James Vinciguerra Belgrado/Amigdala at Der Autobhan, Berlin 2022. Courtesy of the designer © James Vinciguerra
Past Event

Melbourne Now: Babel Bookcase


Thu 18 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Fri 19 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Sat 20 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Sun 21 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Mon 22 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Tue 23 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Wed 24 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Thu 25 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Fri 26 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Sat 27 May 10:00am - 5:00pm
Sun 28 May 10:00am - 5:00pm


Free, No Booking Required


The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Russell Street, Melbourne VIC, Australia


Wheelchair accessible

What is Melbourne graphic design now? How has it changed in the past decade? Where is it heading? Communication design, which includes but isn’t limited to what was once called ‘graphic design’, encompasses at once an industry and a mainstay of everyday culture, a site of social innovation and of commercial disruption, an incubator of the new, and a bastion of tradition. Babel Bookcase offers an insight into the worlds of graphic design and communication design in and from Naarm/Melbourne over the past ten years.

Communication design shapes how we receive other cultural forms, such as music and literature; it is our interface with social infrastructures, such as the postal service and the museum; and it helps us to navigate the urban environment through placemaking and wayfinding. Babel Bookcase brings together a sample of the best work from established and emerging studios and practitioners, showcasing a wide range of modes of practice, spanning posters, typefaces, and websites to branding, murals, and experimental practice. A dedicated bookshelf includes a selection of outstanding books, showcasing a specialised domain of design practice that is vibrant in Melbourne. Inspired by the Tower of Babel, the exhibition takes as its starting point the assumption that communication design is a means of connecting people, cultures, and subcultures, and highlights the vital role that design plays in shaping our daily lives. Audiences will see how the graphic design landscape in Melbourne has evolved over the past ten years and gain insights into the innovative work being produced by the city’s leading designers of today and tomorrow – designers whose reach is not only local but also national and international in terms of reputation and impact.

The ever-increasing accessibility of design tools and training has, year after year, made the landscape of communication design more diverse in profound ways. The changing cultural role of design allows designers to be more experimental, fostering a rise in more unconventional and boundary-pushing design practices. A growing recognition of the importance of sustainability and ethical design has influenced the work of many designers in Melbourne, leading to a greater focus on environmentally and socially conscious design solutions. At the same time, the phenomenon of ‘design thinking’ in enterprise leadership has forced the discipline of communication design to articulate, with renewed vigor, the uniqueness of its contribution to corporate strategy and economic growth across sectors. None of these historical trends seems likely to slow anytime soon.

The persistent rise of digital communication has also had a profound impact on how graphic design is practiced and received in Melbourne and beyond. This has compelled designers to adapt to new platforms and channels, and we must continue to consider the unique challenges and opportunities presented by new digital developments, such as artificial intelligence, which, by way of example, wrote a few sentences of this introductory text. Can you spot them?

How might prompt engineering become a method of design practice that complements, and is not in competition with, time-honoured understandings of human creativity and problem-solving? It is safe to assume all professional communication disciplines, including communication design, will in another ten years be very different from today due to changes that will include but won’t be limited to, technological developments such as AI. Despite these profound disruptions, the core principles of good design will remain the same, and designers in Melbourne will continue to produce work that is conceptually rich, aesthetically pleasing, and which plays an important role in culture and commerce alike.

Brad Haylock, Guest Curator, Babel Bookcase

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