Designers David Gargiulo (left) & Matt Gardner (right) © Photos Ponch Hawkes 2008
In this interview Industrial Designers David Gargiulo and Matt Gardner from Melbourne based Mothers Art Productions, a company specialising in the design and build of public art, commercial art, and exhibition design for zoos and museums, talk about their design processes, interesting projects that they been involved in and ‘must have’ skills for Industrial Designers in Australia.
Enjoy and please take the time to leave your thoughts, comments and feedback.
“We’ve often got to find suitable solutions for bizarre projects. We never see the same project twice so we often need to take a new approach to each project.”
“I think it’s the level of creativity that exists in Melbourne. From the street art, to the small design companies, through to the architecture, it’s a very healthy creative scene, and there’s plenty to inspire.”
“No two days at work are the same, and there is always something new to learn. I guess that’s what keeps it a fresh and exciting career.”
1. David & Matt, Welcome to Design Droplets. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, could you please give a quick introduction on yourselves.
Matt: I did high-school in Hobart, then studied industrial design at Swinburne, graduating my honours year in 2005. After that I did a small stint of contract work helping design a one-man ‘hydrofoiling’ racing yacht called Bladerider, which was then produced in China & is sold around the globe. They’re almost entirely made from carbon fibre, so they’re very light-weight (and very expensive!) and move very fast over the water. I then started at Mothers Art after earlier doing some work placement with them. I’ve been here since then, with a few smaller design projects with friends & some big overseas trips in-between.
David: Like Matt, I am from industrial design background. I am originally from New Zealand, where I studied product design, and had a great opportunity to work on a range of collaborative product design and development projects. In 2008, I had the opportunity to exhibit a range of products/projects I had been working on at the Milan Design Fair including a Decomposing Garden Gnome, along with a few projects exploring the application of theatre techniques in the design development process. A year ago I completed my Masters in Design, and shortly after joined the creative design team here at Mothers Art where I have found myself continually working on exciting new projects.
2. You are both Industrial Designers at Melbourne based Mothers Art, can you tell us a bit about Mothers Art?
Mothers Art originated around 26 years ago. We’re based in Spotswood, in Melbourne’s inner west. We specialise in the design and build of public art, commercial art, and exhibition design for zoos and museums. The commercial side occasionally branches into props for television & print advertising. Film and TV used to be a much bigger part of our work, but that industry has changed with the development of CGI.
3. What are some of the Mothers Art works that Design Droplets readers might be familiar with?
The most familiar work we’ve done would be the fish sculptures which was a big part of the River Event for the Commonwealth Games here in Melbourne in 2006. 72 of them were floated on pontoons along the Yarra River. We’ve worked on projects with all three zoos under the Zoos Victoria brand. Other pieces include a 6.5m sculpture of the iconic “Luxo Jr” lamp for Pixar that sat outside of ACMI at Federation Square. That now stands at the Pixar headquarters in San Francisco. We also produced the ‘Super Mario’ light box that took up the same spot on Flinders St. The Christmas tree that stands in the CBD is another work of ours that people would recognise.
4. What are the typical types of projects you, as industrial designers, are involved in at Mothers Art? What is your role there?
There’s really no such thing as a typical project at Mothers Art; It could be a large sculpture for an event promotion that lasts only a few weeks, or it could be fitting out an exhibition space or visitor centre, with a 10-year life-span. Or public art, which needs to last indefinitely outdoors & be really sturdy.
Our roles stretch between concept sketches & designs at the front end, through to design development and then construction drawings (usually for our in-house workshop).
We’ve often got to find suitable solutions for bizarre projects. We never see the same project twice so we often need to take a new approach to each project.
5. What has been the coolest project that you have had the opportunity to work on at Mothers Art?
Matt: Mine is actually a 6-metre Christmas bauble we did for Auckland City council. The cool bit it that we based a 6m sphere on a dodecahedron, a geometric shape made up of pentagons. We did that so that it could break down into curved half-pentagons for easy transport in a shipping container. It was great fun working with that shape; I’m not a maths-head, but you find some really magic stuff when you’re working with geometric shapes & spheres, etc. We built it in very small pieces & it all came together really well.
David: Personally I enjoyed working on the donation boxes for Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Zoos, as it’s nice to think that objects can help with raising money for animal causes.
6. Can you share your personal creative process and design philosophy with Design Droplets readers?
David: I guess my creative process is primarily concerned with the end consumer and the experiences that can unfold around a design outcome. I have recently been exploring how the application of theatre techniques can aid the design process, and hopefully get a chance to play further with this in forthcoming projects.
Matt: Mine is in the product design area, which I did a lot of in university & plan to get into in the future. I enjoy coming up with concepts that are based on existing products that may not have really evolved much in the past few decades. It’s exciting trying to completely re-design products like footwear or apparel.
7. What is the best thing about the Melbourne/Australian Design community?
Matt: To put it simply, I think it’s the level of creativity that exists in Melbourne. From the street art, to the small design companies, through to the architecture, it’s a very healthy creative scene, and there’s plenty to inspire.
8. In your opinion, what is the best thing about working in Industrial Design?
David: No two days at work are the same, and there is always something new to learn. I guess that’s what keeps it a fresh and exciting career.
Matt: The ability to branch off into so many areas using the skills you have. I’m a big fan of movie special effects, fashion design, product & apparel design and a few other areas. All of these and plenty more are essentially within reach for someone with an industrial design background or training.
9. What do you think is the ‘must have skill’ for Australian Industrial Designers?
David: I believe that collaborative ideation will continue to become an important part of the design process for future creative generations. The ability to see opportunities where design can make positive changes to the way we interact with the world around us is a great skill to have.
Matt: I’d say flexibility: the ability to cover a range of skill areas or ways to express your ideas.
10. David & Matt, thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at Design Droplets. Do you have any final thoughts or advice for Design Droplets readers?
David: I guess that some of the best outcomes are produced when everyone’s working together, and valuable ideas come together from all dimensions of the team from project managers to fabricators. Mothers Art is very cross-disciplinary and I guess that is one of our strengths. Having a great team allows us the ability to generate results through a diverse range of projects.