What is meant by "commercial design" (Unit 2)

A question that a few people have asked is:

Why is unit two called commercial design?
Does it mean that all assignments have to be commercially focussed?

The answer to the second question is simple: “no”. The title is just a reference to the fact that the unit is about skills that are critical for commerical contexts. Design clients could mean anything from city councils to children, to social sectors. Please don’t be misled by the title.

In answer to the first question, Unit Two has two topics:

  1. Understanding the client’s wants and needs in which:

• Teacher will: provide a client brief; and identify economic, social and cultural factors to be considered.
• Students will: use drawing and low-fidelity prototyping appropriate to the need or want
analyse the need or want of a client; write a design brief to define the problem.

  1. Working as a team to develop a project that they then pitch - focussing on the part of the design process that leads to communicating an idea to a client or owner. They do this in teams and work collaboratively:

Students will: use drawing and low-fidelity prototyping appropriate to the problem
collaborate to devise ideas and synthesise design concepts; evaluate against criteria;
pitch a design proposal to a client.

In short, part of the unit is focussing on empathy and part of the unit is focussing on working as a team to reach the point where a refined concept can be pitched.

I do, of course, advise reading the detail under unit 3 in the syllabus


I have been looking at the Unit 2 sample assessment instrument from QCAA and just wondering if anyone has started thinking about what they might change the context to for this project?

At my school we have been discussing things such as,

  • Harmony Day
  • NAIDOC Week

Would love to know what everyone else is thinking about.


Hi, my take is that the word “commercial” is there to refer to the fact that often the design profession is responding to the needs and wants of a client.

As in, there is an implicit distinction between the “design thinking” skills that are being talked about in Unit 1, and here there is a bit of a shift towards becoming aware of the pragmatic realities of the design professions.

So I like your ideas for Topic 1 as these both have economic, social and cultural dimensions. It’s a great place for controversial design ideas to be discussed.

For example, a task like redesigning the “supermarket plastic bag”. It’s far more complex than it first appears, e.g. some studies suggest that the “re-usable green bags” that get sold for $1 don’t get used often enough when they’re bought (i.e. they’re thrown out after a dozen uses) to justify the materials in them and are actually worse for the environment than the old-fashioned bags that are accumulating in our oceans, and both of those options have economic, social, and cultural dimensions, and there are plenty of other designs out there to respond to this problem of bags (e.g. boomerang bags as a design that plays on social factors).

There’s a lot in this topic… it’s a big one where I feel like the challenge is in choosing what to bite off.

For a commercial example, I really like this particular podcast in describing James Dyson’s story as it touches on a lot of factors from the curriculum:

As in, as a case study for talking about (from the curriculum):

  • how designers and design styles have influenced changes in the economy, society and culture
  • analyse the economic, social and cultural factors that influence how designers respond to the expectation of clients

Hi Nick, I like this topic! I think like you there is a lot more in it once you delve a bit deeper. Have you designed your Unit 2 Project on redesigning the Supermarket Plastic Bag? Would love to see if so.

Hi Catriona,
I like your idea of tying it to NAIDOC, mainly due to the fact that NAIDOC week falls during the timeframe that the project is being completed. Thanks for the inspiration! I have created a project task around that. I have initially created one using the QCAA RSL theme, but as it focuses around ANZAC Day, that is less relevant. Both attached for perusal and feedback. I would like to give it a more ‘commercial’ feel but am a little more comfortable after reading Nick’s comments in this thread.
Kind regards,
Ben Webb
design_u2_fia4_project NAIDOC.docx (283.7 KB)
design_u2_fia4_project.docx (282.9 KB)

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I think the NAIDOC theme is fine and I really think we need to encourage the students to develop anmd explain how they see there design as commercial.

I would be really interested in how you are getting your students for this project 2 to indicate who/how their groups are working. I am currently asking the students to put in bracketts the name of their team member that had an input to that element of their project. But do you thinking we need to have more than this to document the habits of effective design teams and the importance of documenting individual and collective work when working within a team of designers.
Kind Regards,