(This post also published on the MIDF blog today)

The INDEX award exhibition at Federation Square

Although the official opening for the Melbourne International Design Festival is still a few days away, the madness seems to be just settling in! My Saturday was crammed full of MIDF previews and meet-ups… and despite the cold, Federation Square seemed abuzz with anticipation…

The installation of the INDEX award exhibition from Denmark was certainly causing a stir on Saturday, as the National Design Centre team frantically installed the last of the acrylic exhibit ‘bubbles’. Federation Square was bustling with visitors, and even before the exhibition was fully installed, there seemed a lot of interest in these mysterious spherical showcases popping up everywhere.

The National Design Centre team, hard at work installing the INDEX award exhibition at Federation Square

The effect of these oversized clear bubbles en masse is truly breathtaking – even more so against the backdrop of Federation Square. The spherical shapes seem so perfectly juxtaposed against the fractal facade of Fed Square’s main buildings… all those sharp angles and jutting shapes somehow seem to lend a new aesthetic to the exhibition.


One of the fantastic things about the design of this exhibition is the fact that it draws such a varied audience – families, commuters and tourists alike can engage with the exhibits in a very spontaneous way. Plus the novelty and visual effect of encasing each exhibit in its own self contained ‘bubble’ is so engaging… these playful shapes give the exhibition a personality of its own – it seems friendly and approachable! Spreading the exhibition out over the perimeter of a public space like Fed Square means that the INDEX award show is likely to reach more viewers than any other event in the festival.

But enough about the exhibition design – the work on show, too, is a fantastic collection of some of the most unique concepts in socially conscious design from across the globe. Design to Improve Life is the focus of the show, and designers from all over the world are represented. Some of the most interesting exhibits are based on the simplest of concepts… my favourites below:

Antivirus – A Cap to Protect by Han Pham of Denmark

Antivirus – A Cap to Protect by Han Pham of Denmark won the people’s choice awards when it was first exhibited in Denmark in 2007. This fantastically simple idea is a solution to the problem of infection associated with the improper disposal of used syringes. Apparently 16 billion injections are administered world-wide each year, and 50% of all injections in the developing world are considered ‘unsafe’. In addition, many waste-pickers in developing countries are infected by needles which have been incorrectly disposed of.

The Antivirus Cap system complies with the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that sharps be segregated at point of use. The antivirus sharps container turns any aluminium can into a safe sharps disposal unit. The used needle is safely and permanently locked inside the can. The container can then be disposed of without fear of contamination.

Interestingly, this system was designed by Han Pham, a Vietnamese-born refugee, who in her childhood had suffered an infection which she contracted through a tetanus vaccination which was administered using an infected needle. Han Pham’s early experiences have greatly influenced her own design practice – more info here.

iUVO Play Cures – a mobile infusion system for children designed by Kaspar Matthison-Hansen, Kaspar Nedergaard Sorenson, Denmark.

More than a million sick children per year are treated with infusion-therapy at hospitals. Existing infusion systems are cumbersome for children, limiting their mobility and freedom. iUVO Play Cures is a mobile infusion system which children can wear like a backpack, allowing them to play and interact with other kids, and providing relief from the constant reminder of their illness. The system can be used by children at young as 2 years old.

The COVER stool by Alain Berteau (Belgium)

The COVER stool by Alain Berteau is a simple solution to the problem of over-packaging and excess waste. The strong cardboard polyhedron-shaped box contains foam padding and a recycled fabric cover – everything you need to turn the box itself into an upholstered stool/side table. Packaging waste is completely eliminated, and energy is saved in both production and shipping.

INDEX award exhibition
Perimeter of Federation Square
(starting at Russel st, outside the National Design Centre)
until Sunday 27th July
Free