One of the few male graduands of Ara’s 2020 Diploma in
Interior Design (Residential) ended up the surprise big
winner of the ‘Vizualize’ awards night.

Smith took home three of 13 awards, including The Harrison
Bloy Aware for Excellence in Bathroom Design, the Artisan
Stone Award for Innovation in Design and the Drawing Room
Award for Excellence in Artistic Skills.

Says Dan of
his multiple wins “It’s a bit of surprise. I’d like to
say thanks to the providers and industry people for coming
to the party and to the tutors for all their help and
learning this year.”

The awards evening itself
featured many heart-felt tributes to the students’ and the
tutors’ tenacity and willingness to overcome adversity
during what many speakers described as a “challenging

The exhibition itself, comprised of a large
coloured print-outs displayed within the building’s
central foyer area, celebrates the talent and dedication of
this years’ students by showcasing their designs for both
a large Italian family-style kitchen re-model and a model
bathroom design that had to accommodate differently-abled
people with ease – and style.

The array of posters
ably demonstrated the breadth of skills that the students
have acquired over their year of study, but also allowed
them to make their own personal aesthetic known to family,
friends and industry professionals. Diploma students tackle
theoretical and practical aspects of interior design,
including light and lighting, colour, design and ergonomic
principles, materials and finishes, soft furnishings, window
treatments and cultural-historical influences in interior
design, including those indigenous to New

Dan’s display was particularly eye-catching
due to the inclusion of bold pencil concept drawings. He
says “With my past as a graphic designer, it may have been
my inclusion of free-hand sketches that helped to make my
presentation stand out. I just wanted to show the whole
process, from the onset through to fully-developed designs.
I think it’s about how you get there, not just the final
products and my drawings can show that process.”

of the unusual aspects of Dan’s past is that he is in fact
working as a chef, which may help to explain his sympathetic
grasp of the ergonomics factors involved in kitchen design.
“I have been working as a chef for a while. I always had an
interest in food and during my final year of study in
graphic design, I got a cooking job out of necessity. I
haven’t formally studied that, but I was learning on the
job, which was a good challenge, and I learnt a lot about
time management – and stress!”

Dan did however come to
the realization that he was open to yet more learning,
experiencing what he described as “a lightbulb moment”. He
claims that it was a conversation with another chef about
the idea of becoming a kitchen designer that resonated with
him. “I thought – I could give that a shot! It definitely
aligns with my design background, and I was looking for an
exit, because I kind of got to a point where the next thing
would be to maybe open up a restaurant, but that wasn’t
really for me, so interior design really piqued my

Belfiore Bologna, Programme Leader,
addressed the collective students with a movingly heart-felt
speech that spanned COVD-19 through to Simon Bolivar. In
conclusion, he said “I’m so very proud to welcome you to
our industry. I’d like to share another quote from Richard
Buckminster-Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome, about
structures. He always stated ‘There is nothing in a
caterpillar that tells you it will become a butterfly.’ We
saw these caterpillars come to us a year ago, and now, these
students are caterpillars no more; let us all enjoy their
colours. And let us all enjoy their first flight.”

flight path ahead for Dan includes continuing to work for
his present employer in the kitchen, but a stupendous new
showcase for his design talents is due to open to the public
in coming weeks. “The company that I work for has this whole
catalogue of great venues, and the owner got approached to
put in two venues within the Muse hotel, one of them being a
new ‘skybar’. So within that space, I helped out with
ideas for the orientations of the kitchens, and the
commercial spec and some of fit-out appointments. It’s
very exciting to see the designs come alive.”

Dan adds
that “My dream job would be working for a kitchen designer,
maybe with a joinery attached to that as well, so I can
learn and understand the whole process from design through
to fabrication and

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