Australian designer and innovator Ruby Chan reveals how critical thinking, a designer’s mind and some fresh perspective can lead to innovative ideas with broad applications.
Chan is studying the Master of Design Innovation and Technology (MDIT), a postgraduate program that encourages students to speculate on the future of design practice. Chan is taking what she has been working on in her masters and attempting to develop it for future commercial use – which could have impact across the globe.
How did you come across RMIT’s Master of Design Innovation and Technology?
I was looking at my options after my Honours year in Industrial Design, and I didn’t think I had too many choices for courses that focused more on the research side. Studying at postgraduate level in design seemed uncommon to me – but when I came across the MDIT I felt that I had found my answer. It’s the first masters program of its kind and it’s fresh and relevant to the future of design practice. The MDIT is a pioneer in this area and I hope that people will come to respect the role of research in design.
What opportunities to innovate are there in this space?
As an MDIT student I was given the creative freedom to innovate, try new approaches and combine disciplines. For example, for my major project this year I combined my interest in material science and industrial design to devise a potentially novel material, as well as a specific application for that material. It seemed like an impossible goal at the time, but my project supervisors were incredibly supportive and the outcome was even better than I expected.
I attended a talk at RMIT’s Design Hub on entrepreneurship, which planted a seed in my head, and I decided to commit myself to the goal of commercialising my material. I'm liaising with a patent attorney at the moment and if the patent is granted, it will be my greatest achievement to date. It would mean a type of formal recognition for my material, which I hope can have worldwide application in the future. It’s a huge challenge and I’ve had to learn a lot, but I would never have taken the first step without the encouragement I received from my MDIT supervisors.
How does a Master of Design Innovation and Technology give you a broad base of knowledge?
The MDIT taught me to be ambitious, think critically and to try new challenges.
The program has four core themes: sound studies, digital fabrication and advanced manufacturing, responsive and adaptive environments, and designing information environments. It’s a well-rounded course that teaches students skills beyond their own discipline. The MDIT program is full of students from all design backgrounds, so it’s interesting to collaborate and be exposed to different approaches, which can then inform your own work.
Studying abroad through RMIT’s collaborative partnerships broadened my horizons. In my first year, MDIT students travelled to the architecture facility of Tsinghua University in Beijing, which is a highly respected school, and the experience was revelatory.
So not only did I learn a lot in the degree, I also got to travel, make friends at Tsinghua University, and get a global perspective on design.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in design innovation and technology?
Innovation is at the heart of every hard design challenge, but innovation doesn’t come easy! Explore beyond your own discipline background and never stop learning. Innovation is like a jigsaw puzzle: the more pieces of knowledge you have and the more you observe, the more likely you’ll find a fitting solution.
Story: Brad Dixon
Explore the future of design practice with RMIT's Master of Design Innovation and Technology