Despite being drawn to a wide range of career paths while growing up – veterinary science, architecture and nutrition, all possibilities – there’s no doubt that Renee Aquilina has finally found her calling.  

As she sets forth this year from UNSW with a Bachelor of Industrial Design (Honours), Renee already has several feathers in her cap. Chief among them is the prestigious Gold Good Design Award she received earlier in the year.  

The received the prize for the work she completed as her Honours project, ‘Ori’, a folding shade sail inspired by the seasonal lighting patterns of deciduous trees. 

“I was interested in how they lose their leaves throughout the colder months, allowing sunlight to pass through, providing warmth and, in the warmer months, they gain leaves and provide shade to help cool the area. 

“I feel extremely honoured and grateful to have won the award,” she says.  

“I feel that the hard work has finally paid off.”  

‘Hard work’ was clearly a defining feature of Renee’s university experience. The new graduate describes pulling “all-nighters in the Squarehouse” with fellow design students as being a highlight of her degree.  

“I really liked the social aspect of my degree – our small cohort became a little family by the end of the four years.”  

Beyond the social aspect, Renee made the most of the academic opportunities that arose during her time at UNSW. 

This included spending two weeks in Shanghai on an overseas elective, where she had the chance to learn about design in China while exploring a new culture with her friends from the Built Environment cohort. 

She also credits gaining experience in the workforce as a vital aspect of her course.  

“Interning in the industry was very valuable in providing the skills that are needed in the industry. Also, doing site visits to manufacturing companies was extremely valuable to my understanding of technical manufacturing,” she says.  

Having graduated, Renee’s wide range of experiences have translated into working as an industrial designer of in-flight products such as amenity kits, meal services and children’s packs.  

She says that her time at UNSW gave her confidence in her skills and ideas, and ultimately led to a lot of personal growth. She encourages those starting their university journey to embrace the many opportunities that arise throughout their degree.   

“A lot changes between completing high school and going to uni. You gain independence and become more mature,” she says. 

“Make the most of your time at university – you’ll form life-long friends and some of the best memories. Don’t stress about the small things!”  

This was clearly a winning approach for Renee – both for prestigious awards and in allowing her to overcome the challenges of her course. 

The Bachelor of Industrial Design (Honours) at UNSW Built Environment teaches students to design for people, meet the challenges of a changing world. Find out more about the degree.