You could say Adi Goodrich has a good eye. Our Design Issue cover star got her start at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she tried her hand at just about everything under the curriculum’s vast umbrella—drawing, painting, architecture, printmaking, art history, and animation. But it wasn’t until Goodrich began merchandising windows at Barney’s post-college that she discovered she had a knack for bringing imaginary worlds to life.
Armed with a well-rounded skillset, curious imagination, great attitude, and some substantial hustle, Goodrich was able to turn her visionary eye and her love of building into a lucrative career in set design.
Adi’s body of work strikes an agile balance of creative projects and notable commercial commissions from the likes of Michel Gondry, Wieden+Kennedy, Nasty Gal, Apple, Adult Swim, Pizza Hut, Toyota, The Standard Hotel, and Target. Her always bold, often optimistic, and sometimes cheeky signature style has garnered her a collection of coveted cosigns from It’s Nice That, Booooooom.com, and Complex.
These days, Adi’s switched gears—the master builder is focusing on creative direction where her and her better half, Sean Pecknold, are joining forces under the moniker Sing Sing. We caught her on a rare day off to get the scoop.
You’ve been known to use some pretty wild color. What is it about a bright color palette that resonates with you?
As far back as I remember, I’ve been drawn to textiles from the ‘60s and ‘70s. In junior high, I’d make dresses from old graphic towels and would collect cool old labels to cover my folders with. My dad had an antique store and we were always digging for treasures in barns, old houses, and closed businesses. As a kid, I had a tiny allowance and could afford the scraps—so I collected these tiny colorful printed things.
How did you learn how to build things?
My dad. I’ve been tearing apart houses and putting them back together for as long as I can remember. He was a woodworker/handyman/truck driver mechanic, and I was his sidekick.
Describe what it’s like to collaborate with photographers—what does that process look like?
It depends on who it is, but I’ve been SUPER fortunate to work with some great collaborators. We start collaborating the moment the project comes to the table. We talk about what’s been inspiring us lately, and from there we start drawing and concepting; I spend a lot of time designing and drawing things by hand. Finally, we settle on something we all feel excited about.
What made you pivot from set design to creative direction? How’s it going so far?
I’m still doing set design but I’ve just realized I should be labeling myself as something more than just a “set designer.” I work on many different projects including interior design, animation, direction, illustration, fine art, and commercial art direction/set design. I felt like I was getting a bit bored JUST doing sets, so I’ve been spending the year pushing myself to do more. Current projects are co-directing a music video for Beach House with Sean Pecknold, self-publishing a children’s book, putting together a series of workshops at our Chinatown studio, creating a 9’ x 11’ wood carving for an exterior of an ice cream shop in Venice called Salt & Straw, painting a mural for Town Pizza, finishing up an installation at Ace Hotel for their annual Holiday Artist Takeover, and doing set design for an upcoming Target job.
In terms of set design, can you walk us through your process? Creative direction? What’s the principle difference here?
Set design has been very hands-on for me. I work with a crew and we make everything in-house. I’m covered in saw dust and have to manage a team of (sometimes very grumpy and sometimes very funny) guys building large sets in the hot hot sun. Creative direction is just beyond that: concepting more and doing less of the heavy lifting. Both are great, it’s just the balance of the two. I’ll never be the creative who sits at a computer all week or a lady who walks around in fancy shoes all day.
Can you talk about your favorite project so far? What made it so fun?
One of my favorite projects was the first interior I did—a 70-foot mural at Town Pizza, painted with Sean Pecknold and our super-dude, Dustin Ruegger. I brought my use of color and shape to the walls of a public place! The sets I design are so cool and only about 15 people experience them in real life before we tear it all down. So, it was such a great feeling to see people in the neighborhood with their faces pushed against the window, looking at us painting with huge smiles.
How do you see your work evolving? What would you like to be doing in five years?
I want to have a calm, beautiful studio that knows no boundaries—I want to make films, books, photos, design sets, interiors, and furniture. I want to do it all, but the most important thing is that I want to work with people who respect me and inspire me. That’s something I’ve learned from the process of it all: we all need to surround ourselves with people who inspire us and make us feel super, super special. Because, if you’re feeling bad in your heart, you’ll look bad in your art. (Cool rhyme I just made up).