indigenous design means business

International Indigenous Design Charter Walks the Talk in Hong Kong
Feature by Dr Russell Kennedy
International Indigenous Design Charter Walks the Talk in Hong Kong Feature by Dr Russell Kennedy

14.01.2019 Member news

Marcus Lee (Karajarri) from Marcus Lee Design, Australia, designer of the International Indigenous Design Charter publication. (Photo credit: Marcus Lee Design)


The sets a new benchmark for authentic cultural representation in professional practice. A team from Melbourne presented the Charter at the 2018 annual Hong Kong Business of Design Week (BoDW). The Charter attracted considerable interest in a city which admits to be still navigating the process of decolonisation post the 1997 handover.


, the International Indigenous Design Charter is part of the International Indigenous Design Network (INDIGO) which produced the first iteration of the Charter: a self-regulated, best practice guide that supports existing policies, procedures and protocols to ensure the rights of Indigenous stakeholders. The International Indigenous Design Charter is a best practice protocols document to assist designers when working on projects involving indigenous representation. It is intended that the Charter be used to help facilitate accurate and respectful representation of indigenous culture in design and associated media. The Charter provides guidance when referencing existing designs but also when creating new work. The 10 point guidelines have been written for use by both non-Indigenous and Indigenous designers. This Charter argues that designers need access to a shared knowledge base but the process by which this occurs must be led and supported by Indigenous communities. The Charter supports the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Human Rights that states the need for indigenous peoples to be in control of their own culture. To do otherwise is merely to appropriate their rights, knowledge and status.


The INDIGO delegation was present in this international forum. Deakin University, ico-D Member, and its project partners introduced the International Indigenous Design Charter to the world's thought leaders, innovators and creative minds who gathered in Hong Kong to explore the changing landscape of design, business, technology and cultural representation. The International Indigenous Design Charter formed part of the Melbourne Pavilion at BoDW (2018) in the Design Inspire Exhibition. Melbourne, known as Australia’s centre for design and culture, was the partner city to the Hong Kong BoDW and presented itself under a three word theme, ‘Think, Collaborate, Create’, a natural fit for the International Indigenous Design Charter. The exhibition had Australian state government support (Victorian Government) from both Creative Victoria and the National Gallery of Victoria.


Jefa Greenaway (Wailwan, Gamillaraay) at the International Indigenous Design Charter display, BoDW Pavilion exhibition. (Photo credit: Jayne Russell)

Jefa Greenaway (Wailwan, Gamillaraay) from Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria (IADV) presented the Charter in a keynote address at the aligned BoDW business conference. Greenaway, Australia’s first registered architect in the State of Victoria, worked with Dr Russell Kennedy, Dr Meghan Kelly from Deakin University and Professor Brian Martin (Muruwari, Bundjalung, Gamillaraay) to co-author the Charter. See profiles for International IIDC authors . Dr Meghan Kelly made the following observation about the reception of the Charter in Hong Kong:

“The International Indigenous Design Charter, presented at the Hong Kong Business of Design Week in December 2018 has placed a spotlight on an area of design practice the Asian market is just starting to grapple with. There is a developing movement in Asia to seek out something that is culturally unique but contemporary and the International Indigenous Design Charter has articulated and elevated this conversation.” (Kelly 2108).


A special printed edition of the International Indigenous Design Charter (PDF) was designed and produced specifically for the BoDW Pavilion Exhibition. Staying true to the ethos of the Charter, the publication was designed by Marcus Lee Design, an Indigenous owned business and certified supplier with Supply Nation (Australia's national directory of verified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses). Marcus Lee (pictured above), a highly respected communication designer is a proud descendant of the Karajarri people in the Kimberley region, Western Australia. The Charter was also displayed as a movie on a table top screen in the exhibition space.


IIDC: Point 8. Double page spread featuring G20 logo design by Gilimbaa. (Photo credit: AAP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


IIDC display, BoDW Pavilion exhibition. (Photo credit: Jayne Russell)

The International Indigenous Design Charter has been acknowledged globally as providing a clear  pathway to achieve authentic and respectful representation of Indigenous culture in design practice. Having said that, exhibiting the International Indigenous Design Charter in Hong Kong may have appeared to some as entering un-chartered territory, however the BoDW was the perfect location for a comprehensive discussion about authentic cultural representation in design practice.


Hong Kong is a dynamic international city. It has a long history of cross-cultural exchange and trade but unlike regional neighbour Taiwan it lacks visible acknowledgement of its traditional Indigenous communities. The BoDW events in Hong Kong provided multiple forums to germinate discussions and propagate actions within the international design community.


The conversation about decolonising and identity representation have been discussed in the Asia regions before. In 2012  the International Council of Design (ico-D) may well have planted a seed for a paradigm shift in the region. Rediscovery, ico-D’s Indigenous themed conference at Design Week in Kuching, Sarawak called on designers to look back in order to move forward. Aligned with the spirit of INDIGO, Ico-D’s Indigenous Design Network, Rediscovery provided a platform for sharing, collaborating and inspiring local and international designers in an atmosphere steeped in Sarawak's Indigenous cultures and traditions. Muhamad Razif Nasruddin from the Graphic Design Association of Malaysia (wREGA) summed up the ico-D Rediscovery Design Week by stating:


“we believe that this is the beginning for a new kind of design to take place, one that respects other cultures and shares a new sense of wisdom” (Nasruddin, 2012) 


International Indigenous Design Charter keynote presentation by Jefa Greenaway (Wailwan, Gamillaraay), Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria (IADV) and University of Melbourne (ico-D Educational Member). (Photo credit: Jayne Russell)


ico-D members enjoy an exhibition floor talk by Dr Meghan Kelly, Deakin University (ico-D Educational Member): Claire Beal, DIA National President (ico-D Professional Member), Prof. Jane Burry, Dean, School of Design, Prof. Scott Thompson-Whiteside, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Health Arts and Design, Swinburne University of Technology (ico-D Educational Member). (Photo credit: Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek)


IIDC: Point 7. Double page spread featuring image by Liss Stender. (Photo credit: Jayne Russell)

IIDC: Point 10. Double page spread featuring image by designer Frida Larios. (Photo credit: Jayne Russell)

Six years later, designers in Asia are again encouraged to ‘look back in order to move forward’. This time, the International Indigenous Design Charter has been introduced as a tool to help them authentically and respectfully action these sentiments in their practices. Designer’s now have guidelines that will enable them to connect their actions with their intentions, in other words to align their walk with their talk.  

The International Indigenous Design Charter can be downloaded from the ico-D website .


Hong Kong Business of Design Week (BoDW) 

Read and Download the International Indigenous Design Charter (PDF)

Design Institute of Australia on BoDW 



Dr Russell Kennedy 

Russell Kennedy is a Senior Lecturer and Course Director of Design at Deakin University, School of Communication and Creative Arts. Kennedy’s research is in the area of cultural representation focusing on the relationship of indigenous visual culture to national Identity. Kennedy’s PhD thesis is titled Designing with Indigenous knowledge: Policy and protocols for respectful and authentic cross-cultural representation in communication design practice. Kennedy is a Fellow of both the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA) and the Design Institute of Australia (DIA). He was President of the International Council of Communication Design Icograda (2009-2011) and a Board Member (2003 -2013). Kennedy was a Regional Ambassador to INDEX: 'Design to Improve life', the Danish Government’s International Award program (2007-2013).



International Indigenous Design Charter Walks the Talk in Hong Kong
Feature by Dr Russell Kennedy
International Indigenous Design Charter Walks the Talk in Hong Kong Feature by Dr Russell Kennedy