A case for following your curiosity with Tom Reid

Design and architecture have a way of getting under your skin. For many designers, it becomes an all-encompassing part of life. This was certainly the case for our Saturday Indesign Ambassador Tom Reid. After a bit of trial and error, Tom found himself following his curiosity for design, which has led him down the road to where he is today – a senior designer at Melbourne’s DesignOffice. We find out about Tom’s design journey.

What inspired you to study design?

Tom Reid: I have always had a keen interest in art and design but it took me a few years to settle on design as a career choice. Prior to studying interior architecture at Curtin University (where fellow Saturday Indesign ambassador Jess Humpston also studied), I had tried advertising, mass communications and journalism.

Feeling defeated and not knowing what I wanted to do I deferred for a year and worked at a bookshop. I would spend as much time as I could devouring all of the architecture and design books and magazines. An absolute fascination with Oscar Niemeyer started there so the following year I enrolled in interior architecture.

Oscar Niemeyer's MAC. Photo by Iñigo Bujedo-Aguirre.
Oscar Niemeyer’s MAC. Photo by Iñigo Bujedo-Aguirre.

Tell us about your life outside of design, is there anything (hobbies, interests) that you’ve stumbled on that feed’s back into your practice?

I think when you work in design everything outside of the studio feeds into your practice. Travel, street signs, driving under a bridge, film everything can be a resource for analysis and inspiration. The Bertolucci film the Conformist and Italian cinema, was a big influence for Palace Cinemas in Sydney. I do have a particular love for magazines though. I still have all of my Monocle and Wallpaper* magazines since 2007. I love to flick through old back issues – especially the ads.

Palace Cinema, Raine Square Perth. Photo by Dion Robeson.
Palace Cinema, Raine Square Perth. Photo by Dion Robeson.


What inspires you?

I am inspired by multiple sources across architecture, furniture, fashion, art – again I think my inspiration is generally project or client related. Oscar Niemeyer, Joe Colombo, The Bouroullecs, Donald Judd, Raf Simons these people are always inspiring… along with a healthy dose of Pinot! I also have a group of close friends and old colleagues from the design industry who meet for monthly breakfasts, they are also an endless source of inspiration.


In your opinion, what makes for an outstanding project?

I think the most outstanding projects are usually the simplest and most courageous in their convictions. The boldness of simplicity and being able to have a really considered and thoughtful approach.


“I think when you work in design everything outside of the studio feeds into your practice.” – Tom Reid


What’s something you wish you had known when you started your career?

That you don’t need to know everything from the start. Sometimes the naivety of being a graduate without experience can be a total asset.

Palace Central, Sydney. Photo by Terence Chin.
Palace Central, Sydney. Photo by Terence Chin.


Can you talk through your design process – is it always the same or different, do you hand draw, research, come back to old ideas?

I think my process is relatively project and client specific. In the studio, we generally try to define a set of principles that are informed by the client, their brand and the site to create a narrative that becomes compelling and intriguing. Hand drawing is a must.


What is your favourite building in the world and why?

Tough question, I would either have to say the Stahl House in LA by Pierre Koenig or The Glyptotek in Copenhagen but for very different reasons. The Stahl House represents such an optimistic version of modern design – it is pure Californian modernism, and that view over LA is unrivalled. The Glyptotek is a total study in colour and progression. The series of rooms that lead from one to the next is so simply choreographed through the use of intensely saturated colours, which are the most perfect backdrop for the amazing collection of sculptures. Plus the central courtyard garden and bar are incredibly charming.

Stahl House by Pierre Koenig, © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Julius Shulman.

Which projects are you most proud of and why?

I love projects where I feel like we have left a mark on our client and their long term business objectives, like Little Bean in Shanghai. Our client there is amazing, and incredibly supportive and trusting. He is going from strength to strength with his coffee roastery. A significant part of the project was creating the physical design language for his brand, showing how this can be implemented into various sites and formats. I find this kind of work really exciting and rewarding – being able to be a part of a clients journey, in creating a considered and authentic business and brand, and also watching its growth and success.

With a firm grip on the design industry, our Saturday Indesign Ambassadors are advising on the most interesting and insightful topics – talks and workshops to be released soon. In the meantime, register for Saturday Indesign now. And make sure 22 June is marked in your calendar!