Wholistic Design: Dhiren Bhagwandas

Australian industrial designer Dhiren Bhagwandas is a man on a mission, trying to change the way people approach product development. With a strong social conscience, his design is driven by a desire to advise his clients on how creative thinking can improve their businesses. Going beyond just product design, his process encourages better manufacturing procedures, as well as improved methods of labor, material sourcing and the creation of an overall brand experience.

This 360-degree understanding is reflected in his approach to Native, the furniture brand Bhagwandas developed in collaboration with Managing Director Rob Young in 2008. In his role as Creative Director, Bhagwandas developed the brand concept, product design, art direction and business strategy. This hands-on approach has resulted in a furniture range that is durable and functional, with highly tactile designs.

The brand fills a gap in high-end, sustainable Australian design. “One important system that has been observed in ecology is the lifecycle of living organisms—the way they grow, live, die and feed back into a complex flow of material and energy,” Bhagwandas says. “This has influenced the Native philosophy, where products can be refinished to extend their use and parts reclaimed for re-use at the end of their usable life.”

Bhagwandas believes design is part of a greater process of contributing to social transformation, and opened his own studio during 2005 to look at how design can bring about positive change. While ethical sourcing and responsible manufacturing practices remain one way, he says that “another way is through promoting progressive ideas to a broader audience through narratives and the power of imagery. You don’t necessarily have to buy a product to learn about the philosophy behind it, to receive a message and continue a dialogue.”

He also conceived a highly innovative project in 2008 called “Before & After,” where he and fellow designer Justin Hutchinson invited 25 designers to re-appropriate objects and furniture from a local charity, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, which has a network of charity stores. Using these items, the designers reworked them into desirable, emotive objects. He sees this as an example of how design can affect change through social enterprise projects. “I see this as a central role of the designer, where commercial, ecological and social considerations all play a key part of the process.”

Bhagwandas’ background is highly varied. He studied industrial design at Swinburne University in Melbourne, originally working in lighting design. Since then, he has successfully dipped into designing furniture, installations, interior architecture and transport projects, including an AUD$25 billion London rail project.

Bhagwandas is now turning his hand to projects with craft makers from various countries, as well as working with manufacturers to improve their practices and material sourcing. Thanks to Bhagwandas’ efforts to source ethical materials that can be repurposed in the future, it seems that good design doesn’t have to cost the earth.

For more visit: www.dhirenbhagwandas.com

– Petah Marian
THE SPRING ISSUE


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