Billy Blue lights up Vivid Sydney 2022

Vivid Sydney | Billy Blue College of Design

Vivid Sydney is back, and this time with a light spectacular designed by Billy Blue College of Design students.

VIVID Sydney is the city’s annual festival of light, music and ideas. The three-week festival includes outdoor immersive light installations and projections, performances by musicians and talks and debates with inspirational creative thinkers. It’s a celebration of design, creativity and the city we live in – so it’s fitting that this year’s festival included an installation designed by students from Billy Blue College of Design at Torrens University Australia.  

Who the heck is Billy Blue? 

This partnership between the university and Destination NSW has resulted in a light installation and sensory experience called Who the heck is Billy Blue? that pays tribute to the college’s namesake, Billy Blue.  

In collaboration with our Game Design and 3D Design and Animation academic teams, Design students over three years developed an exterior installation that will sit in prime position at The Rocks on Sydney Harbour. They also worked with Hospitality students at William Blue Dining to develop an accompanying dining experience including a custom-designed five-course degustation menu.  

“This project is the culmination of about three years of work by staff and students, and we’re so excited for these students to be able to see their work come to life,” said Liam Key, Senior Learning Facilitator at Billy Blue.  

“We were surprised and amazed on a daily basis to see the content that was coming out of these students and the collaboration taking place.” 

After two years of COVID delays, we’re incredibly excited for the culmination of all our students’ hard work in the reveal of this inaugural VIVID installation.  Who the heck is Billy Blue? is an animation celebrating the life and legacy of Billy Blue. A remarkable maverick, Billy’s story is one of ingenuity, seizing opportunities and breaking down barriers.   William ‘Billy’ Blue arrived in Sydney in 1801 as a convict, having been sentenced to seven years in the UK for stealing sugar. He was transported to Sydney where he served his final two years, before starting a ferry service on the harbour – the perfect cover for his lucrative contraband smuggling career. He became a colourful local icon, known for his wit, audacity and entrepreneurial nature, and was given 80 acres at what is now Blues Point, along with the nickname The Old Commodore.  

He remains one of Sydney’s most interesting historical characters and was the inspiration for Ross Renwick and Aaron Kaplan’s design and culture magazine Billy Blue, launched in 1977. The magazine became synonymous with the best creative work and eventually evolved into a design agency, Billy Blue Creative, and later, a tiny design school. Today, Billy Blue College of Design is the country’s leading design college, one that still resonates with the creativity and tenacity of its namesake. 

Billy Blue is also commemorated in William Blue Dining, Torrens University’s award-winning training restaurant situated in the heart of The Rocks, where the ferryman used to ply his trade.

Billy Blue meets VIVID Sydney 2022

The VIVID Sydney installation is the collaborative effort of a creative agency, restaurant and college that share this beloved namesake. Inspired by Billy Blue’s culinary and entrepreneurial pursuits, the project aims to create a dining and animation experience that tells his story in a creative way, lighting up the historic sandstone walls of William Blue Dining and inviting guests inside to sample Culinary students’ creations.  

This project is a prime example of Billy Blue College of Design’s live brief process, in which our students respond to briefs from Billy Blue Creative. Learning by doing is at the heart of our college, and Who the heck is Billy Blue? is a large-scale expression of this.  

Vivid Sydney 2022 | Billy Blue College of Design

Game Design and 3D Design and Animation students, in collaboration with Culinary students and supported by Billy Blue Creative staff, went through the entire lifecycle of development of this project – from high-level concepting to production, version control, and final rendering and outputs – gaining a complete, professional-level production experience. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project as I got a taste of what it is like working in the industry and I was able to put to use the skills I've learnt throughout my course at Torrens,” said student Isabella Bonazza.  

Vivid Sydney 2022 | Billy Blue College of Design

Fellow student Lok Sang agreed: “It was an amazing opportunity to work for a project that is being shown to a large audience, and to be able to do it while still studying at the college. The project was fun, challenging, and a wonderful learning experience for me. I sincerely hope that people will find this piece entertaining and engaging.” 

3D Design & Animation graduate Aleksandra Korinnaja had the honor of working on Billy Blue’s digital character over the course of the project, and says of the project “The opportunity to have my name on such a major project was amazing, but not many internship experiences give this much creative freedom and input,” said Aleksandra.

Vivid Sydney 2022 | Billy Blue College of Design

The team behind VIVID 2022

Hear from some of the academics, students and staff at Torrens University Australia who helped bring the Billy Blue light activation and William Blue Dining culinary experience to life.


If this project has piqued your interest in Design and Animation, explore the courses available to you at Billy Blue College of Design and get started on your own creative journey.  

Check our Design and Creative Technology Courses to learn more
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