As a multi-talented designer, Dale Hardiman is helping to change the face of the Australian design community at breakneck speed
At just 30 years of age Dale Hardiman has carved out a solid reputation as a design leader – some might say design maverick – as his talent and singular vision have propelled him to the apex of the Australian design community. Not only is he an outstanding product designer and partner in a highly successful furniture company but he is also a mentor, teacher and social media leader. As if this wasn’t enough, he has honed his skill as a curator, facilitating and instigating exhibitions and installations, with and for his peers, at a relentless speed.
The Hardiman story began when he arrived at Melbourne’s renowned Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). There he completed an associate degree in design (furniture) in 2012 and was given a special mention in the ‘A Designer A Day’ competition run by Design Hub and the INDACO (industrial design, art, communication and fashion) department at the Polytechnic University of Milan.
The following year, he completed his studies and received an industrial design degree with first class honours. A grand start to a future career that also saw the establishment of Dowel Jones, a design practice in partnership with fellow student Adam Lynch, in 2014.
From humble beginnings Dowel Jones has grown exponentially, and today Hardiman and Lynch design, manufacture and sell furniture, lighting and accessories to a global market. Their atelier is based in Geelong, a country town an hour south west of Melbourne, and it is here that they work their magic while utilising local labour and materials that help the region to prosper.
To complement the rigours of a business life, Hardiman’s other passion is design curation, and this began in his final year at RMIT. Having Dowel Jones for support enables him to explore this facet of his creativity and his enthusiasm for exhibitions is positively relentless. To date he has instigated, collaborated and brought to resolution a staggering 33 exhibitions, installations and other group events in Melbourne and Geelong – each a standalone presentation of a collective of furniture, lighting and object design.
Hardiman is obsessed with collaborative engagement but also dedicated to the underlying ideas of sustainability, and it is the care for the environment and the imperative of sustainable design that has become the vital focus for his energy. For example, his contributions to Melbourne Design Week this year came in the guise of two very different exhibitions both with reuse as a central theme. The first, organised with Tom Skeehan (a partnership formally known as Friends & Associates), was entitled Life & Death.
This brought together 31 of Australia’s premier designers, architects and artists, each creating forms representing the life of an object, its functionality, utility and cultural intent, as well as its end of life, or death. The second was Open Garden, with Stephen Royce, showcasing a series of reflective and controlled lighting sculptures configured from more than 100 broken mobile phone LCD screens.
Hardiman’s capacity for work and his desire to present the Australian design aesthetic knows no bounds and he moves between the structured world of his company and the ephemeral sphere of events effortlessly. The continuum of Hardiman’s activities is, of course, his love for design. Within Dowel Jones there are new collections on the showroom floor every year and this in turn manifests in increased sales.
Not only does the company have excellent penetration of the Australian market but there is also a successful partnership with the Grand Rapids Chair Company “Hardiman’s capacity for work and his desire to present the Australian design aesthetic knows no bounds” in the US. Products such as the now iconic Hurdle chair and Half Hurdle stool, Mr Dowel Jones, a standard lamp, the Never Grow Up bench through to the latest offering of the Sister Double sofa to join the Sister collection have each been lauded for their innovation and functionality.
To say that Dale Hardiman is a man on the move would be an understatement. There is never a moment when he is not devising a new furniture collection, engaging with his ever-widening circle of peers and colleagues, creating a social media campaign, helping younger designers or conceiving ideas for events. Throughout his career, he has been constantly evolving, deepening his resolve and commitment to the environment and helping to bring together Australian designers as no-one else has done in the past.
With all that he has accomplished in the last seven years, it is difficult to comprehend what more could be achieved, however, Hardiman is already planning for the next seven and beyond. With many disparate aspects to his life, Hardiman has already created a unique and vibrant career, with the underlying thread that unites everything being his passion for design.
Top image by Lillie Thompson, Cricket Studio, Tom Ross
As featured in OnOffice 152, The Now Issue