Leonie Brickwood is certainly a rarity in Australia. She is a successful female industrial designer, in a mostly male-dominated design field, working for an Australian company.

Leonie works for GWA Bathroom and Kitchens and her collaborations with the Caroma team have resulted in numerous Australian and international design awards. Leonie is a graduate with first class honours in Industrial Design from the University of Canberra. In her spare time, the indefatigable Leonie is busily working on minimalistic pieces for her jewellery label Leo Wood Jewellery.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Our office is located in north western Sydney so a typical day for me, like many Sydneysiders, starts with a fairly lengthy commute. The commute doesn’t really bother me to be honest, it gives me a lot of thinking time to mentally prepare and plan for the day. I work in a design team made up of three other talented industrial designers and as a team we design and develop bathroom products for brands including Caroma and Dorf.  A typical day in the office for me could be anything from working on concepts for a new range of tapware, basins or toilets, presenting concepts to the marketing team, to reviewing product prototypes. We have a 3D printer in the office which is a fantastic tool and definitely speeds up the design process.

What are you working on now?

Well the details are top-secret of course! There are quite a few different projects in the development process at the moment, including a new range of basins and some commercial tapware – it’s a big market with a lot of opportunity. After hours I might spend a little time working on my side project – jewellery.  Leo Wood is a jewellery label I started up a little while ago. It was basically a hobby that I got a little bit obsessed with and decided to make real. It’s great to have another creative outlet that I have complete ownership of.

Where do you go to get inspiration?

Getting out of my usual routine and environment is always refreshing and inspiring. Whether that’s a day in the city visiting showrooms or weekends getting out of the city!  Both of these things give me a chance to put things in perspective and think about things differently, and more creatively.

Another thing is reading (usually online) about other designers being proactive and getting their work out there. Seeing other people backing themselves and pushing the boundaries in design really inspires me. It makes me want to be a better designer.

Who inspires me?

I’m a fan of Ilse Crawford & Norm Architects … amongst others!

How did you get your first break in your career or jewellery design?

Studying Industrial Design at the University of Canberra was a great start. The class sizes were nice and small and during the course we worked on quite a few industry- based projects. One of these was a project with what was then known as Caroma Industries. That project landed me a job as a graduate designer.

As for jewellery design, I wouldn’t say that I’ve really had a ‘break’ – yet. It was something I was really interested in and passionate about it and I can’t remember what it was that made me decide to make it more than a hobby, but I suspect I was probably reading about some energetic young designer getting their work out there and I just thought, I’ve just got to do this! So within a few months I’d designed a few pieces, set up a little workshop in my garage, built a website and started getting my work out there. All aspects have been so enjoyable and rewarding.

What is one piece of advice you wish you had received when you were first starting out in your profession?

That it is ok to ask a lot of questions. Questions are a good thing, they show that you’re interested and keen to learn.

What has been your greatest achievement?

A couple of years ago we launched Dorf Epic. Epic is a range of tapware that I was heavily involved with in terms of design and development. It’s a range that I’m quite proud of and it has also been successful in the market. Earlier this year it also received a Good Design Selection award.

When it comes to jewellery design, just getting this little side project up and running has been a great personal achievement. I’ve started so many creative expeditions (we’re talking wood turning and pottery amongst others!) with the intention of them all going ‘somewhere’ but of course I lost interest or decided I just didn’t have the time to commit to it. With jewellery design I thought to myself, “Life is short, I’ve got nothing to lose”  and it was simply something I really wanted to do… so I did it. The whole process has been really rewarding so far.

Tips for getting your ideas off the ground

Just do it. Obviously make sure you really believe in your idea (or whatever it is) and as long as it’s not financially crazy then just get it out there. It’s easy and inexpensive to build your own website these days and with social media platforms like Instagram its really easy to connect with people, whether they’re potential customers or bloggers with their own audience, that are willing to write about you and your work. Oh, and great imagery is so important!

Photo credit: Leonie Brickwood by Jim Pollard
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