I am interested in supervising projects that explore difficult problems of need, use and mis-use in the sustainability, social design and health domains.  These projects might take the form of product service systems (PSS) propositions, technical product designs for mass manufacture that are supported by service provision element or integrated products and services that attempt to make smarter and more sustainable existing products and systems (retro-fitting). Projects in this area might tackle questions of human powered mobility, energy and resource use, seeking to re-direct areas of production and consumption that have significant environmental implications, sharing and other alternatives to individual ownership and consumption of products, food and water security, and off grid and closed loop systems.

My approach to design research and supervision privileges the iterative prototyping and field testing of design propositions in order to build layers of complexity in the appreciation of the efficacy of design interventions made in a particular context of need. Design here is used as a medium for contextual analysis and combined with sociological methods including Actor Network Theory and its derivatives and various ethnographic modes of study including in field observations, interviews, and participatory process with stakeholders that span the ecosystems of need, production, supply, use and end of use of a proposed product or service.

I teach across a range of design theory and methodological domains where the civic dimensions of both learning and designing encounter the ‘other’ and the unfamiliar. Courses and studios I have taught look to enlarge the boundaries of industrial design discourse/practice by deploying the socio-material thinking to complex concerns including health care, sustainability, and the social implications of new product development, the formation of design enterprises that are adapted to a significantly globalized milieu and the opportunities for design as a force for social reform within such a context.

My Doctoral research focuses on the future of industrial design pedagogy (philosophy and methods of education) after the project of industrialization. It explores the political agency of industrial design as an intermediary knowledge practice that can induce fundamental changes in the ways in which the material worlds and its systems are conveyed and deployed towards the project of sustainment, de-materialization and more meaningful service relationships.

Current projects include collaborations in the sustainability, mental health, healthcare and aging fields. I am the co-convener of the LeNS Oceania network – a division of the international Learning Network for Sustainability that promotes and supports the development and adoption of design and engineering curriculums that actively engage in sustainability.



Selected Publications and collaborations:

Book Chapters

  • Varadarajan, S., & Fennessy, L. (2012). Educating for Design activism: A case study of engaging with the health sector. In E. Charlesworth, M. Dodd & F. Harrisson (Eds.), Live Projects: Designing With People. Melbourne: RMIT University Press.
  • Acaroglu, L., Fennessy, L. (2012). Rapid Adjustments Required: How Australian Design Might Contend With a Carbon Constrained Economy. In K. M. Ken Cato, Karen Sorensen, Gjoko Muratovski (Ed.), agIdeas Research: Design for Business (Vol. 1, pp. 220). Melbourne: agIdeas.
  • Fennessy, L., Varadarajan, S., & Curlis, S. (2010). Transnational Experiences: India and China in Australian Industrial Design Education. Republished in E. Salmi, H. Edquist, K. Friedman, S. Langdon & J. Maciak (Eds.), Melbourne 24/09: Cumulus Working Papers (pp. 86-91). Aalto: Cumulus Secretariat & School of Art and Design Aalto University, Finland.

Journal Articles

  • Fennessy, L., Ramirez, M., Clune, S., Lockrey, S., Strachan, M., & Varadarajan, S (2013). Building capacity for sustainable product service systems in Australian industrial design education: a reflection upon contemporary practice. Journal of Cleaner Production. (In Press)
  • Varadarajan, S., Fennessy, L., & McLean, H. (2009). Product and service design for patient centered diabetes care. Australasian Medical Journal, 1(13).

Conference Papers

  • Varadarajan, S., Fennessy, L., & Douglas, M. (2013). Creative Currents for our Common Futures: A model for collective reflection in action for engaged situated design research practice. . Paper presented at the 5th International congress of International Association of Societies of Industrial Design Research, Tokyo. (In press)
  • Varadarajan, S., & Fennessy, L. (2007). IEID: A Model for People Orientated Design Practice. Paper presented at the Include 2007: Designing with People. An International Conference on Inclusive Design, The Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre, London, United Kingdom.
  • Varadarajan, S., Fennessy, L., & McLean, H. (2007). Working with Communities: A case study of design for diabetes. Paper presented at the ConnectED 2007 International Conference on Design Education, University of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Varadarajan, S., McLean, H., & Fennessy, L. (2007). The Learner Centred Project: Negotiating social discourses in design education. Paper presented at the ConnectED 2007 International Conference on Design Education, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Major Exhibited Creative Works

  • Sowerwine, V. Knowles, I. and Fennessy, L. 2003-2006, ‘Expecting’ ( And Expecting (version)), Commissioned Work for Experimenta House of Tomorrow. Exhibited: (2003) Black Box Gallery, Victorian Arts Centre. (2004-2005) National Tour. Exhibited: Artspace, Adelaide Festival Centre, SA; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, QLD; Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle, WA; Bendigo Art Gallery, VIC; Warrnambool Art Gallery, VIC; Mildura Arts Centre, VIC; Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale, VIC; Liverpool, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, UK; Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), Liverpool, UK; The 3rd Seoul International Media Art Biennale: Media City Seoul 2004, Digital Homo Ludens. Exhibited: Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea.


A selection of former 4th year projects I have supervised include:


  • Rose Duong – The Clothes Loop (SPSS & smart retrofit)
  • Radek R – Sustainable Kitchen (Off Grid Product/System)
  • Eve Blaney – Rackets (Propositional Enterprise)


  • Chris Herman – CUP (Propositional Object)
  • Ashley Smith – See Change (SPSS & smart retrofit)
  • Charles Skender – Tank SPSS & smart retrofit)
  • Bryce Tayleur – InFrequencies (PSS)