When nations consider their exportable resources, design is often far down the list, but a 2008 study conducted by the Victoria government in Australia revealed that over $300 million in state revenue can be directly attributed to design-related exports. The state ’s design sector, centered in Melbourne, contributes $7 billion annually to the economy and employs more than 76,000 Victorians – this in a country with a population of just 21.5 million people. The study made apparent that design talent is a highly desirable and exportable commodity. The Australian creative industry could be as marketable abroad as iron ore and manufactured goods.
Australian designers have skills sought in many parts of the world, particularly in rapidly industrializing areas like neighboring Southeast Asia. In fact, the vast geographic size of Australia actually makes the flying distance from Melbourne to Singapore or Indonesia shorter than from Melbourne to Perth. As it is, many studios in Singapore are heavily staffed by Australian designers.
The government’s Design Victoria Strategy emerged from this recognition. Director Michele Azzopardi reports that Design Victoria is a state initiative aimed at growing Victoria’s design sector. “It is committed to increasing the competitive skills of Victorian designers in local and export markets, while developing the design innovation and excellence capabilities of small to medium enterprises in Victoria.”
Its first undertaking was to relate the export experiences of Australian designers in a collection of case studies presented in a publication titled “The Case for Export,” designed by Melbourne-based studio, Southsouthwest. Produced in collaboration with Austrade, Australian Institute of Export (AIEX), Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA), Design Institute of Australia (DIA) and Swinburne University of Technology, “The Case for Export” is filled with tips and insights on skills required to export design and pitfalls to avoid, along with comprehensive lists of guides, grants and assistance offered by government and business associations. Practical advice runs the gamut from communicating with overseas clients from Australia, whether a change in office structure is necessary, getting payments from a foreign country, to proper etiquette in exchanging business cards. Design has become a profession that can be practiced beyond national borders and across oceans and continents. Although Australia is still known as “the land down under,” it is now just an email click away.