When Tom Newhouse was in year 10, he informed the school counsellor of his career choice. Then he explained the meaning of “industrial designer”. Such is the fate of precocious youth.
“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t planning, designing and building. If our class put on a play, I’d build the set. If something broke, I’d fix it. I’ve always loved to find out how things work.”
Tom credits his father, a self-taught engineer, with nourishing this fascination with the mechanical world. “I could ask him anything technical, and he could explain it logically and simply.” Balancing this pragmatism was his mother, whose sculptures, paintings and aesthetic sensibilities “showed me a whole other way of looking at the world”.
The dual, complementary influences of his parents show through in his designs and thinking. They are evident in the earth-bermed, passive solar house he built for his family in the mid 1970s. His professional work – exhibits, interiors for the severely handicapped, lighting, commercial furnishings, major kitchen appliances – all testify to his wide-ranging talents and intellectual curiosity.
“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t planning, designing and building.”
– Tom Newhouse
Engaged in what he calls the “primarily macho profession” of industrial design, he is also an advocate of women. “Well over half of all office workers are women, and I try to design products that offer them the same comfort and control that men enjoy.”
Tom continues to focus much of his energy on two “passions”: the study of emerging office issues and the implementation of “green” design concepts. He’s also committed to designing products and utilising manufacturing technologies that place the highest priority on preserving the environment. “I have been passionate about this issue for the past 25 years,” he says, “and I will continue to be. That’s one reason why I love to work with Herman Miller.”