By Nick Carne
Jim Hannon-Tan (featured in main headline image) is excited by European design in more ways than just the obvious. Alongside the aesthetics, he is intrigued by the strong sense of place that underpins the approach to, and appeal of, so much great design and wants to see how that plays out in an Australian context.
That’s why, after a decade and a half working with and for some big international names in Italy, Amsterdam and London, he has returned to Adelaide to set up a new venture and help nurture some new talent.
His North Adelaide studio is still very much a work in progress in terms of its own look and feel, but is already attracting work from clients in New York, London and Melbourne, as well as locally. The space is shared with an architect’s office and a marketing agency, creating “some pretty nice synergies”.
“Part of being back here is reconnecting with the place and the people that originally inspired me,” he said. “I always found Adelaide to be an inspiring place; the people, the weather, the nature – there is enough space to be creative.
“I’d been thinking about it for a while because of the people I worked with. Stefano Giovannoni in Milan was all about unmistakably Italian design. In Amsterdam, I worked with Marcel Wanders, who uses the city and its heritage a lot. And then I worked for Tom Dixon in London and his whole thing was British design.”
Jim studied industrial design in Adelaide and Melbourne then, after graduating, flew to Milan to be part of a small Australian presence at a large international exhibition. It was in equal parts inspiring and a crushing reality check, but he was determined to make his mark and had bought a one-way ticket “to cut off any easy retreat”.
Success soon followed and he spent 10 years in Milan (with one brief return to Adelaide, during which he spent time making furniture at the Jam Factory) before moving to Amsterdam and then London. His portfolio includes projects for clients as diverse as LG Electronics, Unilever, KLM, British Airways, Moulinex, Christofle, Baccarat, IKEA, Magis and the quintessential Italian design factory Alessi. You can get a taste of his work at www.jimhannontan.com.
Jim admits he thought he might be drawn east soon after his return to Australia but is “really happy here” and appreciates Adelaide and its creative environment. “You could be in Sydney or Melbourne but the reality is that these days you still have to look overseas and have connections overseas to be relevant,” he said. “We can do good work here.”
And the work he’s about to do? “The great experiment is to see if I can run an international design studio from Adelaide, which I think is possible in this day and age.” While the outlook is global, he is bringing back European manufacturing experience at a time when South Australian industry could really use it, and has already begun working strategically with local companies to increase their design profile.
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