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In a series of exclusive interviews with Australian brands making waves around the country and the world and featured in DesignInspire virtual fair, we delve into the city’s diverse and vibrant creative scene.

As the final stop of our journey, we talk to Jonathan Yap, Lead Product Design Engineer of groundbreaking headphone brand Nuraphone and Nimrod Weis, Creative Director of ENESS, which delivers mesmerising transformational art experiences through technology.

Nuraphone

Australian brands
The Nuraphone is the only headphone to automatically learn and adapt to your unique hearing

Tell us about your work and how you started your career in design.

I’ve always been enamoured by physical products and, to this day, I am still taken aback by the power of good design and its ability to foster emotional connections with objects that to go beyond the superficial. This is a concept that was taught to me during my industry experience placement in high school, which not only laid the groundwork but cemented my career trajectory in product design. 14 years later, I now help to co-pilot product development at Nura alongside our CTO, with a particular focus on Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering-related activities.

What are your daily inspirations?

Like everyone at Nura, I’m continually driven by the transformative power of music and our technology’s ability to enrich lives through immersive listening experiences. But beyond that, most of my inspiration comes from the incredible team we have assembled and that I have the honour of working alongside every day.

What does the concept “Design for Good” mean to you?

This is a question that has way too many layers to answer in a couple of lines. However, at its core, I believe Design for Good means to deliver solutions that genuinely impact lives in positive ways, whether it’s directly, through tangible product outcomes; or indirectly, through initiatives such as sustainability-related process improvements.

Do you think that design – and more in general art and culture – can be useful tools to better societies?

Absolutely! Although I believe design initiatives must be supported by policy to really accomplish its biggest impact. Take Victoria’s urban design sector for example – green building design and water sensitive urban design has been incorporated as a standard practice, with environmentally sustainable development principles written into Victoria’s planning guidelines to meaningfully impact our city of tomorrow.

Australian brands
The Nuraphone measures your hearing in about a minute, delivering personalised sound to you.

How do you think the design and art scene differs in Melbourne compared to Hong Kong?

To be honest I think Melbourne and Hong Kong’s design scenes are actually more similar than dissimilar. I believe this is mostly due to the multi-cultural makeup of our populations, alongside a shared focus on export services. In Melbourne, this is driven by our geographical location, whereas Hong Kong’s is primarily perpetrated by its status as an international business hub.

2020 has been a tough year for pretty much every sector. According to many, the creative industries were not given enough support and importance. Would you agree?

2020 was a tough year for everyone, and I believe that applies for policy makers as well. As such, I think it is a little unfair to comment on what must have been some extremely tough decisions made by people in positions that I do not envy. That said, at Nura, creatives make up the foundation of everything we do, and we recognise the impact they have on translating extremely complex, technical requirements into clear, understandable product solutions. I am extremely proud of the initiatives implemented by the company to ensure our entire team, not only creatives, were genuinely supported through this remarkably tough time.

How did you cope with the pandemic’s challenges? What helped you?

Being in lockdown for months definitely took its toll, but luckily, I’ve been making awesome Techno music poorly since I was 18 so that’s always been a great escape for me (maybe not so much for my neighbours). I’m also very thankful for the amazing support of my friends, family, and Netflix to help me get through it.

What’s next for you as a designer in 2021?

We have a few exciting things in the pipeline, but I would probably make many people unhappy if I were to tell you. But for me personally, I’m incredibly excited to be continuing my Nura journey to help redefine how humanity experiences music by really focusing on putting the user at the centre of all design choices to maximise the impact of delivering the ultimate listening experience and to continue to touch lives in a way that only music can.

Is there any particular trend that you see becoming relevant next year?

Despite 2020 being an incredibly tough year, I think the international lockdowns have actually helped illustrate humanity’s impact on the environment and brought sustainability back to the forefront of the conversation. I really hope this continues into 2021!

ENESS

Australian brands
AEYE by ENESS

Tell us about your work and how you started your career in design.

I was very impacted by my grandpa’s approach to art and life. When I as a kid he would take me out into the Negev Desert in Southern Israel to show me his sculptures. That experience of encountering art in the desert – the strangeness and uniqueness of it has stayed with me throughout my life. When I was a child it gave me the feeling that our world could be wonderful and unexpected. I always wanted to be a designer because I most naturally communicate through visuals.

Then I studied Graphic Design at Monash Uni and, although it wasn’t quite what I wanted, what I really gained was that as a discipline, design needs to communicate to the masses. It is a visual communication tool that needs to be accessible to everyone, to speak to all walks of life. Accessibility is very strong in ENESS’ work. We try to create works that communicate simply and boldly to a general audience.

What are your daily inspirations?

I am always looking at objects, nature and even products to see if I can transform these executions into something else. I also really love transforming small pieces of gimmicky technology (like the mechanism of a lucky cat, for example) into different and more advanced designs. I am also of course inspired by the people around me.

What does the concept ‘Design for Good’ mean to you? 

For ENESS, ‘Design for Good’ relates to connecting people in public spaces in new and unexpected ways. We’re interested in challenging public realm and city spaces with new forms of engagement. This accessibility helps people who have no regular access to art, because we’re bringing art to the streets and to new audiences.

We are really proud to be making one object or piece that can be shared by many people, rather than making and selling thousands of products to be used by one person only.

Do you think that design – and more in general art and culture – can be useful tools to better societies?

Yes definitely. Great artistic outcomes can provide individuals and societies with optimism and hope and new ways to think about reality and people’s present circumstances – basically new ways of approaching life.

How do you think the design and art scene differs in Melbourne compared to Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a very progressive art city. You see a lot of eagerness and energy towards exploring ‘the new’ in artistic circles. There is also so much experimentation from fashion to art. Cultural institutions in Hong Kong really help artists and designers with what they are doing.

Similarly, Melbourne identifies as a creative city, and therefore it really assists creative people with opportunities.

2020 has been a tough year for pretty much every sector. According to many, the creative industries were not given enough support and importance. Would you agree?

The act of creating is a very primal activity and during lockdown many creative and non-creative people were stimulated to create. There was also a thirst for new images, new ideas – inspiring ways of looking at the world and art played a big part in this.

Australian brands
Sky Castle by ENESS

How did you cope with the pandemic’s challenges? What helped you?

Actually, in running a creative business for 20 years, the pandemic wasn’t too much of a challenge – it was just a different sort of challenge. We are very nimble and we work across different types of industries and so by operating according to a start-up mentality we were able to pivot more easily.

What’s next for you as a designer in 2021?

We have a large-scale project on at the moment that has the capacity to stimulate engagement with art in a bigger scale. We are very excited about this because it is both contextual and has great integrity in terms of the broad artistic intent as well as the execution of each individual artwork. We are also now using multiple mediums that are diverse, unusual and technologically groundbreaking.

Is there any particular trend that you see becoming relevant next year or, are we saying goodbye to any trend you can’t wait to get rid of?

Asian cultures have always been mindful of people around them by wearing masks when they are sick. I am hoping that the trend of wearing masks when we are sick – as a compassionate act towards others – is now here to stay in Western cultures as well.

Fashion-wise, I think it’s time to clean up a bit! I personally have fallen into the habit of wearing old jeans to work every day because there are no face-to-face meetings.

For more information visit DesignInspire. Access to DesignInspire ONLINE is free for both trade and public visitors

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