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Journal

Homegrown | Adam Cornish Design

Homegrown is a series highlighting some of our local and loved creative businesses in the community who have been designing and crafting on the local and international stage.  

We speak to Adam Cornish of Adam Cornish Design from Melbourne.  As a multidisciplinary designer, Adam aims to create honest accessible products developed through research and by allowing products to find their natural expression. By combining strong, simple design solutions with a palette of natural tactile materials Adam strives to create individual products with visual and physical longevity. 

JDT

Tell us a little about how you started as a designer and the evolution story or ‘coming to be’ of Adam Cornish Design?

AC

This is something I get asked quite often and the truth is, it was really an organic process. I can remember from a very young age working on things with Dad in the quintessential Australian Shed. When I look back most of the things we would work on would be things I had asked him to change or modify. I always had ideas for improving or changing things to better suit the task at hand. We welded custom gussets on BMX bike frames, little groove above the pick up on my bass guitar to better place your thumb. For me, I hope this is still what design is. Just trying to improve things, simplify designs so they better speak to the material or process they are manufactured from. 

JDT

What is your driving passion as a designer?

AC

Something I am always striving for, that unites all my work is that little magic thread that ties the design together. It is hard to put your finger on what it will be each time, but you know what it feels like when you achieve it. Each design for me has to justify its existence. The reason for using all the materials and resources that go into producing it. The best outcome is when you can create an original process that improves the product both functionally and aesthetically whilst simplifying and minimising the use of materials. This is something I always strive for in my work.

JDT

What is your design process, what is special about it?

AC

My design process I used to think, was quite unusual. I don’t draw very much, I do sometimes make models and little test pieces. But a lot of my process involves thinking. I design most of my products in my mind’s eye. Drawing and models are just to document for others and to test theories. That being said, I do generate lots of ideas for each project. You really have to just keep creating until you get that special movement. That design that makes you stop asking doubtful questions. Then you know you are headed in the right direction.

JDT

Where do you find your inspiration?

AC

My phone is full of images that I find out and about. Lots of natural forms and nature details. Also lots of unusual junctions or attachments found on architecture. I think to serve as inspiration, all it really has to do is “speak to you”. Funny sometimes to look back through these images and see which pieces of inspiration found its way into a project.

JDT

Are there any brands you are inspired by or drawn to?

AC

When collaborating with brands it is very important for us to work with likeminded people. Our work represents their brand and vice versa. I am very careful about who I work with. I have been so lucky and really get to work with the people and brands that I truly respect.

JDT

Has growing up in Australia and honing your skills here impacted your approach to design and your aesthetics?

AC

I’m not sure if growing up in Australia has impacted my aesthetic. I like to think your aesthetic is innate, almost like the way you walk or dance. You can do different styles, but you will always have your own individual feel. A style is as unique as the individual. Having worked with European manufacturers and Australian manufacturers, I can speak to the different approach in Australia. Australian design has a more hands-on approach, things are often fabricated and rely less on very expensive tooling and moulds etc. This has a lot to do with volumes and population size. The positive to this approach is you learn so much more from being involved closely with manufacturing. I have designed the jigs and fixtures used to fabricate some of our products. I have even held first prototypes in position whilst first samples were welded. Without these experiences, I feel my design approach would not be as “structure” driven as it is today.

JDT

Is there anything special in your process for considering the materials for your work? Do you favour certain surfaces or finishes?

AC

I always try to express materials and process honestly, if I do my job correctly the material should seem natural and speak to the user. I do have a desire to use natural tactile materials in my designs. I design products to last so I am very interested in how materials age and patina over time. The aging of a product should add value and dignity to the product and only quality natural materials like metal, timber, and stone do this.

JDT

How do you valuate craftsmanship vs. mass production and where do you feel you sit on this continuum?

AC

Craftsmanship and manufacturing for mass production are not polar opposites in my opinion. It is how you use and apply each that matters. It’s like saying one colour is better than another. They are all lovely, it’s just a matter of application. I love industry and manufacturing processes and the better you can understand the process the better I feel you can “paint” with this process. One thing I do love about mass manufacture is its ability to make products accessible. Something our studio takes very seriously. 

JDT

I know you have a great eye for detail, how do you assess quality control in new work?

AC

My eye for detail comes from not treating details as details. I very much consider them a holistic part of the design. The quality of a product is very much determined by how well the designer uses the material. It is kind of hard to explain, but if I do my job well it allows the crafts people or machinery to express what it does best. There are many examples or poor finishing or low quality products that are not the fault of the maker. The design is just inherently counter intuitive and not suited to the process. 

JDT

What are the key aspects of design you are balancing – look, feel, comfort, performance attributes, final quality and craftsmanship

AC

A good design is a harmonious balance of all of the above. I think it is also important to consider the ambiance of a product. What kind of look and feel does it contribute to an environment? You can design something “well” in the traditional sense and totally miss the mark in regards to the gut feel or ambiance of the product.   

JDT

Is there a social or environmental impact you are considering or responding to in certain pieces or projects?

AC

I think it is now essential for designers to consider these more nuanced subjects. No longer is it acceptable to create new for the sake of new. We have set internal standards for the studio that we explore recycled or reclaimed material options for each product before using virgin material. Also all our products have minimised packaging and shipping volumes. This is something you can’t always see in the finished product, but is something we are very proud of. In some instances, simple design changes have resulted in eight times less shipping volume than what would have been considered standard. Shipping and freight have huge environmental impacts and these considerations can really help to minimise the environmental foot print of products. 

JDT

Do you have any favourite fabrics – are there types of cloth that appeal to you, textures, construction?

AC

I love chunky weaves with natural seemingly imperfect patterns. It really depends on the scale of the object being upholstered. I definitely like course, larger scale fabrics for sofas etc. With more refined upholstery for smaller objects like chairs etc. I particularly like the dimension of Mokum Nirvana and cloths with that visible weave to them.

JDT

What about a favoured palette? Does it change over time or do certain hues speak to you?

AC

I have never really thought about it this way, but I often choose earthy colours, I definitely spend plenty of time walking in nature so it is no surprise. I have also recently really been into raw unfinished metals and industrial zinc plating etc.

www.adamcornish.com

 

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