Chances are, you’ve walked past them.
The touches of René Linssen are all over Canberra in the form of bike racks that mimic the silhouette of Parliament House, installed in public places across Belconnen, Kingston and Civic.
Then there are the bollards, shelters and garden edges in the Henry Rolland Park, near the Acton waterfront, said to take their design cues from the Brindabella mountains and Lake Burley Griffin.
And now the local industrial designer has added another string to his bow, being named among Australia’s most talented under the age of 30 by Australian Design Review (ADR).
Their inaugural ’30Under30′ program is designed to “celebrate young, talented Australians who work across the product and interior designer sector”.
Applicants compete before judges for a place at a three-day retreat at Bali’s premier resort of Potato Head, packed with mentoring sessions and networking opportunities, and yes, free time too.
René is comfortably the only one from Canberra, with the other 29 winners primarily originating from the design hot spots of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
“Canberra doesn’t really get represented in these sorts of things, so it’s good to show people that you can have a successful design career here,” he says.
René was born in South Africa, but his family picked up their life and moved here when he was five years old. He attended school and college here and studied industrial design at the University of Canberra (UC). He traces his interest in design to his late teens when he dabbled in architecture as an open elective.
“I thought, ‘This is cool – it’s engineering, it’s problem-solving, but there’s also a creative outlet too.”
He then got a job with industrial design consultancy Formswell and Furnished Forever, based in Dickson.
“People come to us with something they need designed and we do that for them.”
Over the years, this has seen René design drink bottles for Puma and Asics, bathroom accessories for CLARK, and in 2016, bike racks for the ACT Government – functional but also pretty.
“I love that sort of challenge, where you have to make things that not only work well but also make someone want to use it and have a good time using it,” he says.
His favourite is the bike rack, designed during a government-led competition for “a creative and innovative bike rack” that could be rolled out across Canberra.
“It means something to me … that was my first design to be produced en masse while I was still in my final year at uni, so it was an awesome experience.”
The other has to be a more recent project – a coffee filter called Paragon for Nucleus Coffee Tools, a side hustle by ONA Coffee’s Sasa Sestic.
“The product has got an amazing response throughout the coffee-drinking world – even selling in Europe and Asia – with so many people sharing videos of it on social media,” René says.
The filter system uses the same basic principle as a whisky rock – by running coffee through it and over a cold metal ball – to preserve flavour.
“When you pour coffee, there are a lot of vapours that get lost to the air,” he explains.
“But if you pour the coffee onto a cold rock, a lot of those compounds are locked in and change the flavour of the coffee to make it stronger and fruitier. It sounds gimmicky, but it’s actually a clever way of keeping the taste in coffee.”
Delving into such a range of topics is what he loves most about his job.
“Every project is different – one minute you’re designing a bottle, the next you’re designing a coffee filter or outdoor shelter,” René says.
“I’m always learning new things and things I would have never thought of. Like now, I’m really into coffee and make a lot at the office.”