Designing With(in) the Mess

Presented by Nina Gibbes, Dennis Grauel, Jane Connory and Issa Assaad

A panel discussion with Nina Gibbes, Dennis Grauel, Dr Jane Connory and Issa el Assaad, introduced by Dr Neal Haslem and moderated by Dr Fayen d’Evie

How can we create a more inclusive landscape for graphic design and architectural practice?

This panel discussion explores the research and practices of four different designers who make space for this important shift towards a design world that is pluralistic, inclusive and diverse. Celebrating the inaugural 2021 event of the RMIT WoD series, this talk is in connection with the #worldwewant initiative.

#Worldwewant was launched in 2020 to advance a radical critique to the inequities, lack of representation and established power paradigms both within and caused through design practice. It looks to support initiatives that aspire to the ‘worldwewant’ through design practice.

This program took place at The Capitol, 113 Swanston St, Melbourne.


Nina Gibbes is a graphic designer and current student in the Master’s of Communication Design degree at RMIT University. Her 2020 professional research project titled Sitting With the Mess, investigates how designers are making space to address the inherent gender and cultural biases present in the canon of graphic design and in the wider industry. In Semester 1 2021, using her research project as a starting point, Nina collaborated with Dr Fayen d’Evie on developing a project for RMIT Experimental Typography students to design typographic Risograph posters in response to design practices that have been under-acknowledged. The posters created by the students will be on display at this event.

Dennis Grauel is a type and graphic designer based in Melbourne, Australia. This nascent practise, driven by curiosity for letters and language, aims to reflect an inquisitive mood, filtering eclectic influences through critical interrogation and juvenile play in equal measure.

Dr Jane Connory was awarded her PhD in 2019 from Monash University, Art, Design and Architecture, which worked towards a gender inclusive history of Australian graphic design. She was also awarded a Masters of Communication Design (Design Management) with Distinction from RMIT in 2016 and has been a practising designer in the advertising, branding and publishing sectors, in both London and Melbourne, since 1997. She has also lectured in and managed communication design programs in both the VET and Higher Education sectors since 2005. Alongside her research exploring the visibility of women in design, she has held positions as the National Head of Research and Insight at the Design Institute of Australian, the Vice President of Creative Women’s Circle and Editorial Board Member of the Exchanges Journal.

Issa el Assaad is a graduate of architecture and multi-disciplinary artist. Born as a Palestinian refugee in the United Arab Emirates, he is now based in Melbourne Australia. With a particular focus on decolonial spatial practices, Issa has written extensively on empowering women through architectural design, specifically in Ein el Hilweh Refugee Camp. Using methodologies of anti-colonial and decolonial design he explores the expected norms and behaviours in cities to interrogate how a shared social production of space can empower communities through social, political and environmental disaster. Informed by personal experience but driven by global urgency, Issa seeks to challenge the broad historical, cultural and political structures that underpin dominant societal frameworks to find a common path towards community care and repatriation.