It’s a hard slog making a career as an industrial designer in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly no shortage of design talent in this country, but Australia is a pretty small market when it comes to original design, and it’s bloody difficult to turn a profit making small runs of furniture, manufactured locally. THAT’S WHY we love to champion anyone designing and making their stuff in Australia, and we’re always especially impressed by those few designers really kicking goals on a global scale.
ONE of Australia’s leading and most successful commercial industrial designers is Adam Goodrum. We love Adam’s distinctive aesthetic, and his clever, considered furniture designs for local companies including Cult and Tait. We’re also seriously impressed with Adam’s international credentials – his designs have been produced by respected international design brands including Cappellini, Alessi and Norman Copenhagen to name a few. Adam’s immense talent has also been recognised with a number of awards and accolades over the past few years, these including the Bombay Sapphire Design Award, and more recently, the prestigious Rigg Design Award.
Working from a studio in Sydney’s Waterloo, Adam is prolific. His studio is generally a one-man operation, though he does have a number of casual staff he employs on a project by project basis. Like many creatives, Adam is often working on a number of different projects at any given time – in any given week he might be giving lectures in design at UTS, resolving a new furniture design, making plans for future ranges with one of his key retail stockists, or patiently fielding publicity requests after winning yet another design prize….! We’re pretty chuffed to shine our little spotlight on this legendary local designer today.
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
I grew up in Perth in a beachside suburb. Perth of the 1980s had a strong backyard making culture, every one had sheds and tinkered or fixed things. My childhood was focused on meeting up with friends and making stuff. I was building dug out bases in the sand dunes, crafting surfboard racks to battle Fremantle winds, and fashioning myself leg-ropes out of Coke lids and pieces of Mum’s clothes line. I also had an early love of Lego, going in competitions as a kid. Those brightly coloured bricks and their never ending combinations fostered an early love of form and colour, but also of simple mechanics.
In high school I had a fantastic art teacher and a love of mathematics. At this point I was looking to a career in fine arts, inspired by the works of Australian icons such as Brett Whiteley and John Olsen. However, I soon found out about industrial design – then a little known discipline in Perth. This seemed to unite my love of art, maths and making, which had been individual pursuits until that time. I chose to study a Bachelor of Industrial Design at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and a career in product design followed.
How would you describe your work, and what influences your distinctive aesthetic?
I find it difficult to describe my own work, but with any project I endeavour to add a personality or an added function to any object I’m designing, a product has to justify its existence.
I’m fortunate to be working with companies like Cult and Tait who share a common philosophy and methodology. They execute at a high level, using good materials and considered craftsmanship to create products that will last a lifetime.
With some of my more artistic projects I love to include an element of surprise, and I’ve always had a fascination for bold colour.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of your business and creative process? How do you manage the day-to-day side of the business, what particular jobs do you do in-house and which do you outsource?
In regards to my creative process, I’m always working on a number of different projects so I find myself thinking about them 24/7. I’m constantly looking for a little detail that could inspire an idea, or observing people and the way they interact with things, or trying to refine something already underway.
I don’t have any full-time staff but have a number of casuals who are fantastic and I employ when needed. Like many creative people I am more project focused and less focused on admin – that’s a work in progress!
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I start with an early coffee, then try and get some emailing out of the way. My typical studio day (I also work at UTS) is never really the same. I seem to run around like a chook in a thunderstorm. My most enjoyable day is when I get a chance to design, or make some models to explore an idea. I have a great network of makers who I work closely with, so I spend a lot of time visiting. Most days seem to get gobbled up alarmingly quickly.
What have been one or two favourite recent projects?
One would be my Molloy Chair for Cult. Molloy is a solid timber chair composed of 8 elements that jigsaw together. Each component is individually created on a 5axis CNC (computer numerically controlled) milling machine.
The design intention was to create a chair that would compliment the Molloy table, be comfortable and would stack, but not read as a stacking chair. It was important for me to create complex organic elements that would be challenging to make by hand but could exploit the technology of a 5axis CNC to make multiples.
The name Molloy is derived from Molloy Island in South Western Australia where two rivers run into one river then run in to two oceans, it is the only place in the world where this occurs. Molloy Island sits in the middle of these different directions of interconnected water. The Molloy chair components are accentuated by contrasting grain directions where they meet to become one. My father and I built a holiday house on Molloy Island so this chair is a confluence of nostalgia and concept.
Another recent project is a pair of nesting eggcups I have designed for Alessi. This was off the back of the Vogue Living design prize. I was luckily enough to visit the factory just outside of Milan earlier this year and spend a memorable and truly inspiring day with Alberto Alessi. I love the pedigree and passion of Italian design.