Dr Oliver Vodeb is a critical design theorist, creative practice researcher, student and educator.
Dr Oliver Vodeb’s research employs diverse strategies to investigate the processes and institutions that determine everyday life and exert influence over social futures. Using critical theory and practice to investigate the complex processes of production, distribution and reception around design he seeks to establish principles for responsible social practice. He's work is mostly centered around issues of social and environmental change, decolonisation of knowledge and the public sphere. His research is inter/extra disciplinary and he understands theory and practice as interrelated.
Oliver is creative director of Memefest and principal curator of Memefest festival of Socially Responsive Design + Communication with its international friendly competition. Committed to radical onto-epistemic change of design + communication and with participants and collaborators from more than 60 countries this is a unique alternative to the industrial awards complex. Memefest is a global network dedicated to spreading alternative theory and praxis since 2002. The Memefest network brings together critical designers, social scientists, activists, artists, educators and community members in unique extradisciplinary situations to research, design and implement public campaigns and interventions.
His work centers around urgent social issues to which he applies the lens of design in critical ways. Some of the issues he has been working on in the past years are debt as an instrument for social control, Aboriginal decolonisation and forced child removal, food democracy, food apartheid, risk in design education and the role of intimacy in social change.
Oliver collaborates with respected academic publishers like Bloomsbury (Design Philosophy Papers, Design and Culture), University of Ljubljana, Universidad Caldas, Intellect books UK while at the same time creating a new alternative scene fostering fundamental change of communication design in order to become more relevant in times of radical uncertainty and environmental degradation.
He has curated twelve Memefests, published four books with University of Ljubljana and Intellect Books UK and papers in journals like Design and Culture, Design Philosophy Papers, Journal for Critique of Science and Art, Kepes and Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education. His monograph Socially Responsive Communication and collaborative book Food Democracy were sold out and reprinted.
Currently working on
- New book: Radical Intimacies, Extradisciplinary Investigations in Making Things Public, with Intellect Books UK
- New book: Post Branding Forecast, with Onomatopee
- New Memefest web site
- Researching the interdisciplinary potentials of communication design and documentary photography
Awards and Grants
His largest grant was a 360 000 EUR grant by the European Union for the development of the first peer-peer production based open source fashion brand Openwear. Poper, his studio for public communication co-authored and was leading partner of the project.
Dr Vodeb has significant international teaching experience having taught design in Europe, USA, South America, The Middle East, Asia and Australia.
He has taught a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses including theory and research courses, advanced studio practice courses and interdisciplinary courses connecting communication designers with students from other design disciplines as well as with students from architecture, social sciences, fine arts and others.
He’s strength is in connecting theory and practice and different disciplines in ways that many times open new onto-epistemic relations and possibilities.
Oliver is teaching in the Master of communication design:
- Research methods for design and digital media
- Design studies
- Design strategy
- Design studio
He has given Memefest workshops in Slovenia, Colombia, Netherlands, Australia, USA and Cuba.
Oliver holds a PhD in sociology of design, media and communication from University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He has studied under Mirjana Ule, Rastko Močnik and Aleš Debeljak.
Oliver holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of Maribor and an honors degree in sociology from University of Ljubljana.
He was close friend with Slovenian poster design legend and his design mentor late prof. Zdravko Papič with whom he has collaborated for many years.
Industry and community experience
Oliver regularly collaborates with design industry and communities around the world.
He has co-directed Poper studio for public communicaiton for eight years and was creative director of dozens public communication campaigns and interventions including the first national anti drug prohibition campaign, a high-profile Slovenian presidential campaign and the largest experimental design human rights campaign in Slovenia. With colleagues he has developed the first peer-peer production based open source fashion brand. Poper studio operated as an alternative to the mainstream advertising and design companies implementing design projects based on experimental, dialogic and non- extractive relationalities.
He has in collaboration with design studio Inkahoots and Madeleine Clifford developed the research and the design strategy for the Greenpeace's global “post-brand”- an alternative to predatory commercial branding for the largest environmental organization in the world. The knowledge on how to do post branding will be open source, free to use for other organizations.
Personal acknowledgement: I acknowledge my friends at Memefest for their continuing dedication to our beautiful adventure, my colleagues at RMIT for their support and collaboration and the many people building up social movements that give me hope.
I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territories of the Eastern Kulin Nations (Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups). I extend my acknowledgement to their elders and leaders past, present and emerging. I acknowledge my ongoing relationships, connections and commitments to the First Peoples, and the benefits and obligations these bring.
- Lewis, T.,Vodeb, O. (2021). Melbourne: Care, ethics and social enterprise meets ‘global’ café culture In: Global Brooklyn, Bloomsbury Academic, United Kingdom
- Lewis, T.,Vodeb, O. (2021). Melbourne: Care, Ethics, and Social Enterprise Meet Global Café Culture In: Global Brooklyn: Designing Food Experiences in World Cities, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, United Kingdom
- Vodeb, O.,Grant, J. (2020). Greenpeace Postbranding In: Greenpeace South East Asia Online (Brisbane/ Melbourne)
- Burch, S.,Gye, L.,Horswood, K.,Marcus, D.,Vodeb, O. (2020). Coming to the Fire: Collaboration across Cultures in Media Activism In: InsUrgent Media from the Front, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, United States
- Vodeb, O. (2019). Extradisciplinary Risk-Taking: Design Education As Institutional Critique In: Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, 18, 113 - 126
- Vodeb, O. (2019). Radical Intimacies: (Re)Designing the Impact of Documentary Photography In: Trigger Antwerp, Belgium
- Vodeb, O. (2019). Baltimore's Food Apartheid In: Serving Food Justice (Exhibition); Community public interventions: Baltimore's Food Apartheid Baltimore, USA
- Vodeb, O. (2017). Designed Pleasure: How advertising is selling food as drugs In: Food democracy : critical lessons in food, communication, design and art, Intellect, United Kingdom
- Vodeb, O. (2017). Pleasure Praxis In: Food democracy : critical lessons in food, communication, design and art, Intellect, United Kingdom
- Vodeb, O. (2017). Conflict Kitchen: Dawn Weleski Jon Rubin In: Food democracy : critical lessons in food, communication, design and art, Intellect, United Kingdom
3 PhD Current Supervisions
- Memefest Social Design: Food and Culture. Funded by: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Competitive from (2021 to 2021)