SA Life

Get CityMag in your inbox. Subscribe
July 27, 2016

Imagination street

We caught up with Owen Lindsay in his favourite (illustrated) place in the city to talk all things city life.

  • Interview: Joshua Fanning
  • Illustrations and self portrait: Owen Lindsay

Adelaide illustrator Owen Lindsay spent three months painstakingly creating the visualisation tool that brings the Adelaide Design Manual to life.

Of all the ‘future’ city you drew for the Adelaide Design Manual, what was your favourite scene to create?



You, Me, City is a companion publication to The Adelaide Design Manual – a joint resource created by the Adelaide City Council and the Government of South Australia to help the state move forward into the next, exciting stage of our audacious city planning experiment.

I like how the high angle image of the city meeting the Park Lands turned out. It had just the right mix of design information and fun illustration detail. I was able to put in both wildlife and the cityscape into that one. There are galahs in the foreground and a little koala hiding away if you look close enough, as well as people walking their dogs, driving around, chatting, doing yoga, drinking coffee. I feel like I want to visit that place.

Working from the Adelaide Design Manual, did some of the instructions for your illustrations seem preposterous to start but make more sense as you stitched the information together?

I’m typically quite loose with physics in my illustration. I like things to be bendy and with very clear lines of action.Up
until very recently, I hadn’t had the opportunity — maybe I should say ‘challenge’ — to work within a more rigid or constrained form. So the ADM’s insistence on keeping things — how can I put it — ‘non-bendy’, and within the realms of physical reality, was tough for me at first. I think I was able to infuse a bit of bendiness into the citizens of the city, while keeping the punctual, two-point perspective lines nice and solid. The result is a semi-technical illustration that still feels light enough that your brain doesn’t automatically switch off.

Why do you think illustration is effective for this type of communication? What does it do that, say, a 3D render cannot?

I would argue that — especially in 3D renders, and also in photography to an extent — it’s easier to produce a generic look. Illustration is much more intimate and, I think, inherently engaging to a viewer. If you remember the Where’s Wally books — if they were 3D renders instead of hand-drawn cartoons, I don’t think anyone would have bothered looking long enough to find the guy. That’s not to say those other forms don’t have good uses elsewhere; just that, I think, if you want to get people really looking close and paying attention, a form that has this deeply human connection is a good choice.

What would you have liked to draw that you didn’t get instructions for?

In terms of parts of the city that I didn’t get to draw, I would have loved to have had a crack at a Chinatown setting. I like those gates on Moonta Street.

Do you currently or would you like to live in the city?

The Adelaide CBD has transformed so much over the past five years. I edited a magazine here for a few years just on the eve of the small bar takeover of the city, and the difference between the two eras is stark. It’s been incredible. It feels like a much more rounded place now. What is still lagging, though, is the number of people residing in the CBD. Looking around the world, it’s obvious that that’s the key to everything good about a city: population. That’s where it comes from. A mix of all sorts of people and professions is what you need — it can’t be just lawyers and bankers. So what I think is a shame is that, as Adelaide begins this quite confident stride forward in terms of transforming the CBD, there hasn’t been a palpable corresponding increase in the younger CBD resident population. My hunch is that it’s a pricing thing and an availability thing — just supply and demand, really. I would love to rent within the CBD, but am priced out. So what can be done about it? That’s the tricky thing, I suppose, and I wish somebody had a good answer.


Owen Lindsay

Share —