The Art of Dinosaur Designs

The debut book by Sydney design duo Dinosaur Designs is a feast for the senses


Lovers of vibrant colour, sinuous shapes and tactile forms will get a huge inspiration hit when they open the pages of heavenly hardback 'The Art of Dinosaur Designs'. Surprisingly, this is the first book by acclaimed Sydney design studio Dinosaur Designs, co-founded in 1985 by Louise Olsen, Stephen Ormandy and former collaborator Liane Rossler, who all met at art school. Creative directors Olsen and Ormandy now run the brand, which is as famous for its fabulous resin homewares as its covetable jewellery.

ABOVE: Embracing jewellery and homewares, Dinosaur Designs' collections include 'Seed Pod' bangles and sculptural side tables ('Liquid Moon' crafted here by Olsen)

Visually stimulating, this is a book for the Instagram generation, with stunning images taking centre stage, backed up by compelling copy (including an introduction by fashion writer Georgina Safe). Full-bleed photos, jaw-dropping juxtapositions, evocative collages of snaps, and eye-catching grids of multiple smaller pictures give you a real insight into the label's inspirations, creative practices and collections. Shots of mood boards are a highlight, showing how the pair gleans ideas from fine art, fashion, nature and travel to generate their own distinctive pieces.

ABOVE: Environmental forms, from rocky headlands to the beach and flowing water, influence designs such as this salad server. The team has also embraced metals, including copper, brass, silver and gold, to complement its resin pieces

Nature is the starting point for many of the duo's collections. It's beautifully charted in the book, from their love of the ocean, beaches and coastal rock formations (Ormandy is a keen surfer) to tropical flora and fauna, the rainforest, moss, seeds and stone. There's a sense of place in the collections too, influenced by the seductive topography of Sydney, and a uniquely Australian palette of light, textures and hues.

BELOW: Resin's painterly effects are explored in Dinosaur Designs' 'The Art of Black and White' collection, including this Pollock-esque platter

Art is a major fulcrum around which the brand turns, with Louise the daughter of Australian artists John Olsen and Valerie Strong, and sister of Sydney gallerist Tim Olsen (of Paddington's Olsen Gallery), and Stephen Ormandy an in-demand artist in his own right, known for both graphic paintings and organic-meets-geometric sculptures. Their 'Atelier' collection riffed on an artist's studio, and many of their pieces are inspired by art works, from painterly splatter-effect plates to abstraction and dreamlike Surrealism. Art feeds art too, with the 'Modern Tribal' range inspired by Olsen's colour-block collages created from swatches cut from unused prints of Ormandy's paintings.

ABOVE: Art by Stephen Ormandy adorns the couple's spacious two-storey Bronte home, an old Federation house converted by Sydney architect Sam Marshall

The label is known for its wonderful colours, showcased here to perfection. Blues are a particular obsession, the colour of sea and sky, but this tome is also full of gorgeous greens, luminous yellows, marbled blacks and whites, and earthy browns. The book explores the brand's pioneering use of materials too, from metals to resin, which it has worked to look like coral, rock, seashells, bone, twigs and even glass.

ABOVE: The 'Blue' collection of tableware and jewellery takes its cue from the ocean, captured by the fluidity of resin and then set like a snapshot. Materials also include aquatic-hued agate, seen in objects and pendants

Alongside studio shots, documenting handmade work in progress, the book covers past exhibitions and collaborations, including hook-ups with fashion names from Louis Vuitton to Australian labels Linda Jackson, Romance Was Born, Jac+Jack and Toni Maticevski (the pair even designed rings for INXS frontman Michael Hutchence). Getting more personal, it also shows the couple's airy, art-filled home, perched above Sydney's Bronte Beach, which they share with daughter Camille and dachshund Skipper, a retreat for family and friends. There's a sense of work-life balance, with chapters on Olsen and Ormandy's childhoods, their passions and how they met. This stimulating visual feast is not a typical chronological narrative and is all the better for it...

'The Art of Dinosaur Designs' by Louise Olsen and Stephen Normandy (Penguin Lantern, AU$79.99)
For more, see our Q&A with Louise Olsen

Pictures: Heleena Trahanas (book cover); Tim Georgeson ('Seed Pod' bangles); Sarah Ng (ocean); Anson Smart (artworks); Earl Carter (all other images)