How Australian designer Henry Wilson fuses art and science

Sydney's award-winning industrial designer Henry Wilson's breakout idea sat in a university sketchbook for 10 years before he turned it into a reality. The 34-year-old rose to fame with the invention of his A-joint – a flexible joinery system that sees furniture and seating components come together in a few utilitarian clicks.

The success of the A-joint has seen his business grow into a global phenomenon with the furniture system exported worldwide.

Since setting up his business in 2012, Wilson has become a darling of the country's top design businesses – he helped create the Aesop Balmain store and collaborated with Lexus Design Pavilion over the past several years.

He has many awards under his belt too, including the Qantas Spirit of Youth Award in 2012 and an Interior Design Excellence Award in 2015.

Curious minds

Wilson's no-nonsense and green approach to design is what puts him ahead of the rest.

As a child, he loved nothing more than opening things up to see how they ticked. "I dreamed of being a mad inventor of something cool," recalls Wilson. "I was your typical kid who would pick things apart and make them into something else."

He recalls tagging along with his architect mother Sophia while she worked in a Sydney practice and overhearing discussions about design and art. "Mum studied architecture in Sydney in the '60s, and as a kid seeing her work made a lasting impression on me," he says.

"My dad [Tim] was a surgeon and also very much about hand skills. He saw himself as a bit of a craftsman. I bonded with him over those things. There's no doubt I took a little from both parents – there's art and science in what I do," he says.

An international influence

Wilson's design aesthetic is clean, minimal and functional. He builds with longevity in mind and it was winning the Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award in 2011 where he pocketed $30,000 towards the commercialisation of his A-joint range that really kicked things along.


Wilson describes himself as relatively green in terms of experience in the field, and says there's always plenty to learn. For him it was living in the Netherlands that put his ideas into perspective.

"The Dutch have embraced design as something that can enhance human existence," says Wilson.

"They are one of the leading countries in that respect. It's a good place to learn and where people go to try and work out why the Dutch have mastered this concept and have this great cultivation for design," he says.

Reflect, recycle, repurpose

This year Wilson designed the chandelier within the Lexus Design Pavilion in the Birdcage at Flemington, plus he debuted his Cast Impressions in conjunction with Aesop at this year's Milan Furniture Fair– the collection including Wilson's signature table and desktop accessories range all cast in bronze.

"We have enough stuff to furnish our homes and can do so from op shops. When I design I always ask myself 'Do we need this?'," says Wilson. "But the products I make are very limited. We try to be conscious of what we make and why we make it. We don't mix materials together and everything can be easily recycled and repurposed," he says.

When he's not studio bound, Wilson says the outdoors is his release. "I camp, I sail and ski," he says. "All these sports inspire my design process because often the equipment I use for them is made with a true level of honesty and reliability in order for these sports to function. I have found that a beautiful way to resolve a product when I design. It's both meditating and liberating."

Check out the gallery above to see Wilson's pick for a stylish life.