iscd student volunteering experience at Denfair

Posted by iscd@admin on June 28

Last month two of our Melbourne students, Kathryn Brentwood and Bianca Huon got the chance to volunteer at the Denfair Design Show with the DIA (Design Institute of Australia). We caught up with one of the students, Kathryn Brentwood about her experience and the key learnings from the event.

Kathryn talked to us about the DIA stand at Denfair which focused on Biophilic Design which is about maximising human health and productivity by incorporating natural materials, lights and various views from the world into a modern environment.


How was your experience at Denfair? As a volunteer for the DIA what did your job entail?

I had just joined the DIA as a student member so I was really excited to get an email to say that they were asking for volunteers to set up their stand. Our job as volunteers involved working with one of the five florists who were setting it up. We all unloaded a whole truck load of branches of native flora, different types of eucalyptus mostly, and we cable tied these branches to a lighting rig. When we’d finished covering the rig with the branches it was lifted up so that it appeared as though the DIA’s stand had a living ceiling. I worked with the florist Bella Blazeley who showed me how to attach the branches to the lighting rig and to make sure there was a mixture of different foliage and to ensure that we weren’t leaving any big gaps between the branches. I didn’t realise that floristry can be such hard physical work; it’s not just standing around arranging peonies in vases!

Photos from iscd student Bianca Huon

Photo from  @dia_national

Photo from @exzibitdesign


Did you find the overall experience beneficial?

The show took place the week before I was due to hand in my sustainability research assignment at iscd so the timing couldn’t have been better for me. It was wonderful to work alongside Bella as we talked (me trying not to sound like I was interviewing her for my assignment!) about the sustainability aspects of the floristry industry, her attempts to minimise water wastage and to work in a way that minimises her impact on the environment. We also talked the unethical ways that roses are grown in some countries and the impact to the environment of importing flowers that require long shipping distances and how she tries to use locally grown, seasonal products where possible.

It was also really beneficial to see the behind the scenes of everyone setting up their stands and the care and thought that is put into having it look so good to best represent their products.

Meeting the florists and the other volunteers was such a great opportunity. It was also a lovely coincidence that Bianca Huon, also an iscd student was volunteering too. She’s further along in her course than I am and she is in a different class to myself so I’d never met her before. It was great to meet her and swap notes about how our study is going and what we’re working on.


What were your key learnings from the event?

The DIA’s stand was designed by Daniel Dalla Rivafrom, Design Director of Environments at Latitude Design and we had the opportunity to meet him when he came to see how his design was coming along. He told us about how he worked in collaboration with Wood Solutions who are an organisation who advise on the use of wood and biophilic environments. I learnt about biophilic design as the brief of the DIA’s stand was to highlight the importance of this. Research has shown that by incorporating natural products such as wood and plants into work and home environments it can improve well-being, reduce sick days and increase productivity.  Since Denfair I’ve started seeing articles about biophilic design everywhere from a report on Salone De Mobile in Milan to an advert on tv.

This got me thinking about how it may be possible to incorporate biophilic design into learning environments such as schools. This experience made me to start thinking about the possibility of embarking on a PhD thesis on the possibilities of incorporating biophilic design in schools to enhance learning. I’d love to be able to combine my two passions: education and design to improve student outcomes by improving the design of school learning environments.

My other key learning is something I already knew but volunteering with the DIA reinforced the idea; get out and get talking to people and volunteer. It’s wonderful to meet other like-minded people who are working in the design industry and to learn about how they got to where they are. It’s heartening to know that not everyone takes a linear pathway straight from school to studying design.

Kathryn is studying the diploma at our Melbourne Campus. Kathryn also works full time as a senior English Teacher in a secondary school. She talked to us about how she has always had a passion for interiors and design in general and restores furniture as a hobby, mostly mid- century modern pieces. Kathryn is also in the midst of her second home renovation. Which we are so excited to see as it comes along.


Denfair is coming to Sydney for the first time this year. If you are a student or graduate interested in volunteering at the event, read more about how to get involved here.

If you have a passion for interiors or design like Kathryn, take a look at the courses we offer online iscd. With over 35 years of design education experience we love nothing more than helping your passions become a reality in the design world.

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