Meet Dan Hill, Director of the Melbourne School of Design

By Sophie Hill

Professor Dan Hill has joined the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, officially commencing his role as the new Director of the Melbourne School of Design in July 2022.

Dan Hill profile pic

He most recently held the position of Director of Strategic Design for the Swedish Government’s innovation and research agency, Vinnova, in Stockholm. He has previously lived and worked all over the world, and has worked as a design leader across public, private and academic sectors. His experiences in different contexts will prove invaluable in his role as Director of the Melbourne School of Design.

Switching context is incredibly enriching — and also useful!”, said Hill, “having lived and worked in Finland, Sweden, Italy, the UK and Australia, and led projects in numerous other countries, you gain perspective on how different cities function, and how geography, culture, and history all influence how cities happen, how spaces and places work, and how technologies, cultures and systems can be highly local, as well as globally connected.

Similarly, moving between the academic, public and private sectors throughout his working life, Hill brings a wealth of experience in developing city strategy and urban development projects for cities including Amsterdam, Melbourne, Stockholm, Manchester, Sydney and London. Working across a global context, Hill has experience with companies like Alphabet and Lendlease and has devised and delivered place-based approaches for both Swedish and Finnish national innovation strategies. Hill has particular expertise in incorporating a people-centred approach when designing social and cultural infrastructures like libraries and museums, streets and schools, as well as neighbourhoods and districts more broadly. These projects have often been for diverse urban contexts, like Melbourne Innovation District, Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Google’s global campuses, and the University of Melbourne campus. These diverse contexts span the community locations as well as incorporating building- specific design for buildings such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Library, UAE Museum of the Future, State Library of Queensland, ACMI, Collingwood Yards, and central library strategies for Melbourne and Sheffield.

Hill was one of the Mayor of London’s inaugural Design Advocates, a Trustee of Participatory City Foundation and is a founding member of the Council for Urban Initiatives, an initiative of UN HABITAT, LSE and UCL. Hill wrote the influential books ‘Dark Matter & Trojan horses: A strategic design playbook’ (Strelka Press, 2012) and ‘Designing missions: Mission-oriented innovation in Sweden’ (Vinnova, 2022), and has been writing about design, technology, cities and culture for over 20 years.

I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to build on the Melbourne School of Design’s foundations as a world- class centre for future practice in architecture, design, and built and natural environments.

Melbourne, and the various regions and nations around it, finds itself at the front line of most of our shared challenges— environmental, social, infrastructural, spatial, cultural, political. This means that we can also explore the possibilities of inventing, rediscovering, researching, and teaching transformative models and practices for architecture and design, positioning MSD as a design school for the 21st century and beyond, a place that can both hold the public discussion about the future of city and country, and help shape it”.

Hill is working to elevate the graduate experience at the Melbourne School of Design through enhanced interdisciplinary design practices in community engagement, systems design, and policy design and governance. This can enhance the experience by employing a holistic, integrated approach to transformative systemic change, everyday technologies, and social and cultural infrastructures. According to Hill, these are all necessary components of ‘the design school for 21st century’, a school capable of addressing our shared challenges in diverse ways, as well as the ambitions of students and researchers.

“Our students are a motivated cohort. They are increasingly driven by addressing the climate crisis, taking ecological responsibility, understanding designing with Country, tackling social justice agendas, and designing for and with diverse cultural identities. Architecture and design give form to societal ideas, and in turn shapes how society happens and what society can be. Our students know they could make a positive difference in the world, either as professional designers or by various other creative means. We’re here to work together with them, actively engaging with our communities and environments, to explore how we might make such a difference. That’s the kind of design, and design school, that we need.”

Read more of Dan Hill’s work at