David Caon: What travel has taught me

Industrial designer David Caon never stops when he visits Tokyo.

A graduate of Industrial Design at the University of South Australia, David Caon is now working on Qantas’ new First Class lounge at Singapore’s, Changi Airport, alongside Kelvin Ho from Akin Atelier. It is due to open later this year. Developing his skills in Milan and Paris, where he worked with compatriot Marc Newson for clients including Dom Perignon, Samsonite and Qantas, Caon established his own studio in Sydney in 2009. Caon has partnered with Qantas on many projects including the airline’s Dreamliner fitout and its tableware. He is also working on the revamp of Qantas’ A380 fleet. See caonstudio.com


I will go to Tokyo anytime. It’s not a downtime city, however. My aim with a city like Tokyo (or New York and London) is to do as much as possible in as little time as possible. These cities are not contemplative, apart from the 30 seconds I allow myself of staring at a beautiful sculpture or painting in one of their amazing galleries. They’re high-energy cities and one should never stop, because they don’t stop. Having made nearly 20 visits to the city, I now like to compress time there. If I stop I feel like I’m wasting time and my opportunities to see new things are slipping by. I can only keep it up for a few days, however. My record is landing into Haneda at 5am and flying back out that evening. It still felt like I was there for three days.


It was late afternoon in Capri when Captain Roberto called me to tell me that our group’s transfer to Ponza was in trouble. The boat had broken down just outside the port. Maybe he could sort it out – no promises. I was panicked because Ponza was three hours away. I fretted and made useless calls. The girls shrugged and wandered off to buy  drinks and snacks. The guys pondered the quality of the fishing in the harbour. I was incredulous of their reactions. But they were right. There was nothing to do but wait. Forty minutes later, Roberto turned up in another captain’s boat and they fired us across the Med. Just go with the flow.


Like many, my work takes me to cities I wouldn’t necessarily visit otherwise. In my downtime, and especially if I’m alone, I’ll try to find an interesting part of town. I’m not a sightseer, I’m much more interested in a modern art gallery and a cool precinct to stroll, eat, shop and just be. If I’m lacking recommendations, I’ll always look for an Aesop store. Those guys generally research their shopfront locations and more often than not there are other interesting things in the area. It works more often than not.


I ended up accidentally living in Milan for three years. Each year was distinctly different from the next and all three filled with action and doing. We visit Italy every year, whether for the design fair or just on a family trip. Every trip we visit Milan and I’ve learnt it is always worth it. My last visit was a couple of weeks ago on my way to meet a client. Just for one day, by myself. It was 43 degrees when I landed and it took (as usual) an hour to get a hire car. But an afternoon spent strolling Brera followed by aperitivo and dinner made it worthwhile.


Outside of big cities, just stop. Stop for days. The tendency when planning a trip is to try and do it all. Three days here, two days there. That’s the best way to kill a holiday. Boredom is important in some places. It’s important to stretch the rubber band of your attention span. The next day you will feel less bored and more at peace and that’s when you start to relax and enjoy the energy of the place you are in. There is nothing like sitting by the pool with no plans to cleanse the mind and soul. For me, sitting poolside and on a flight is where I’m most creative. No distractions, no one to talk to, just reflection.