Opening speech to the University of Canberra Graphic Design Graduation Show

By Michael Honey14 Dec 2010

Michael spoke at the University of Canberra Graphic Design Graduation Show in November 2010. This is a more-or-less verbatim transcript.

Welcome to this fine event on a beautiful spring day. All around Canberra, little birds are being kicked out their nests. Like those birds, you’re probably finding your environment too small, too constrictive, and you’re ready to make it out in the world.

The good news: design in more in demand than ever. Right now and into the future, there are more outlets for good design –in print, in motion graphics, on the internet, on mobiles, in mediums that don’t even exist today– than there’s ever been.

It’s easier right now than it’s ever been to get your work out there. It’s easier than ever to work with people in different cities, different countries. It’s easier to travel with your work. Graduates of this institution, ex-colleagues and ex-students of mine, are working in Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

And it’s easier to start up your own place and work wherever you want. I’d also commend to you getting a job at one of the fine design studios, advertising agencies, and communication consultancies represented by the industry luminaries among you– many of which are themselves graduates of the course which you have just finished.

The bad news: we may look back on this time in ten or twenty years - about the time that separates most of you from my own graduation - and think that this time, right now, was when we had the last best chance to address the problems facing us, as a nation and as humanity. Climate change. Peak oil. Pollution. Water shortages. Population growth. Religious and political intolerance.

You have a choice about who you work for, what you do with your skills. Make sure you put them to good use. Design thinking - thinking about how something works, not just how it looks; thinking about the wider context in which your work takes place - these kinds of thinking are essential for solving those problems. As a designer, are you making things better, or perpetuating the problems we already have? When you’re up here in twenty years’ time talking the the graduating class of 2030, will they thank you for what you did?

There are too many people for whom learning stops after high school or university. People whose ideas about the world and, more obviously, whose aesthetic sense is stuck at the time that they finished formal education. Don’t be those people. Keep on learning. This is the start, not the end.


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