Meet a CEO
The Big Smoke: Interview with Adrian Ramsay
Hi Adrian! Please tell the audience a bit about your background, your career so far and how you came to found ARDH.
My design life started as a child. We lived in the country, so plenty of rainy days spent drawing, painting and making models. My father is a fine artist and also worked in advertising: we always had plenty of pens, paper and cardboard around the house. He taught me about the need to present my ideas and designs with the information and story to back them up. My mother taught me to sew (I wanted more fashionable clothes than she wanted to buy) and was a speech and drama teacher, so we all developed a talent for expressing ourselves: for me this expression meant creating my ideas visually on paper or through sculpture. Through model-making and learning to pattern make and sew I gained an appreciation for the analytics of how things go together. This is where my love for fashion was ignited, later turning in to my first career. I left school to work in TV production, training as a camera operator and a video-tape editor. I loved it and I learnt the importance of teams working together to achieve end results and an understanding of capital and team related costs. In my early 20’s my keen interest and instincts for fashion led me to find my place as a clothing designer. I worked my way to becoming one of the leading designers in New Zealand reaching position of global Design Director for an international clothing brand, working around the world, managing design teams and setting-up design departments. At this point I had also begun renovating and flipping houses for myself and friends and as the desire to travel less set in I moved from NZ to Australia following an UK contract. My passion for the science behind creativity and design led me to work in systematic innovation with Airbus and other companies in Europe, America and Australia. This involved training them on how to solve unsolvable problems. This taught me so much about problem-solving as well as motivating groups to follow a process to then create amazing results. I use these skills every day in the design studio. Settled in Australia I did some mid to high end flips with a friend which started the requests from others that would then develop into what is now Adrian Ramsay Design House (ARDH). With about 70% of our work being in Architectural Design concepts, and 30% in Interior Design, we only design new homes or renovations, not commercial spaces or spec homes, it is all about the clients we work with, and lots of fun!
What is the key motivator that brought you do what you do? In other words, what is that you love about your job?
Love of design, working with people and analytics. Creating homes that nurture families and are great investments. It is a real honor to be given the responsibility to do this kind of work, I feel blessed.
There is a lot of appreciation for beauty and aesthetics in professionals like yourself – what style influences your work and how would you say this impacts its uniqueness?
Yes, that is right. Nature and of course people – being artists, fashion designers, architects, car makers – it is endless where inspiration comes from! It could be an amazing dress that inspires the form of a home, or the texture of the bark on a tree: there is no one source, rather everything is a source. The uniqueness lies in the limitless possibilities this approach offers.
From style to design science – how do you as an industry expert define your own design thinking?
I explore and question everything. Daydream and imagine. I give myself design tasks that require to go beyond conventional thinking. Most importantly I enjoy it, including all the frustrations. I try to surround myself with great thinkers and fun people. That’s where the magic is. And I never forget what I am responsible for, and do my best every time.
What is your approach to the relationship with builders and how do you make sure your idea is implemented?
I work with them to create a partnership, working together toward the project outcome. I listen to them carefully: they have a wealth of experience. I will challenge their thinking only once I have listened to them and embraced their knowledge.
What are the challenges of this job and how do you overcome them?
A key challenge is the synchronizing of budget and expectation and I have created a process I call ‘Design Magic’ to get myself and the client on the same page, both responsible for the outcomes. Communication is key and I work hard to get it right and I am selective about the clients we work with. There has to be a fit or it is no fun. And no fun equals no magic.
Please tell us a little bit about the concept of Design Magic.
I’ll start by saying: I have never seen a dream that is smaller than the budget!Design Magic is a process that I developed for my design practice over the past 15 years and still add to everyday. It is a process of education and setting up rules for success to synchronise budget and expectation. It’s a partnership between myself and the client, where we build a design brief and allocate the dollars to spaces, as well as understand the real estate market, and how their investment will be best maximized. Our clients get to explore this in depth. The best point of it is that it all gets very real before we start drawing. It creates a strong designer and client bond, so that there are amazing outcomes. There isn’t a job where Design Magic is not implemented, even the ones with practically no budget.
Can you share with the audience what is the Design Tour and its purpose?
A design tour is about changing environment and surrounding myself with talented peers, it is a moment for sharing with them and looking at the way they solve problems and create innovative outcomes. I used to do similar tours when I was in the clothing industry, and it was hugely successful. So I am really happy I have brought this concept into the Home Design space. The concept is to be inspired and to learn. Every year, I take a specific learning tour. There are a couple of places I go to regularly, as the lifestyle and climate is similar to ours as well as building costs. Sometimes to Europe, sometimes to the USA, both deliver different outcomes. In 2018, I am going to take a small group with me on a leg of my design tour, and let them experience what I do and who I meet. It’s going to be fantastic! We will meet with some amazing architects, interior designers, builders, and inspiring professionals from the industry as well as visit 10 or more completed projects. The tour will be best suited to architects, designers, builders and people who are about to embark on a serious renovation or new build. I will be hosting it and spend time decoding design for the group and making sure there is plenty of magic to experience.
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