Location: G Block, Level G, Room GG14
Dr Rick BennettAssociate Professor
School of Design Studies, The Omnium Project, COFA Online
PhD Visual Arts - University of Sydney, Australia (2004-09)
Master of Higher Education - UNSW, Sydney, Australia (1994-98)
Bachelor of Arts (Hons), Fine Art - Bristol Polytechnic, England. (1981-84)
Raised and educated in south London, England, I undertook and completed foundation and undergraduate studies in the fine arts specialising in the area of sculpture. The majority of my works, which consisted of large wooden and steel wall hangings, were influenced by the repetition and perspectives of the urban landscapes that surrounded me. I think these studies still influence the work I produce today, in terms of graphic and constructed designs.
Following graduation in 1984, I was employed for six years within the tv / film industry where the majority of my time was spent working on television commercials, live action animations and promotional music videos. Work ranged from special effects to art direction and set design. I was honoured to be working with creatives with extremely high detailing standards and this has definitely taught me to set high standards of my own work and those whom I now direct in various projects. I admit that these standards can be difficult for others to work with sometimes and the term 'perfectionist' has often been branded both as a compliment and a criticism. i am trying to take it on board.
In 1990, I travelled to Australia a holiday and never went home, finally becoming a citizen in 1994. By this stage I was working for The University of New South Wales at the College of Fine Arts (COFA). I soon found a niche within the early stages of the Bachelor of Design curriculum and within three years was appointed coordinator of the first year program. Again I was lucky to work with staff I admired and who shared a philosophy of teaching Design based on concepts rather than simply acquiring skills. For the last few years however, I have been undertaking more and more research projects and less face to face teaching.
In 1998, I completed a Master of Higher Education which led me to investigate deeply, the current teaching practice of 'Design Studio' subjects and in turn future possibilities. Omnium Research was founded to be considerate of the advances made within digital technology and the apparent changes in the requirements of contemporary students in relation to their own needs and those of todays design professions. In 2003, I was also appointed Head of COFA Online: a newly formed academic unit established to design, produce and facilitate a suite of online courses across a range of art and design disciplines. I am constantly involved in directing various global online creative projects including some in collaboration with ICOGRADA (International Council of Graphic Design Associations). Such international reputation of Omnium's research led to us being awarded funding through a three-year Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant for 2004 – 2006.
As a result of achievements in these areas, I have been fortunate to have received the following awards and nominations for our research through The Omnium Project and teaching and learning initiatives through COFA Online:
- 2001 - UNSW Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence Using Educational Technology
- 2002 - Nomination for the Australian Prime Minister's Teaching Award
- 2004 - Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) Distinguished Teaching Award
- 2004 - UNSW Learning and Teaching Award
- 2005 - Australasian Society of Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (Ascilite) President's Award 'For innovation and exemplary use of technology in higher education'
- 2006 - Carrick Institute: Citation for ‘outstanding contributions to student learning' 'For pioneering internationally recognised best practice in online education in the creative arts and design'
I have recently completed my PhD at the University of Sydney, titled 'Drawing on The Virtual Collective': Exploring Online Collaborative Creativity in the Visual Arts. As a result of this study and all the previous research I have undertaken, I am fortunate to be asked to present and publish outcomes of Omnium's research, both nationally and internationally, at numerous design and education conferences, as well as in peer reviewed journals and publications worldwide.
Since, 2007, the Omnium Research Group has moved to working on a series of community outreach projects (Omnium Outreach Projects) which are funded from sales of licenses for Omnium’s own unique software package designed to facilitate e-learning and forming online communities for artists and designers. Significant online projects have included designing public awareness campaigns of critical health issues for villagers in Kenya, as well as designs for more contemporary products made by rural artisans and craftworkers in the Philippines.