness about the role of design, our city and state will be better.”

Ultimately, good design, says Richard, challenges what we know and how we live; it adds value to the human experience, nurtures the planet and contributes to a better future by moving society and the economy forward.

If you’re a budding designer entering the VPDAs this year, Richard offers up the following tip: “Make your design stand out from the crowd by offering differentiation, inventiveness, usefulness, quality and community contribution: they’re the essential ingredients for marketplace distinction.”