Professor Oya Demirbilek

Professor of Industrial Design
Industrial Design, Design Research Collaboration

Graduate Certificate in University Learning & Teaching (UNSW)

PhD Interior Architecture & Environmental Design (Bilkent)

PhD Product Design (Marmara)

Masters of Science in Building Sciences (METU)

Bachelor of Industrial Design (METU)

As a designer-educator-researcher, I care about the design of accessible and inclusive meaningful products and better futures for all, especially for older people. I am particularly interested in co-design and working with design research methods to create processes that help industrial designers define real problems, be more empathic and identify genuine needs for the products they create. For example, we have an aging population so this might be making sure designers factor in the tacit and inherent needs of older people in the design process. This involves a mindset change from ‘designing for’, to ‘designing with’.

This mission is infused within both my teaching and research and is incredibly important because the problems we are facing now and will face in the future, are more complex and ill-defined than ever. Too many products, devices, and appliances claim to help and support us, yet our attention spans, the spaces we live and the resources to create these products are all limited. On top of that, we live in a world we share with many other living and non-living beings, within interdependent ecologies; pointing to the necessity to rethink the human centred approach in design.  My work addresses the mounting pressure to be more conscious about the products we design and the future we create.

My aims are to make accessibility and inclusion mainstream, and to see outputs of my research adopted and implemented by companies in ways that help them identify the best ways to capture how people perceive the goods they produce and identify what people really need. Ultimately, it’s a no-brainer: identifying real needs, real problems and providing real solutions, focusing on whole system multispecies relationships, rather that human-centric only.

+61 2 9385 4742
+61 2 9385 5613

Oya is a Professor of Industrial Design at UNSW who is passionate about the ways industrial design can enhance life for everyone, and in particular for an aging population. She loves teaching about design research methods, universal design, accessible and inclusive design and empathy. Her teaching methods enable students to articulate their own design process and personal values in the context of enhancing their empathy towards people and environments.

Oya held various positions at UNSW. She was the Associate Dean of Education at the Built Environment (2013-17) and prior to this, she was Discipline Director for Industrial Design (2006-09) and Program Director for the Master of Industrial Design and the Master of Science (Industrial Design) Postgraduate Coursework Programs (2002-05).

She led the design, development, implementation and delivery of the first Built Environment Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Re-Enchanting the City . This course has been offered in two iterations to 9,169 participants from 60 different countries, on FurtureLearn in 2016, receiving top rankings for career advancement in Urban Design, Landscape Design, and Interior Design among successful similar MOOCs. The course has now been converted to a General Elective course at UNSW since 2017, BENV2000.

Prior to joining UNSW in 2000, Oya was Assistant Professor at the Middle East Technical University (METU), where she previously held a Lecturer position (1997-99), and a Research Assistant position (1990-97). She also held an Instructor position in Product Design, at the prestigious Art Center College of Design (Europe), La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland (1989-90).

Oya completed two PhD studies, on the topic of designing for aging and involving older people early into the design process. She brings many years of teaching, research, and freelance design work to her current role, along with a European perspective.

Research Activities: 

Oya’s research work is two-fold: the first one is in investigating ways to capture people's perceptions of the design language of products and brands, and the second is in working with real users, with participatory co-design methods to help develop products, product-service systems and environments that are more usable and accessible for a wider range of people, regardless of their ability levels. This also includes exploring and finding ways to help make old age physically and emotionally more comfortable for all.

Both of these research areas involve empathy, accessible and inclusive design approaches and co-designing with real people. Her ultimate goal is to make accessibility and inclusion mainstream.

Her areas of interest include design research methods, product semantics, design language, inclusive and accessible design, universal design, co-design & participatory design. You can read more about her latest project with Breville here:

Oya’s design work explores hand-making and 3D printing/manufacturing and includes lamps, glass, ceramic vases, pot designs, and geometric jewellery.


Learning and Teaching Digital Uplift Innovation Grants, 2018, (Demirbilek O.) $10,000.

Breville Product Semantics Project, Industry Contract Research, 2018, (Demirbilek O., Mintzes, A., Sunstrum, F.), $16,523.

Breville Product Semantics Project Pilot, Industry Contract Research, 2018 (Demirbilek O., Mintzes, A.) $18,002.

Digital Future Lab – Digital Fabrication for Prototyping in Architecture and Product Design: 5-axis CNC mill, Collaborative robot arm, electronics workstations, 2015, (Matthias H., Demirbilek O., Russell L., Ward S., Park M., Matthias I., Rosenberg E., Araullo R., Hespanhol L., Dunn K., Velonaki M., Tschaut F., Furber B., Wimbourne M.), $443,929. (application submitted, which prompted the faculty to purchase other machines and redirect the funds to the BE Design Lab Director).

Design and architecture practice research: contemporary PhD (DAP_r), 2015, Lead by the Dean of the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT, and where O’Callaghan, J. and Demirbilek, O. are representing UNSW. OLT Innovation and Development grant, $497,000. Link to all DAP_r Partners:

Novel pressure sensing surface system. 2014. UNSW Major Research Equipment & Infrastructure Scheme. ( Bridge, C.E.; Judd, B., Lowe, R.; Demirbilek, O. R., Ward, S., Sweatman, P., Davey, S., and Mintzes, A.), $225,000.

Major Research Equipment and Infrastructure Initiative, 2013 (MREII 2014) Digital Fabrication for the Construction Industry to Deliver Digital Architecture in Australia. (Haeusler, H., Demirbilek, O., Lowe, R., Ward, S., and Park, M.), not submitted but transferred to an internal BE Faculty Grant, $210,533.

Livable bathrooms for older people: designing out dependence in activities of daily living. 2012. ARC Linkage Grant - Partner: Caroma. (Bridge, C.E.; Judd, B., Lowe, R.; Demirbilek, O. R., Peng, G.; Ward, S., and Cummings, S.), $446,000.

Exploring developments in 3D printing/scanning: juxtaposing with traditional manufacturing methods to produce a range of digitally fabricated customizable objects. 2012. FBE Internal Grant. (Demirbilek, O. R., and Carnemolla, P.), $15,735.

UNSW Major Research Equipment & Infrastructure Scheme grant 2009: ‘State of the art high tech three-dimensional scanning and printing equipment for the FBE Design Research Lab’ (Demirbilek, O. R., Ward, S., Park, M., Fowkes, A. and Lowe, R), $219,500.

UNSW Major Research Equipment & Infrastructure Scheme grant 2008:  ‘High-tech equipment for developing and fitting out the FBE Experimental Design & Research Lab (FBE ED&R Lab)’ (Demirbilek, O. R., Máté K., Carthey J., Fletcher, G., Lowe, R., Spehar, B. and Longbottom, C.), $150,000.

FBE Funding for Research Cluster Initiatives 2007, ‘Encouraging Sustainable Consumption in Urban Communities: Designing Future Scenarios for Product Sharing Facilities’, (Demirbilek, O. R., Ramirez, M., and Nawangpalupi, C.), $5,000.

AHURI 2007: ‘ The Efficient Use of Dwellings and Land by Older Home Owners. Unpacking scale for the different design professions: understanding the various representations and misrepresentations of human scale’ (Judd, B., Olsberg, D., Demirbilek, O. R., and Quinn, J.), $208,887.

FBE Faculty Research Grants Program 2007: ‘Understanding the Self-Directed Research Process in the Graduation Year in All UG Programs Within the Faculty of the Built Environment’ (Demirbilek, O. R., Katrina, S.), $4,000.

UNSW 2005 Learning and Teaching Awards 2005: ‘Equipment and cutting-edge hardware to facilitate the faculty’s multi-disciplinary research projects using interviewing, focus group sessions, and oral history’ (Quinlan, A., Corkery L., Marshall, N., Starfield, S., Evans, C., Demirbilek, O. R., Watson, B., and Zhou, P.), $14,961.

FBE research infrastructure block grant 2004 (Dunn, K., Gibson, C., Shaw, W., Thompson, S., and Demirbilek, O. R.), $13,938.


Cite International des Arts residency in Paris UNSW/COFA 2012: creative arts research project on sacred geometry and wearable designs

Runner-up, Young Designer of the Year Award 2000, Sydney Morning Herald

Finalist, Designex’99 Symbol Design Competition, Istanbul 1999

2nd prize, SISECAM Decorative Glass Pane Competition, Istanbul 1998

Honourable Mention, SISECAM Decorative Glass Pane Competition, Istanbul 1998

1st prize, Ministry of Forestry, National Emblem Design Competition, Ankara 1993.

Teaching & Supervision: 

Oya teaches in the areas of industrial design studio and design research methods.

She led the design, development, implementation and delivery of the first Built Environment Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Re-Enchanting the City (2013-16). This course has been offered in two iterations to 9,169 participants from 60 different countries, on FurtureLearn in 2016, receiving top rankings for career advancement in Urban Design, Landscape Design, and Interior Design among successful similar MOOCs. The course has now been converted to a General Elective course at UNSW since 2017, BENV2000, and Oya is teaching that course.


Professional Affiliations and Memberships

COVID-19 Design Taskforce - Good Design Awards, member

Ambassador for Good Design Australia

The Design Society member since 2015

IFA International Federation on Ageing member since 2013

Design Institute of Australia member since 2012

Premier Design Awards -  2019, Jury Member

Australian Design Awards - 2018, 2019, Jury Member

Australian Design Awards - James Dyson Award – First Round Internet Shortlisting. 2009, 2011, Jury Member

Turkey Industrial Design Awards. Istanbul December 5-9. 2010, International Jury Member -

Peer Reviewer - 2010 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) evaluations, Sydney, 2010, 2013

Industrial Design Educators National Network in Australia, member IDNN since 2007

Invited Advisory Committee Member for the assessment of Good Design and the establishment of a good design Award in Turkey, ETMK - Industrial Designers’ Society of Turkey. 2006 - 2007

External Examiners for the Temasek Design School, Singapore 24 February - 2 March 2007

Technical Committee Member of the International Ergonomics Association on Affective Design, 2006-10

Invited 'expert assessor of international standing' to assess application(s) on behalf of the Australian Research Council under the peer review process for the Discovery-Projects Scheme for funding, since 2004 (cont.)

Member of the Include Network, Royal College of Art, London/UK since 2004

Member of the European Academy of Design, Salford/UK, since 2001

Member of CIB/TG19: Designing for the Ageing Society, Building Research Institute, Tatehara/Japan, since 1998

Reviewer for many international journals and Conferences (including Journal Architectural Science Review, Ergonomics, Applied Ergonomics, International Journal of Design [IJDesign], METU Journal of Architecture (JFA))

Public Lectures

UNSW Meet the Professors series, 18 September 2019 "Better life in cities for all with accessible and inclusive design"

Meeting of the Minds monthly professorial talks series, Wednesday, 5 June "How can industrial design contribute to the design of better cities for all?"

Utzon Lecture Series 2016, Public Lecture, Colliding Worlds: Health, Well Being, Design and Built Environments, August 2016

COFA Talks: Art, Design and Healing. May 3, 2011.

In the Media

Ben Knight, 15, 09, 2019. Open Forum ( Designing for people

MirageNews, 06, 09, 2019 People-centric approach to design is key to enhancing standards of living

Stephanie Stefanovic, 06, 09, 2019. Architecture & Design Oya Demirbilek: Co-design is the key to higher living standards

Career FAQs, 2017, Providing career guides for every industry, career and occupationOya Demirbilek - Associate Dean (Education) at UNSW Built Environment

UNSW Built Environment Youtube Channel: "Enhancing standards of living through industrial design", researcher profile video.

Stephen Matchett, Make a wish for research infrastructure, UNSW’s constructive MOOC, Campus Morning Mail, Hard Facts and Insider Analysis, July 21, 2016

Margie Sheedy. Where the jobs are for postgraduates. The Sydney Morning Herald, August 23, 2014.

Jeshua Johnston, 2014. IC Central - The Value of Software Certification – Revit case study, UNSW, Faculty of Built Environment. Video interview, August 2014.

Included in the Virtual Design Museum of Industrial Design Turkey since 2011 - This is an initiative aimed at creating a memory on Turkey’s industrial design.

24 Hours - The Arts Diary - Exhibition. The Sydney Morning Herald, February 1, 2012, p. 9.

"Lab talk / FBE Design Lab – Factory of the mind". 2010. Uniken, Issue 58, Sept./Oct. Sydney: UNSW. p. 2.

"Learning the ropes". 2008. Curve Magazine, special issue on Design Education, October Issue 25, pp. 30-33.

Viviane Stappmanns, 2008. Working the space. Discover Peugeot – Driven, July 2008.

Packer S. 2008. Welcome to the office of the Future. Future Living. Spring 2008.

"Opinions of leading design figureheads for the initiative" - Australian International Design Awards, August 2008.

Australian Design Awards, 2008. 50th-year Yearbook. p. 166-167.

Australian Design Awards Yearbook. 2007. p. 90-91.

Interview with Stephen Lacey. 2007. The interview has been published in “Fresh Heirs: design students are leading the way with cutting edge creations - Looking at the institutions shaping them” The Sun-Herald. July 1, pp. 8-9.

Interview with Career FAQs for the “Industrial Design” book. 2007. Michelle Hespe, Teaching NSW/ACT- Career FAQs Pty Ltd. and also featured on their website.

Interviewed for the Oral History Program: “Female Designers” at the Middle East Technical University, 2004. Ankara, Industrial Design Program in December.

“Universal Design and Accessibility in Design”. 2002. The Comfort Zone. ABC Radio National (Australia). Interview by Catherine Freyne, Journalist. 10 October 2002, Sydney.

“Milan Furniture Exhibition and UNSW student works exhibited” 2001. WM magazine (Australia). Interview by Clare Masters, Journalist. 7 August 2001, Sydney.

TASA... Magazine No:3. News section about the winner of the Logo Design Competition for the Ministry of Forestry in Turkey. Endüstriyel Tasarımcılar Meslek Kuruluşu Yayın Organı. 1994

“Special Design Considerations Regarding the Elderly Population in Turkey”, 1998. interview by M. Nisancioglu from BBC World Service, 4 November 1998, Ankara.

Supervision Area: 

Design for Old Age; Inclusive and accessible Design; Universal Design; Co-design and Participatory Design; Design Research Methods; Empathy; Emotion Driven Design; Design Language and Product Semantics






Danielah Martinez PhD. Towards Inclusive Aging: Examining the impact of Critical Design. Art & Design + Built Environment, Sydney (Joint supervisor).

David Schlosner PhD. Enhancing Medical Data's potential through Systematic Product Design. Faculty of the Built Environment, Sydney (Main supervisor).

Frederique Sunstrum PhD. Self-conceptual perceptions on design language semantics: a case study on kitchen appliances in a cultural context. Faculty of the Built Environment, Sydney (Main supervisor).


Farzad Heyrani Master by Research. Assessing Contemporary Art Museums in Australia in terms of Interior Design Circulation and Success in Conveying Messages to Visitors. Faculty of the Built Environment, Sydney (Main supervisor).


Successfully completed


2012- 19

Peter Sweatman PhD. Evidence based bathroom product design: creative liveable bathroom environments for older people. Faculty of the Built Environment, Sydney (Co-su pervisor).

2012- 18

Alicia Mintsez PhD. Promoting quality of life: Maintaining independence and dignity in the home bathroom. Faculty of the Built Environment, Sydney (Main supervisor).

2012- 15

Phillippa Carnemolla PhD. Enabling built environments: Home modification as a substitute for community care. Faculty of the Built Environment, Sydney (Co-supervisor).

2008- 13

Li Xian PhD. E-waste and e-product life span in China UNSW, Faculty of the Built Environment, Industrial Design Program, Sydney (Joint supervision).

2005- 09

Catharina Nawangalupi PhD. Investigating the usability and the pleasurability of sustainable product-service systems. UNSW, Faculty of the Built Environment, Industrial Design Program, Sydney (Main supervisor).

2003- 13

Joanne Quinn PhD. A Home for All Ages: Design of the Home Environment for an Ageing Australian Population. UNSW, Faculty of the Built Environment, Industrial Design Program, Sydney (Main supervisor).

1999- 01

Esra Demirel Masters by Research. Solutions and modifications towards design deficiencies of modular kitchens in turkey: Kayseri as a case study. Master by research. Middle East Technical University. Esra started with Oya in 1999, and when Oya moved to Sydney, she became a Joint supervisor for Esra’s thesis.

2000- 05

Supervised 22 Master of Science and Master of Industrial Design by Coursework thesis (21 of them have completed successfully).

2000- 20

Supervised 73 Industrial Design Honours Thesis for the Bachelor of Industrial Design Embedded Honours, as the sole supervisor.