Each year for the last several years I've had to cop the same tongue-in-cheek question;
"Did you sponsor the Graduate Exhibition just so you could see your logo up there with the 'big boys' of tech?"
Well despite my logo putting most of the other sponsors to shame =) this is a bittersweet question for me...
Mainly because as the person who started putting those logos on the sponsors page, more than seven years ago, I remember how brutal it was getting any type of support at all. As an undergrad who studied Design Computing I formed the team that organised the first ever Graduate Exhibition and back then we had one sponsor, one benefactor and a small discount from our printers. Without enough money to see us over the line for a minimum print run of 400, I pitched in the difference to see our Grad Books come off the printers with perfect-binding rather than cheap thermal or ring binding. It was worth it. And because the organisation was entirely too demanding a voluntary enterprise at the time, I asked Prof. Marc Aurel SCHNABEL to formally construct the first Graduate Exhibition "unit of study" so that students organising the GradExh could get credit for the time they put in. Which he enthusiastically did and had the class approved by our Faculty - it's been in place ever since.
A few years later I began tutoring at the Design lab and constructed my first own "class" of students, who I coordinated while they organised their very own GradExh's. In more recent years this has been conducted by the talented Curatorial consultant Merryn STANGER while I payed increasing attention to the sponsorship. For several years I delved into the Sydney Design community and asked them to dig deep to support our efforts, and each year was a disheartening defeat and I learned how hard it was to get a grass-roots initiative noticed. I also learned what a victory each logo was, that you could put up on the sponsors page. In 2014 I got serious about the sponsorship drive and secured by far the most sponsors we had ever had involved, finally complete with big companies of technological renown, like IBM and Razorfish. And each year since has been an increment on that success and the proliferation of the annual event.
So in short; I know better than most the worth of every single sponsor of the Design Lab Graduate Exhibition.
Even though the success of the now "stable" yearly event sustains itself and is no longer scrounging for money to print the catalogues, every sponsor that pledges is a boost to the graduating class' confidence that they are being supported, recognised, nurtured and anticipated.
As a teacher here I believe our students are capable contributors to Design and to society if they so pursue such goals, and I believe in the value of tertiary education lies in fostering not just skilled practitioners, but analytical thinkers. So despite being as broke as a research student, I'll continue to be the Design Lab's longest running sponsor of the Graduate Exhibition because I'm "invested" and money has nothing to do with why.
“For good nurture and education implant good constitutions.” Plato
I won't cough up some cheap cliché for you like "it's all about the students", because it's not about any one class of students. For me, at least, it's about fostering a sustained connection between Design study and Design practice that is only made possible when companies care about celebrating their future employees' current academic achievements.