Catherine Adam

Catherine Adam - Graphic Designer & Photographer

- Story by Tony Cutting

Catherine was born in Wellington and raised in the coastal village of Eastbourne, across the bay from Wellington city. Her mother Shirley (Hopping) was a devoted full-time mum, she raised Catherine and her two older brothers Gareth and Grant throughout both primary school and secondary school education. Catherine describes her as ‘the best mum around’. John Adam, her father, was a Civil Engineer and a ‘super talented handyman, as in house-building-handy!’.

Catherine attended Muritai School in Eastbourne. She loved Eastbourne so much she spent the first twenty one years there, plus many a-year returning back ‘home’ in between international travel stints. She mentions she built strong friendships through her primary school years (5–12 years old), life-long friendships and absolutely loved all aspects of primary school. She said her school felt very much like one big family.

‘I was a very easy going, happy-go-lucky primary school student. The highlight of each year was always school camp or going on overnight hikes. Eastbourne is very influenced by nature, the sea on one side, the bush on the other, so being in amongst nature was where I felt most in my element. Building forts in the Butterfly Creek bush, swimming at the beach, and playing spotlight around the streets with all my local friends from near-by streets are very fond memories."

She describes herself as a very happy, very social child who was pretty easy to be around.

"I enjoyed life!"

During this time she also played competitive tennis and badminton, doing well enough to go on and represent Hutt Valley for both these sports from when she was eight through to twenty one years old. I was pretty unbeatable in tennis for my age-group back in those days! Tennis took a lot of my time growing up, but it never felt ‘taken’, I loved the sport and the strong friendships that were made within the teams.


Hutt Valley High School

Catherine attended Hutt Valley High School. She chose this college as this is where her two older brothers were going and she hated the thought of being apart from them. High school was yet another exciting adventure for Catherine

‘I was always up for an adventure. I was a hard working student, not hard working to merely get good grades, but hard working as I loved to learn!’

She was still very involved in tennis and badminton. Cross-country running and athletics as well. Catherine was a bit of a high achiever when it came to the sports she applied herself to.

Her top classes at High School were Art, Photography and French.

‘I especially loved being a 7th form prefect, mentoring third form students. I have always loved being in the role of mentor. Passing on what I have learned to others’.

She gained the highest 7th form bursary for Art that Hutt Valley High School had ever achieved

- ‘that’s not too shabby’ she smiles.

She enjoyed attending Outdoor Pursuits, twice! It was a highlight for her. Again, adventures outdoors in nature are the happy memories that have stuck the most for Catherine during these years.

She describes herself as social, happy, curious and kind-to-others during her high school years.


France via Victoria University

Catherine went on to study at Victoria University in Wellington. Her first degree was a Bachelor of Arts majoring in French. She was awarded a scholarship to be an assistant English teacher in Avignon, France at the completion of the degree.

"It was a great experience for a 21 year old, leaving home for the first time and living on my own in France, where I knew no one for a couple of years. Culture shock was certainly something I experienced, but these experiences are how we learn, how we grow. I am grateful to have had this experience of living in France."

Upon returning to NZ, Catherine did her honours year in French as she did not want to lose the French fluency she had gained.


Wellington Polytechnic — College of Creative Arts, Massey University

Catherine's second round of tertiary study took her to Design School— what was initially Wellington Polytechnic then later Massey University, to embark on a Certificate in Visual Communication, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Visual Communication, and finally a Post-Graduate Diploma in Visual Communication, with photography built into it.

"I certainly love to study! I have such a huge curiosity to learn! To keep learning! I’ll never stop studying, be it formal education, self directed or through my peers. To me, continuing to learn is the essence of a fulfilling life."


Work History / Globetrotter

Before taking the leap to set up her own business, Catherine developed a comprehensive work history working for a number of organisations, both in NZ and USA.

- 2004
Catherine worked in the film industry as a location scout and as part of a team at the Gibson Group who created multi-media museums in France, which brought her French and Design skills together.

‘The film industry was great fun, very social! I couldn’t sustain that forever however, it’s pretty demanding work with long hours, night shoots etc’.

2004 – 2007 / Graphic Designer
Catherine worked for three design agencies in Manhattan, New York.

‘It is so good to work in one’s chosen area in a different culture. American design is quite different from the classic design I had been taught at Massey. But it’s good to explore different ways of working. I loved the connections formed with all my international work colleagues during my four years in NYC. I have kept the connections and continue to do the freelance job with them.’

2008 – 2011 / Senior Graphic Designer
Story Inc Ltd, Wgtn, NZ

Catherine was working on ‘BIG’ printed graphics here as well as interactive design. She did all the graphics for the 'Zealandia Visitors Experience' in Karori, Wellington.

2014 / Typography Tutor
College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wgtn, NZ

‘The most gratifying aspect of teaching design was watching as I was able to ignite passion and motivation in my students. It’s contagious!’

2012 – 2015 / Creative Director & Senior Graphic Designer
Open Lab, College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wgtn, NZ

‘During this time, I absolutely loved mentoring junior designers, working with them to respond to client briefs. It was a very social job, lots of learning, lots of experimentation (that’s what Universities do!).’

In 2016 Catherine took the leap of faith and set up her own business:

Catherine Adam Photography & Design, Paekakariki, Kapiti Coast

‘I enjoy the freedom to work the hours that suit me and my healthy lifestyle. I enjoy working for clients whose work means something to me, work that is doing good for the world in which we live, the people, the animals, the land.’

‘I am still a very happy and social person. I also appreciate being alone, but I particularly enjoy and need the connection of other like-minded creatives in my work endeavours. It is a wonderful experience, working with others. I like to omit the ‘competition’ for client’s attention, rather I prefer to work in an honest manner, working where my strengths are, pulling in others where I know they would do a great job to supplement my work. I believe that designers work better in collaboration with others. My working style is also very a collaborative with my clients, I like to bring them into the process. I am a very curious designer! I bring passion, enthusiasm and experience to all my personal and client projects.

I bring a broad skillset to my role as a Visual Communicator, graphic design and photography work so very well together.

There is a reason why I have been gifted numerous Curious George gifts as an adult. I have a huge curiosity for life. This is where Documentary Photography, which forms a part of my business, grows from. I love to get out and about, meet new people who are doing things that are different from what I know. For me, Documentary Photography is a wonderful way to learn and grow.’


Major Achievements so far...

2013 / International Society of Typographic Design
Awarded Membership with Commendation

2013 / Best Design Awards, New Zealand
Finalist for print design with a personal environmentalist project that focuses on ‘rubbish’: Into Sight, Into Mind


‘Simply Being’

‘Early 2015, my husband Terence, Adie (beloved dog), and myself moved our lives away from Wellington city to live as the sole permanent residents on a remote and wild, boat-access-only, off-the-grid peninsula on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. We were due an adventure!

During our 14 months of isolated living, my primary focus was exploring these remote lands — camera kit in tow — capturing the ever-changing light, the natural, raw beauty, the wild horses who became our friends, the migratory birds who stopped by to refuel, the silent spaciousness and freedom in image form. It was a very special time.’


Thinking forward what does the future have in store for you?

‘I am very excited to be setting up a long-held dream of mine—a Letterpress Studio here in Paekakariki. When I first studied design, it was a very tactile process. As time went by, the computer began to dominate and I began to feel creatively unsatisfied spending 8+ hours behind a computer everyday. So the time has come to do my bit to preserve history, to keep and an art-form alive!

Now that we are settled on the Kapiti Coast I am excited to connect with other creatives, to work together.

To find out more about Catherine or to get in touch visit

Catherine Adam