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COFA students design for maximum social impact.

In Australia, the month of March marks the start of a new university year. To us, this means a fresh batch of students and projects to mentor through our REAL Social Impact Design Initiative.

Run in conjunction with the College of Fine Arts (COFA), The REAL Social Impact Design Initiative invites Design students in their final year to conceptualize and realize a product, artwork or program which must answer to one condition: create a positive social change.

A team of mentors made up of established industry professionals provides tailored workshops, one on one mentoring and a pathway to production, marketing and distribution, providing emerging designers with a rare access into the highly competitive creative industry.

Over the last 4 years, we have been delighted to help bring several extraordinary projects to life.

Some of our most successful projects include Santina Ingui’s ‘Life in Parts’ which raises awareness of mental illness with a series of exquisite but fragile ceramic vessels, embodying our own vulnerability.

Visala Wong’s ‘Take a Walk in My Shoes‘ aims to create opportunities for the chronically poor in China with a range of colorful shoes woven by disadvantaged people using traditional methods.

Protect the Child’, a project by Jason Giam in partnership with NGO Save the Children, aims to address the mineral-fueled crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo and uses a range of graphic Tees as collateral.

Probably the project that has come the furthest since its conception in 2009 is S.E.A.T.

Niki Banados, a graduating design student from the College of Fine Arts, designed a little stool entirely made of bamboo which was conceived to create a positive social outcome every step of the way.

Manufactured in Vietnam in a sustainable bamboo factory, the production of S.E.A.T ensures safe employment and fair wages for a large proportion of women in the village where the factory is located.

In Australia, S.E.A.T forms part of an integrated educational package which is implemented in primary schools across the country and educates children in social values, sustainability, raises funds for indigenous literacy and encourages community engagement.

The 2014 projects are still in their infancy but already brimming with potential.

Complex issues have been identified and the first sketches are starting to emerge.

When we think about design, we often think that the role of the designer is to make each object as beautiful, specific, unique… Extraordinary as it can be. We think of these qualities in aesthetic terms but more rarely as qualities a perfectly ordinary object could come to embody.

What if an ordinary object became a beautiful opportunity, a specific solution, a unique challenge? What if an ordinary object contained an extraordinary message?

This is the question our students will try to answer and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.

It might just change someone’s life.

You can support the REAL Foundation by purchasing any product from our ‘Hands’ range which includes limited edition ceramic pieces, jewellery and graphic Tees sporting the ‘Hands’ participants ‘Messages for Humanity’. Proceeds go towards the development and implementation of our REAL Foundation programs, like the COFA one.