From DIY surfboard hacks to Louis Vuitton collaborations, Adam Goodrum is an international superstar product designer who never forgets his roots.
Adam Goodrum sits at his desk, in his Waterloo design studio in Sydney’s inner East, surrounded by design objects and points of inspiration. Colours pop to the left of his head in the form of an Alexander Calder print.
“One of my heroes,” he enthuses. “I love his kinetic sculpture, public sculpture, wire figurines and general beautiful philosophy.”
On his shelves, a blue glass hand blown piece called ‘Boab’ takes pride of place alongside orange and yellow vintage glassware. He has an aura of tinker and toy maker and his sunny sensibility draws you in and makes you feel at home. Even though he’s one of the world’s most prodigious and talented designers with en pointe collaborations with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Veuve Clicquot, there is no hint of ego as he welcomes inside to chat about his career to date and how he feels about winning the IDEA Gold Medal.
Goodrum is known for his down-to-earth attitude, which could be attributed to his suburban Perth upbringing.
“My background in Western Australia was unique. We grew up on huge properties with sheds at the back, and grandfathers and fathers had lathes, welding equipment, and various skills that they passed on to us. Growing up there, I realised how fortunate I was to have these clever people around who shared their knowledge, helped us create things, and nurtured our creativity. I’ve always loved making things; even as a child, I was obsessed with Lego and drawing.”
His childhood years read like a scene out of 80’s kid’s classic Goonies. Riding around on BMX bikes, fashioning surfboard trolleys held together with hockey straps, stealing wheels from his mum’s clothesline and making surfboard leg ropes out of Coca-Cola bottle lids.
“Surfing inspired a lot of DIY solutions,” he grins.
It’s like Goodrum was fused from a marriage of art and science, with a crafty mother and a scientist father, setting the scene for his love of experimentation and design.
“Mum used to knit, and I have fond memories of her buying bags of wool, owning a lovely timber spinning wheel, and making beanies and jumpers. At the time, it felt normal, but in hindsight, it was special. Today, it would be seen as a boutique craft, but back then, it was more of a utilitarian process.”
“My father was an academic in science, so while he was handy in his own way, I wouldn’t describe him as creative. He took on practical tasks, like building our house.”
As with many great creative origin stories, his potential was revealed in high school and encouraged by an inspiring art teacher, who introduced him to the world of art and artists like Brett Whitely.
“My teacher told me that I might become a great designer one day, which was demoralising at the time because I wanted to be an artist.”
A career in industrial design was appealing to Goodrum because of the possibilities of blending art and practicality. Despite being offered a place at Curtin University in WA, Goodrum felt he needed to push out of his hometown and moved to Sydney to attend UTS. But once he finished his degree in 1993, Goodrum found he had a wanderlust for breaking onto the world stage.
“There were opportunities in Australia, but not many. Because of that, we were jumping on a plane to go overseas, to try and look for opportunities, we needed to leave and be where the more significant brands were.”
Opportunity came knocking in Milan where Goodrum was swept into the world of Cappellini.
“It was the most interesting brand working with the most interesting designers,” he said.
Known as The Godfather of Italian design, Guilio Capellini took a shine to Goodrum’s sense of style.
“If someone had asked me what company I would most like to work with, it 100 percent would have been Cappellini.”
Recalling their initial meeting in Australia, he shared, “I had the opportunity to meet Giulio when he was in Australia, and he expressed some interest in other pieces, not just my Stitch Chair.”
“Then, I won an award and received an airfare to Milan. During my visit to Milan, I presented a miniature model of the Stitch Chair to Giulio, and he said he wanted to put it into production.”
Goodrum created a bit of cheeky competition to speed up the production process, mentioning to Giulio that another company was also interested in producing the chair. Guilo quickly came back and said “Si – we’ll do it!”
Goodrum recounted, “I went over to see some of the prototypes at the Cappellini factory, and it was undeniably a special moment.”
Reflecting on that moment of seeing his folder on the shelf in between acclaimed designers the Bouroullec brothers and Jasper Morrison, he admitted, “I remember just thinking, my goodness, my heros, I felt like an imposter.”
He still pinches himself when he thinks about his hardwon good fortune.
Above is an excerpt of an article that appears in the upcoming IDEA Winner’s Edition of inside magazine, out 11 December. To read the full article, subscribe now.