Dori's Commencement Address Swinburne FoD 24 March 2010

The graduation speech I gave Tuesday is getting rave reviews from parents, the graduating students, and my fellow colleagues. Thought I would share with you.


When one hears graduation speeches, they are often full of lofty clichés about paths, journeys, dreams, wishes, steps, achievement, bright futures, etc. You will hear none of that from me.  But the question remains of what to say to all of you who graduate tonight. What to say to your family and friends who celebrate with you? For the past few months, I have been reading all of the famous authors to draw inspiration: Shakespeare, Confucius, even Dr. Seuss.  I knew I wanted to say something about how one designs not just objects, communications, environments, or interactions, but how one designs a life worth living. Finally, I came upon a meditation on youth in Deng Ming-Dao’s 365 Tao Daily Mediations. His words expressed simply that which I wished people shared with me at my university graduation. So here are his guidelines for young people.  There are seven of them, which I will now share with you.

Number 01: “Remember that you are always your own person. Do not surrender your mind, heart, or body to any person.”

This one is very challenging to put into practice because we often want to please other people: our family, our friends, our bosses and colleagues, our lovers and spouses, and children. But if you are not your own person then there is no YOU to like, love, respect, or honour. To be able to quote some Shakespeare, “To thy own self be true.” Out of the seven, this one is the most important because the design of a life worth living requires that the designer understands and stays true to his or her intentions, although the form or medium of expression changes.

Number 02: “Maintain your health with sound diet, hygiene, exercise, and clean living.”

It is so easy to allow the stresses of the world or the ease of things to stop us for doing the most basic thing in life: taking care of oneself. If you are not healthy, then it becomes harder for you to help other people, to give your gifts and talents to the world, because you have to focus all your energy on just being well.  Design requires the connection of the mind to the hand. If your physical tools are not in working, then it is more difficult to design a life worth living.

Number 03: “Money is never more important than your body and mind, but you must work and support yourself.”

There is a wonderful old song, sung by Billie Holiday that I grew up listening to. Don’t worry I’m not going to sing it. “Mama may have. Papa may have. But God bless the child that’s got his own. That’s got his own.” The greatest security in the world is the knowledge that you can take care of yourself in any situation. The fact that you decided to study design, a somewhat practical field, means that you understand that to some extent. You want to be able to take care of yourselves, even take care of your families. But that doesn’t mean selling yourself out. Here you need to go back to number 01 again. But it means that you should feel able to rely upon yourself to provide for your needs, for this provides the materials for designing a life worth living.

Number 04: “Choose your friends and living situations carefully, for they will influence you.”

A friend is someone whom you like because you like yourself when you are with him or her. If some one makes you not like yourself, they are not your friends. Get rid of them.  Go back to number 01: be your own person. You now have the opportunity to develop new living situations, make sure it is around people who are kind, active, happy, and caring, so that you will remain kind, active, happy, and caring people that I know you all are.

Number 05: “A good education is always an asset.”

As an Associate Dean and an Associate Professor, let me repeat that, “A good education is always an asset.” Your graduation here today means that you already know that one, but remember your education does not stop tonight. You must continue to educate yourself in order to be able to face new challenges with new knowledge.  Hmmm…that sounded a bit like a cliché.  Let me keep going.

Number 06: “Everyday, make your own decisions. Everything you do will have irrevocable effects upon your life.”

Please, please. I say pretty pretty please, do not let other people make decisions for you. You will always regret it—not because their decisions might be bad, or that the outcomes will not be positive, but because to develop your own sense of judgement you need the praise of a good decision and the wisdom of a bad decision.  You wouldn’t let anyone else make a decision on your final design, so why would one do so with the design of something as important as the final design of your life.

Number 07: “Know evil, but do not do evil yourself. Remember, there is a way out the delusions of life.”

Some people think it is best to go through life innocently shielded from the bad in the world. But how can you protect others if you are not able to recognize evil? How do you not do evil if you don’t know what it is? If you remain true to yourself and your own purpose in life, you will avoid the delusions of life, or at least won’t stay deluded for a long time. 

So, you are now continuing the journey, on a path, of dreams, wishes, and desire in order to create a bright future full of achievement. Oops… sorry, it’s like the graduation speech virus that makes you say that.  Swinburne has helped provide you with some of the things necessary for you to design a life worth living. And remember that it is YOUR LIFE that you are designing. It is you who has to find meaning in the “worth” of it. You now face the greatest design challenge that you will unfortunately continue to face for all of your life—that is designing of a life worth living.  If we at Swinburne have done anything right of these past few years, we know that you are up for the challenge. So go and design a life of stunning beauty for you to enjoy and for others to be inspired.

Thank you.

Dori Tunstall

24 March 2010

[1] Ming-Dao, Deng 1992, 365 Tao Daily Meditations. Harper San Francisco: New York, p. 239.

Countdown to Melbourne: Departure Day

At 11:30 PM tonight, I leave for Melbourne, Australia to begin a new life. Jerry is ready to go with his vet paperwork in order. I am just waiting for my laundry to dry so that I can finish packing. I am really excited. It is not everyday that you are offered your dream job or the opportunity to start  life is a place so far away from what you have known. Based on my call to Qanta's airline, I will most likely come back with a version of an Australia accent.

So I'll keep you posted on my Aussie adventures.

Countdown to Melbourne: Day -07

One week from today, I move to Melbourne, Australia to take up a position at Swinburne University of Technology. I have traveled cross-country to visit friends and family. I have delegated responsibility for most of my US-based responsibilities, except the U.S. National Design Policy Initiative, which I will continue until the formalization of an American Design Council.

So at Day -07 of my countdown to Melbourne, I can officially feel the excitement I have about the move. When I was visiting in New York, my best friend from college's Dad said to me, "Do you know how rare it is get this kind of opportunity? And how rarer it is for someone to take advantage of it?" I know what an amazing opportunity I have to do great things at Swinburne: build a doctoral program in design anthropology, help facilitate the creation of several new graduate-level design programs, and expand my network within the Asian-Pacific Rim. I think I'll try to pick up Mandarin Chinese.

I hit the ground running with a faculty retreat and the Melbourne International Design Festival starting the next week after I arrive. I just hope I can get business cards made in time for the networking bonanza of the Design Festival.

Stateside, I have to finish my immigration papers and prepare Jerry's crate for next week. I can't believe I am on the verge of restarting my life from scratch. Super exciting.

Dori on Australian Broadcasting Company's By Design

On Saturday, I was on ABC giving an interview about Design Anthropology. I'm too afraid to listen to it, so tell me how it went. <grin> I hate radio interviews because I always feel so inarticulate. But it was fun to do and  I spent the rest of the day at the National Gallery of Victoria, where I got my first exposure to Aboriginal Art. The art work was exceptional and there were lots of video commentary available that talked about the artists. I find it difficult to interpret the paintings, but yesterday after a visit to the Oonah  Indigenous Learning Center, Miranda Madgwick gave me some worksheets on understanding the symbols, as well as my most prized gift, one of her paintings.

More later...

Melbourne Day 07 (View via hot air balloon)

Here are some images from my hot air balloon trip this morning over Melbourne. It was a great way to view the city and suburbs. The first is the total view of the City and the Port. With the Yarra River, Melbourne could be Chicago's twin in terms of be former-industrial, now designerly, flat city next to large body of water. The  skyscraper downtown is nestled in the river and the shore.


The second is of the shot by the balloon within the City. You cannot get views like this from a observation tower.


The third is the view over the affluent suburbs of Melbourne with the McMansions, swimming pools, and tennis courts.


Melbourne Trip Day 04 and 05 Wanderings

Day 04 and 05: Melbourne Café and Book Culture

So yesterday before my presentation, I had the opportunity to explore.

Walking the streets of Melbourne is not too different from walking the neighborhood streets of Chicago. You find mostly 1, 2, to 4-flats of eclectic architectural styles. One block may consist of rows of one-story brick houses with ornate Indian-style porticos, shutters, and gates. The next block may have a row of stucco-like, modern apartments that remind me of the suburbs of Silicon Valley in California. Around the corner, you may pass the pharmacy, boutique clothing stores, bakeries, take-out Asian food shops, record stores, cafes, book stores, vintage stores, and bead shops. 

In the morning, you cross paths with young white and Asian students dressed in purple or blue blazers with tartan skirts and knee socks if females or solid slacks if male; white-haired pensioners waiting for the tram or shuffling to the supermarket; pin-striped suited business men holding meetings through their Bluetooth ear pieces; fashionable business women in high leather boots; working class blokes in jeans and pull over sweaters; young Indian women with bindis and leather jackets walking with their mothers in shalwar kameezes; and Asian shop-keepers sweeping in front of their sushi and fish and chips shops. You might encounter one or more people of African-descent, who pass by without directly acknowledging your common complexion.

Day 04 Wanderings

Yesterday, I had breakfast at a café of Chapel street (the main hipster drag) called Amici. It has a mixture of sophisticated youngish to middle-aged people either chatting in groups or solitarily drinking coffee and reading the newspaper or working on Mac laptops. I felt comfortable like I do at Meli’s in Chicago or the City Bakery in NYC. I mostly ate, prepped for my presentation, and did people watching. The guy sitting next to me was a very lonely guy working on his Mac laptop. He kept oversharing with the waitress as she brought him more latte. He kept offering up more details about his life as she tried to politely extricate herself from the conversation.

After breakfast, I went to the Grenville Bookstore, which was said to have a good collection of design books in the area. It was very cozy. The shop woman pointed out some good Australian female authors although she was originally flustered by my request. She said, “I should probably know who these women are, but I don’t read authors by nationality.” It’s probably an anthropologist thing, but I do read authors by nationality.

I took some photos of the streets and the park nearby. I was fascinated by the pedestrian crosswalk sign of a pair of black feet and legs on a yellow background. I passed by a bikeshop that had my red bike that I covet with the bell and basket on the front. Surprisingly enough, there must not be a lot of bike theft in this area of Melbourn because people use on flimsy locks or in some cases no locks at all on their bikes. There are a good number of bike riders on the streets, although I imagine it being kinda scary for me with the trams and cars.

After my fabulous talk, I waited around until being able to have dinner with Ken and Daved Barry (a speaker who is visiting  Swinburne) and later joined by their families. Ken, Daved, and I had a wonderful intellectual discussion about a variety of topics as well as sharing life histories. It was so much fun.

Day 05 More Wanderings

This morning I was struck by the number and diversity of cafes in the Prahram area of town that I’m in. In such of a breakfast/writing café, I passed by tiny wood-paneled places full of university students gossiping, more bar-like bistros full of middle aged men drinking espressos and reading the paper; large chrome, mirror, and fern plates cafes with groups of women and their baby strollers chatting, and quick breakfast joints where you grab a donut and coffee for 5 AUD. The music wafting out of the cafes range from classical, ambient beats, top 40, until the place I stopped at the Yellow Bird.

The Yellow Bird is best described as punk-ish. The walls are covered with posters for independent bands. I ended up selecting it because it was the place where I saw people working with Mac computers and a plug in. There was a sign for free wifi, but the wifi was broken. The music was different from what I imagined from the posters; Stevie Nicks  and The English Beat. I was seeking pancakes, but they only had strawberry crepes. One great thing about Melbourne is that you can get excellent tea. They had three varieties of loose leaf green tea.

I plugged in and worked on my still overdue essay comparing ethnography’s use in anthropology, marketing, design, and policy. I felt like I did writing at the little café/restaurant that I used to write at when I lived in the Southport area of Chicago. I wrote for a while, listening to the music, watching the people in tattoos, pink-red hair, all dressed in distressed black, come in and out, sit a read the paper, talk on the mobile, or chat in groups.

I did not want to eat both breakfast and lunch there, so I walked further down the block and had lunch at this Pan-Asian restaurant. It was more sparsely populated being a very large space. The other customers were a white middle-aged business-like couple, who were deeply engaged in some business deal; a middle-aged Asian man having Udon soup alone in the back, a 20ish young white couple newly in love by the way the held hands and stared at each other across the table; a middle aged white male reading a novel, and myself. It’s funny that I keep saying middle-aged as if I’m not, but when I say middle-aged I mean people at least 10-20 years older than I am am.

After lunch, I walked towards the flat, but stopped at the grocery store on the way back. I am amazed by the rows of Asian brand foods available everywhere, not in just the Asian section of the store. I imagine that it is like shopping in China town in NYC, except that its just the normal store. This is a kinda cool difference.

I ended by wanderings back at the flat where I am  waiting to attend the Australia rules rugby game tonight. This is sort of the the Chicago equivalent of getting the Cubs experience. I am not a big sports person, but it would introduce me to an important segment of the Melbourne population, although with my tea with Caroline Barnes, she said that most Melbourne people are more into culture and the arts, than sports like Sydney. I’ll find out in a few hours.

Melbourne Trip Day 04 Presentation

So my reason for coming to Melbourne was to give a keynote presentation to Swinburne University and Design Victoria. I am happy to report that my presentation  was a super smash hit. There was a list of 92 people who wanted to fit into the slot of 70 seats. Both the Design Victoria and Swinburne people said they have never had an event with such a diverse audience of Melbourne design schools, the local design industry, and there was even a women from the US Consulate. That freaked me out a bit until she said that she studied anthropology. I may have a future in the state department yet.

I feel indebted to David Womack of Adobe Think Tank for editing my Design Anthropology article such that it was accessible to a lot of people. This was the basis of my talk and the audience really got it; the value and applications of design anthropology. They were able to ask such wonderful questions because David made me explain everything in the most simplest of terms and with tremendous clarity. So as much as I like to trot out my SAT vocab and convoluted theoretical arguments, there is something rewarding about clear and simple communications about something you love. It is especially rewarding when people are able to feel both empowered and inspired, and maybe a little intimidated, by what you have to say. In spite of my two typos, people came up to me and said they found the presentation amazing and hoped that I come and speak again. It was an important reminder that what I am doing is not just cool, but really is meaningful to people. I like that.

Melbourne Trip Day 01

So I arrived safely yesterday in Melbourne after a long series of flights from Chicago to LA, LA to Sydney, and finally Sydney to Melbourne. I was able to sleep, read (I finished one and a half novels on the ride), and write (until my battery ran out) during the more than 15 hours in transit.

My first impressions of Melbourne is that it looks like flying into Chicago. Meaning, there is a long coast line, with the city center of skyscrapers near the shore, then flat land all around. Even the brink and wood bungalow and row houses remind me of Chicago. Stephen Langdon from Swinburne picked me up from the airport. He is nice with a great sense of humor. We drove through the various sections of the town — the Docklands, which are the redeveloped harbor area; the warehouse area, and the small commercial corridors. There is a lot of new construction, with mostly mixed residential and retail mid and high rises. There seems to be lots of parks and there is, of course, the sea.

For the next few days, I hope to avoid getting hit by a car because they drive on the left side of the street. I kept getting into the wrong side of the car.

Demographically, Melbourne seems mostly Anglo-Saxon and Asian (East as well as Southeast). The Design Faculty is located in Prahran, which you can tell was formally the Indian ghetto because the architecture has lots of Indian wood and lattice work.


My flat is from the 1930s and decorated in a gorgeous Art Deco style. I feel really comfortable in it. It has heating lights and a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom (it would be 4 star because the bath and the toilet are in separate rooms tee hee), plasma TVs in almost every room (but there are only 4 channels so it does not matter), two bedrooms, living room, and a fair-sized kitchen. Most importantly, it has high speed internet. Tee hee. I will spare you the images because you can find them here, but I will include one image of the Art Deco door.

It was a good starting day. I will describe more about today later tonight when I get in. It's about 5:10pm here in Melbourne.