Oya, 43, has been in her position at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) for seven years. She manages to fit lecturing, research and designing into her schedule.
Her academic research involves issues concerning the ageing of populations and the impact of this on product design and interior environments, universal design, user participation in design and collaborative design and emotional responses to products. Before she started at UNSW, Oya worked in Switzerland and Turkey as a freelance designer and an industrial design teacher.
What do you do in your job?
I teach design studio courses in the industrial design program, coordinate project research, and supervise Master-by-Research and PhD students. As the industrial design program head at UNSW, I make sure the program is delivered smoothly during each teaching session and control the budget and payments for casual teaching and program-related expenses. I also listen to student problems and help them find a solution. Additionally, I pursue research work, publish articles in academic journals and present conference papers.
Being an academic allows me to be flexible with my time. That doesn’t mean that I work less, on the contrary, I often end up working twice as much, and mainly in my own time. But I like being able to have different facets in my working life. I can do research work that feeds my teaching, and I can use the teaching itself as research material. The constant contact with younger generations is also very motivating and refreshing. Besides my teaching, I am also able to practise design whenever I manage to have the time for it.
The brief I took part in for the Young Designer of the Year Design Competition in 2000 was to work with Tyvec paper and to create a useful object out of it. I made a lamp from one big piece of folded paper and won the runner-up prize for my Sheelight paper lamp. Working with such a simple material was a nice and fresh experience.
Being an enthusiastic designer is almost a 24-hour job. Your life becomes your job and vice versa. It is definitely not a 9 am to 5 pm job as you are constantly involved in designing, thinking, researching, developing, making and trying to make things happen. However, when you enjoy your job, it makes it easier to find a work–life balance.
Australian designers tend to be more creative. This might be due to the fact that they are so far from the European scene. This allows them to stay unaffected by certain trends. The freedom and ample space in Australia combined with the relaxed casual lifestyle also plays an important role in boosting creativity.
A potential growth opportunity seems to be in sustainable products and recycling, and also in customisable products. The developments in 3D printing technologies will soon provide more options, and allow people to be able to ‘print’ their own objects at home. They will be able to recycle the material they use for printing each new shape or object. Recycling and sustainable materials and processes are the way to go if we want to preserve our natural resources and environment for the generations to come.