Brought to you by The Designers Institute of New Zealand, The Best Design Awards is an annual showcase of excellence in graphic, spatial, product, interactive and motion design along with four boutique awards.

The National Graphic Design Awards were established in the mid seventies to celebrate New Zealand’s best graphic design. Attracting 300 entries, the awards exhibited 130 works as part of a touring exhibition and lecture series.

In 1988 the name was changed to the New Zealand Best Design Awards and enabled a growing community to benefit from the experience of a jury of international peers.

In 1992 the awards were expanded to include Spatial and Product design. 

By 1998 the Best Design Awards became a annual awards programme.

In 2010, Interactive was established as a distinct discipline. The Ngā Aho Award and Best Effect Award were added in 2012 and Public Good along with Moving Image in 2015. In 2017 the User Experience Award was introduced.

The Gold Pin is coveted under each category as best in category, but its the very best piece of design in each discipline that is given the supreme Purple Pin and held up as work that raises the bar of New Zealand design.

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Black Pin

Each year, the prestigious Black Pins are awarded to individuals for outstanding achievement.

The John Britten Black Pin is awarded to a designer for their leadership, vision and achievement both in New Zealand and internationally.

The Designers Institute Black Pin is awarded to a member of the Institute who has made a lasting and valuable contribution to the design profession and design culture in New Zealand.

The Value of Design Black Pin is awarded to a company that champions the power of good design to create massive impact.


Annie Dow Designers Institute Black Pin

One statement which unites our entire community — no matter the discipline — and has been Annie Dow’s mantra since 1994 — is this: ‘Design delivers value’ — and further to that we believe that designers themselves must be valued. 

After completing her design training at AIT she gave Auckland a chance before heading to London for a job at the London Stock Exchange which she admits was boring but helped her embrace her passion for building brands and business. From there it was a couple of years in Saatchi & Saatchi Barbados, where the international world of advertising collided with the romantic island life to reignite her drive to return to her own island nation and combine creativity, culture and commercial success so that design-led thinking became central to doing business.

And so began Dow & Associates with husband Greg. A natural team who challenged each other with a healthy competition and common purpose. Originally specialising in the FMCG environment where ideas had seconds to survive and sell, Annie learnt to work closely and quickly with clients to achieve results for brands and businesses. All based upon her often repeated philosophy — “Design must do: It deserves courageous conversations and getting it right is worth the fight”. 

Through the personal tragedy of losing her business partner and husband, the challenge of creating Brother — a sister agency to Dow, acquiring new businesses and the constant evolution required to survive a quarter of a century in business she has never wavered from her commitment to our industry and the message that design solves key business problems and must be recognised as a strategic business discipline. 

Annie’s perspective as a woman in leadership in business is to be greatly admired. She has established herself as a role model.

Her tenacity and passion mean that many business owners over the years have admitted - sometimes begrudgingly — that at the end of the day design was a great investment and not a cost. Her attendance and support for the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Better By Design CEO Summits is testament to many years striving to improve, connect and develop design in Aotearoa.  

Colleagues and friends admire a person who always has an eye on the bottomline AND a finger on the pulse, someone who speaks her mind AND truly listens, is protective and tough BUT never holds a grudge, has an inner strength AND wears her heart on her sleeve and creates opportunities that build others up and grows talent.

Today — at 25 years young — Dow Goodfolk is a highly awarded studio, a highly regarded strategic business and a highly respected ‘proving ground’ for many, many committed designers.

It has achieved what all of us strive for — success culturally, creatively and commercially.

Although her hard work often happens quietly in the background it never goes unnoticed — it is part of the spirit of all Designers in New Zealand.

This year we honour one of our own who has advocated and educated on our behalves and reminds us that ‘We’re worth it!’

Black Pin


Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Value of Design Black Pin

Fifty years ago, when New Zealand was just beginning to train designers, a concerned doctor and some engineers from Fisher & Paykel solved a problem that was killing patients.

They humidified patient ventilation.  A preserving jar, and some piping, it now looks like quintessential number eight wire innovation.

But fifty years of continual and increasingly sophisticated product development have spawned a company that is now New Zealand’s largest hi-tech exporter.  

The People at Fisher & Paykel will tell you two things they learned fifty years ago that drive them still:

“1. Having the patient at the centre of everything we do sparks innovation.
2. Having the designers close to that patient creates empathetic thinking and meaningful solutions.”

Their care for patients is obvious and the fact that last year they helped 14 million of them is a source of pride and inspiration.  In hospitals and at home Fisher & Paykel Healthcare products give those patients quality of life and often life itself.  

Sleep apnea is one condition that tests Fisher & Paykel healthcare’s innovation to the full. No one wants to wear a mask & pump in bed and making it stay on comfortably when the physics of breathing pushes it off is the trickiest of design paradoxes. 

Their success and growth in this area is evidence of their potency and their potential to grow beyond the billion dollars sales they cracked last year.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare are champions of  the power of good design to create massive impact.


Rik Campbell and Steve Le Marquand John Britten Black Pin

 Best Design Awards 2018 Annual - case study

 Stranger Things

The Internet, font of knowledge that it is, can make it hard to separate fact from fiction. Improbable-sounding things might be true; plausible-sounding things might not. In the middle is a host of part truths and red herrings, misdirections and obfuscations. The truth might be out there but it can be hard to discern.

Somewhere, in this Internet, lives Resn – New Zealand’s best digital company (probably a fact), which was founded in 2004 by 2018 Black Pin recipients Rik Campbell and Steve Le Marquand, and, subsequently, formed in their own image.

Resn, according to Resn, peddles “gooey interactive experiences that will amaze and stupefy” to the world. They also self-describe as “the Internet energy ball”, “Self-proclaimed Web Perverts”, “Digital boffins/idiot savants” and “Creators of the Digital Disco Breakdown”.

In short, they are an internet mystery, occupants of a digital halfway-house built at the crossroads of reality, a Kiwi Upside-Down – a place, at the wrong end of the world, with portals (a.k.a offices) in other realms, The Netherlands, China and America. From Wellington, Campbell and Le Marquand have implement their own inconoclastic vision of the Internet. They disregard convention, make their own way, and have what appears to be a huge amount of fun in doing so.

They’ve made masterful digital campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands – and have done it with such rude good humour that you might wonder if they’re serious or not. But they are, of course. It can just be a bit hard to separate the myth from the man, or, judging from some of the photography, the pirate from the person.

Sons & Co.’s Matt Arnold touched on this when introducing Le Marquand and Campbell at a Designers Speak® talk in Auckland.

“They are seriously smart people doing seriously good work. They are New Zealand's best digital designers. One of the most admired in the world. Respected unconditionally. They have 75 people in four countries. And not crap countries. Proper ones.”

Their humour, said Arnold, is a “a New Zealand thing”, a deflection, a diversion tactic.  

“It's a form of modesty, but it's this irreverence and sense of mischief that makes them so distinct in an industry that is typified by self-important blowhards. Resn is the Trojan Horse: looks like a novelty-sized wooden pony, but open the hatch, and you're staring at 75 cold-blooded killers…On the one hand, a clownish, immature ridiculousness, and on the other, a serious, no-nonsense rigour that is frightening in its intensity.”

Interestingly, there’s not much biographical information available about Le Marqand and Campbell (and disclaimer – the interview that follows might not put too much more flesh on the bones) which suggests, to me, a desire to avoid the creation of self-aggrandising mythologies. Either that or it’s a cunning plan to exaggerate personal mythologies through absence of information and swell of rumour. I think it’s the former – they live to do great work.

Well, we should start at the beginning, I guess. Rik, where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid?

Rik: I grew up in Nelson where I was raised on a steady diet of pulp noir and light jazz. Because of this, I have no background. Everything is foreground. Like many people, I grew up trapped inside of my own body. I desperately wanted to break free, but that would have been very messy. As a kid, I can only describe myself as childlike. Except for the beard, obviously, which foreshadowed the man that was to come. A five-o’clock-foreshadow. It was only after discovering my talent for design that I really came into my own. I like to think design school made me what I am today: a corporate manager. Percentage-wise I am 20% designer, 50% blind and 40% Creative Company Manager and 10% undecided. I like long walks on the beach, deep conversations and holding hands.

 What about you, Steve?

Steve: I grew up in the fertile mangrove swamp of the Manawatu in the 1970s and 1980s – a mystical age of multimedia saturation and lack of parental supervision. It was the ideal environment for a growing mind. Music was an early obsession and I taught myself to play piano by ear. When that resulted in a sum total of zero girlfriends, I took up the guitar instead. Between my totally rad thrash metal band and finding commercial and critical success in high school art class – my art teacher bought one of my sculptures – I thought I might make this creative thing work.

Years later, while playing in bands and studying design, I discovered Flash. Here was an opportunity to combine all the skills and passions I had acquired over the years. I’d finally found my calling. Maybe I’d even get a girlfriend. I decided to quit design school and get on board with the future. Turns out the future was bright. Until Steve Jobs (RIP) killed Flash. Great Jobs Stevo!

The rug of Flash ripped from under your feet. Did you display any special early abilities in the digital realm? Were you interested in sci-fi, dismantling and re-building computers…?

Steve: Yep.

Rik: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the internet except through me.

How did you two meet and when and why did you start Resn? Did you receive any advice that was good, bad or otherwise in the early days?

Steve: We met through our combined love of horses, two of which featured on the old Resn site homepage. I am more of a gallop kinda guy whereas Rik likes to trot.

Rik: Horsey!

Steve: We could not get enough of the work that was happening in the creative digital space online at the turn of the century. It was incredible work to experience, with designers mixing amazing new graphics styles with interactivity and animation. All of it was happening overseas and we were on an island that was not on many maps. There was a real feeling of something new emerging. We were inspired by this, we wanted to make this kind of work and to inspire others, but from New Zealand.

For those who don't know – what's the best way to describe what Resn does?

Steve: We make cyberspace (and now physical space) an absolute joy to experience.

Do you do any work for New Zealand clients these days? Or is it all overseas?

Steve: It’s mostly offshore but we do have a few New Zealand clients from time to time. We really enjoy working with big brands and global agencies as they usually have the budgets that fit their ambitious ideas. When working with local clients, you really need to either find really cheeky ways to bring down costs or simply compress the ideas into their essence. We are pretty flexible but prefer the compression technique as it allows you to stay true to the core idea, have razor-sharp focus and still deliver.

You are well known for having a decent sense of humour – is this a useful tool. Working overseas, do people get where you're coming from?

Steve: I think our irreverence played a huge part in winning the hearts and minds of our American friends. We were polar opposite to the big talk, look at me, car salesman vibe that they were used to. We didn’t really care if we came off a little whack. The work spoke for itself. I think if you do great work, and you always deliver, you can be forgiven for a few bad dad jokes.

Because you speak about your achievements quite humorously, it makes it sound like it's been an effortless ride. Has it been?

Let’s just say it’s easier to pretend that things are easy than admit that this industry can be very unforgiving. Today’s poster child is tomorrow's yesterday’s news.

Ironically, the work you do and the clients for whom you do it are I'm sure are very serious about achieving the right output. Who have you enjoyed working with the most, who has been most on your wavelength?

Creating things that engage the targeted audience is our part in the marketing and communications puzzle. We are fortunate that we are a trusted company known for delivering special projects. Standout ideas are anything but commonplace. Therefore, ensuring you have a team that can deliver it to the highest standard, in a short timeframe, is a key factor for clients to get on board.

We often work on projects with larger budgets, numerous risks, and short timeframes. Technology is a field of possibilities and a minefield of risks. Having a dependable corps of creative people who can harness the technology and make it sing and dance, instead of crash and burn, is one of the most important aspects of the business.

Collaboration with clients and partners is another important ingredient. Together, we grow an idea, pushing the technology to its limits and shaping it into its final form. We work on many different wavelengths. We enjoy projects that let us push the boundaries, that are a joy to work on, and are fun for people to play with.  We equally enjoy the more serious projects that require the finesse and detailing we are known for.

You have what, three or four offices now and I think 75 staff – have you observed any cultural differences in the different markets you operate in? Do you travel a lot? Or are you based mostly in Wellington? And with that many staff members, do you have time to do what you like to do, or are you bogged down in person management?

Globally, we have 9,064 bones, 879 toes, 95 eyes, and three harbours.  We love the work Resn makes and are always looking for more. With that many bones, we do need to spend a lot of time on making sure the boats we are on are free of leaks, comfortable, and headed towards plentiful seas of challenge and reward. It keeps us busy.

There are cultural differences, but those differences are similar within our various geographies. Some markets are more mature in the creative digital industry, some are more bound by legal fears, some are very small but have big ideas you need to reframe. Some are more open to trying new things and new partnerships. There are differences across remuneration, entitlements and job titles vs experiences and skill.  There is also a different appreciation for humour across cultural borders. Looking at you Netherlands.

Technically, as in technologically, what's changed during the course of your careers?

Many things have changed in our little-long time in the wide web world. Change keeps changing. Even past facts change. When we started the Earth was spherical. We found out recently it is actually flat. It makes sense if you don’t think about it.   

Explosive drone harpoons were a brilliant idea until we run out of whales. We will need to switch to a different form of renewable energy if we don’t start farming whales. It is a good thing New Zealand's backbone is farming. The internet is a hungry monster to power.  

Broadband, the iPhone and Facebook are younger than Resn. Even though they are struggling, we believe they will be a big deal and have an impact on internet usage, but don’t take our word for it.

Insider tip: Robots with human brains are worth keeping an eye on.

What's the composition of your office like? That is: How many people are there, are you all developers, what other sorts of creative types do you need, are you guys still on the tools, is it a man's world, or has that begun to change, who pulls in the work, and globally, how competitive is the sector – or how hard is it to get the jobs you want?

We have a range of creatives types, from designers to illustrators, animators to writers. They each bring their own unique perspective and qualities to the team. We have hovered around 20 people per studio for quite a while. It gives an extended family vibe while still having enough hands to shape world-leading projects.

Recipe-wise we are around 40 percent developers, 35 percent design/art/creative, 15 percent producers, 5 percent biz dev and 5 percent management. The rest is advanced Artificial Intelligence, a sheepdog, a Norsk Skogkatt cat, bath salts and beef OXO cubes in mineral water instead of the industry-standard espresso.

We are in a hyper-competitive industry. We are veteran battlers who like to make sensational singing shiny things that inspire others into the fires of commercial creativity. We have not yet found a way to free ourselves from competitors. We are thinking of buying them all. Or just becoming a client then we can give ourselves work. We think that might work.

Our work opportunities come via a postie who delivers us work by Par Avion mail. We have been told we cannot rely on this forever, which is kinda depressing. Some people are just killjoys. We also hire planes to take us to far away lands where people like our stuff.  We also enter awards where other people like our stuff.

Black Pin


Kent Sneddon Designers Institute Black Pin

Kent is best known as the design architect for the Aurora Jet Shower, which turned showering from a daily chore into a luxurious water experience.

Kent graduated from the Wellington School of Design, and first worked with noted designer Peter Haythornthwaite and then Fisher and Paykel where he went on to lead the development of a global strategy for a new generation of appliances and concepts for the company. 

He joined Methven in 2006 and built a design team that developed many innovative technologies, shower products and tapware collections.

During his time at Methven, the design team won Best Design Awards, a Good Design Green Award in the USA and Red Dot Design Awards in Germany. 

But Kent and his team just didn’t design showerheads and taps. As head of design for Methven Kent believed that a designer’s role was to listen and talk to customers. So they researched how people showered and how water spray affected different peoples’ skin. He and his team were also concerned about sustainability and water conservation, and their water saving shower heads were a particular success in the Australian market, where water is short.

Former colleagues said Kent had a great sense of aesthetic and a persistence to make sure the design intent made it through to the final product. He would challenge the boundaries and preconceptions of what could be done.

He had a bold and confident style and was not afraid to use curves and flowing surfaces to express and embody character and personality into the product.His sketching, they said, was phenomenal and he could change the direction of a conversation with a drawing to give clarity to the vision he was describing. 

He was an extremely talented designer and although he had achieved a lot he still had far more to give. His growth and ability to integrate design into business was one of the great success stories for the journey of design led business within NZ.

His passion and enthusiasm was infectious enough to pull everyone else along on the journey, always a combination of hard work mixed with a lot of humour, said friends and colleagues. His casual style created a fantastic team environment and made him fun to work with. The big personality that he was meant that he had a wide reach of influence, making the gap left by his passing a great void. 

His growth and ability to integrate design into business was one of the great success stories for the journey of design led business within NZ.

This year, the Methven celebrates its 130th anniversary and Kent would have been gratified to learn that the company was awarded the Best Shower Brand of the Year in the 2017 Bathroom and Kitchen Update awards in the UK, against such global giants as Grohe.

Kent made a lasting contribution to the design profession in New Zealand, and this award acknowledges that he hadn’t reached his peak and that he would have gone on to develop more innovative and ground-breaking designs. A great talent whose life was cut short.

—Pauline Ray

Black Pin


Dan Bernasconi John Britten Black Pin

As the team’s Technical Director, Dan this year channelled 25 years of study, experience and innovation into one incredible moment - sending a brave and revolutionary boat design flying over the finish line in Bermuda to claim the ultimate sailing prize.

It’s been a long voyage for Dan. But it’s been a straight and purposeful one. Growing up in England, his love of numbers took him to Cambridge University. Drawn to the tangible rather than the abstract, he switched from pure mathematics to engineering and the practical application of maths and physics to design problems.

This soon led to the role that introduced Dan to the world of high-tech sport, as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer for the McLaren Formula One Racing team. 

At McLaren he quickly learned about the day-to-day realities of a being part of a high pressure, high performance design team with a razor sharp focus on winning.

“Good design is having a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve; being open to exploring as wide a realm of solutions as you can; focusing on the best options; and then thoroughly optimising the chosen solution.”

Over the next six years Dan’s own focus became racing simulations and the iterative design process, as every last ounce of speed and performance was coaxed out of the team’s racing car designs. 

At McLaren, he also learned the art of managing engineers, from his boss Dick Glover. As Dan himself admits, great engineers are not necessarily great managers of people. But a key piece of advice from Glover has stayed with him: you will never be able to do all the work you want to do yourself, so view your team as an extension of your own capabilities, giving you the resources to do more of the things you want to do.

Dan Bernasconi always had more of a passion for boats than for cars, however. So after taking time out to complete a PhD in Mathematical Modelling and Aerodynamics, he moved to the world of high performance sailing at the end of 2006 and to Emirates Team New Zealand in 2010, where he has been ever since. 

The team’s win in Bermuda was a triumph for design leadership. Over many long months and thousands upon thousands of simulations, Dan and his team of specialists worked to design the most radical boat they could within the rules. From engineers to management to the amazing sailors, everyone was onboard with their mission; to explore, to be radical, and to win.

From the finely tuned dagger boards to the complex foiling systems required to propel their AC50 to victory, Dan attributes Team New Zealand’s success to an attitude of experimentation and creativity. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that they have their eyes on new horizons. Dan and his team are exploring radical concept designs for their next boat. And a number of his former teammates are now working with Rocket Labs, leaving the water and launching New Zealand’s most cutting edge design work into the heavens.

We asked Dan what good design means to him. His answer encapsulated the thinking of any designer: 

“Good design is having a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve; being open to exploring as wide a realm of solutions as you can; focusing on the best options; and then thoroughly optimising the chosen solution.”

And in the case of Emirates Time New Zealand, that chosen design solution could not have been more effective.

—Mark Easterbrook

Black Pin


Ben Corban Designers Institute Black Pin

Corban knows a thing or two about hard work. His Lebanese great-grandparents were pioneers, founding Corbans Wines in the rugged gum lands of West Auckland in 1902. Two generations hence, and the family work ethic remains strong. “They started a commercial winery in an industry that was in its infancy in New Zealand,” says Corban. “We were brought up to understand the energy and perseverance it takes to build something. But to also love what you do – because you spend a lifetime doing it.”

Corban didn’t go the winemaking way. He studied painting at Elam School of Fine Arts and Goldsmiths, University of London. The art world was booming in the mid-nineties when he was in London, and he watched while the YBA movement turned traditional arts practice on its head. “When Damien Hirst sold his preserved shark to Charles Saatchi, he sold the idea of the work first,” says Corban. “That transaction was fascinating. It was the inverse of traditional arts practice.”

Corban and his friend Dean Poole were so taken by this creative model that they returned to New Zealand and in 1999 set up a design company with a difference. They would present clients with a strong idea and then develop the most appropriate execution of it ­– across multiple disciplines and media. They operated at the intersection of design, culture and business, with the ethos that it’s not what design is, it’s what design does that counts. 

“We live in a time where change is not only constant, but more amplified than it’s ever been,” says Corban. “Design, as one of the drivers for innovation, is now more important than ever.”

Alt Group was founded as a classic start-up in a garage in Grey Lynn. They read lots of books, learnt quickly and began by doing work initially for people they knew. Every job was important and each job led to the next. And the rest, as they say, is history. Seventeen years later, Alt Group is New Zealand’s most awarded design company, having won over 450 local and international design awards, including eight Purple Pins, 30 Red Dots and the German Design Award. Corban is now managing director, and responsible for a multidisciplinary team of 24 strategists, designers and content developers, who work across New Zealand and on an increasing number of international projects.

“Design is a process of not knowing and finding out,” says Corban. “And when you say that to a client, it can be reasonably confronting. But, simply, that is the process. We bring collective experience and an objective point of view to an organisation, along with established systems and processes. The steps, jumps and leaps forward happen from the intersection of different perspectives and ways of thinking. Design can be used to generate insights, give form to ideas and make thinking visible.”

As an artist first drawn to commerce, he now draws commercial clients to creative thinking. And with the firm belief that creativity is as important as any profession around the board table, Alt Group engages businesses with design even before a new product or service is invented. “There is an inherent tension in every organisation between the preservation of what’s now and the invention of what’s next. One is about control, analysis and optimisation, the other is about exploration, creation and vision – survival and ultimately success requires both.”

“We live in a time where change is not only constant, but more amplified than it’s ever been,” says Corban. “Design, as one of the drivers for innovation, is now more important than ever.”

—Andrea Stevens

Black Pin


Danny Coster John Britten Black Pin

Coster’s career began with a job in his father’s hardware store in Mount Eden, Auckland. While mixing paint and cutting timber, he also helped customers find creative ways to solve their DIY problems. At home, he was surrounded by his mother’s paintings of landscapes, still lifes and abstract subjects. His childhood was defined by design and craft, and he often found himself in the art department at high school while his mates were on the sports field. 

Coster left school at age 17 for an internship in Tony Winter’s retail design studio in New Lynn. This led him to pursue an industrial design diploma at Wellington Polytechnic. “I always liked complex problems,” explains Coster. “And it was the multifaceted aspects of the profession that drew me in.” 

At Wellington Polytechnic, Coster learnt how to translate ideas into process. Academic projects led to a real-world contract in which he and his schoolmate John Woolett were tasked with redesigning the entire range of Hutchwilco life jackets. This experience was his launching pad to a job at KWA Design Group in Sydney. 

“I had to develop my own point of view,” says Coster. “It was a time to work out how I could add value to the conversation. Humility was my foundation, and it allowed me to contribute in a way that served me well in the years to come.”

“I had to develop my own point of view,” says Coster. “It was a time to work out how I could add value to the conversation. Humility was my foundation, and it allowed me to contribute in a way that served me well in the years to come.”

After four years in Australia, Coster set his sights on America. Apple offered him a position in 1996—about a year before Steve Jobs returned to transform the company into one of the most innovative and successful consumer brands on the planet. In his 20 years at Apple, Coster was a core member of Sir Jonathan Ives team and contributed to the design direction for a wide range of iconic Apple products. 

“Apple was the ultimate environment for elevating design,” says Coster. “They were so supportive of what could be quite fragile ideas that, if they had not been given the space and time, might never have come to life. It was a blessing to be with a wonderful company with such good friends and inspiring leadership.”

Coster is discerning about the future of technology and its impact on people’s lives. “Design can foster an intimacy that has been lost through technology,” he says. “Today, we can be in touch with anyone, anywhere, at any time, but it’s fleeting. If design could bring more compassion to how we share, and help us be more present with one another, well, that would be a big deal.”
Coster is Vice president of Design at GroPro.

—Andrea Stevens

Black Pin


Professor Tony Parker Designers Institute Black Pin

Tony Parker is described as having a refined sense of form development and aesthetic judgment and that he can articulate design in a way people can understand. Tony has an expert understanding of the way ergonomics, form, product architecture and customer engagement work together.

His extraordinary visual acuity ranges from his incredible drawing skills, his digital illustration skills to his appreciation of visual communication design. He is thoughtful and passionate about design and his horizon is international.

Tony's passion for design education has nurtured several generations of product designers, many of whom are scattered across the globe, much to their teacher’s delight. People such as Matt Holmes, Head Designer at Nike, and Danny Coster, who is in the inner sanctum of the design team at Apple.

As Head of Industrial Design at Massey for over ten years he has mentored young industrial designers and matched graduates with his incredible international networks. He himself has a Masters degree from the Royal College of Art.

He walks the talk by continuing to practice design at the highest level through his work with Gallagher. He is the creative brains behind a slew of innovative designs, from petrol pumps to the Hulme Supercar.

Professor Tony Parker is a past president (2007-2013) and a Fellow of the Designers Institute. He has been the convenor of the product judges at the Best Design Awards since 2007. He is currently Associate Pro Vice Chancellor as Research Director for the Massey University College of Creative Arts and, and a member of the Industrial Design Society of America.

—Andrea Stevens

Black Pin


Kris Sowersby John Britten Black Pin

Kris Sowersby works in a singularly solitary profession, and yet has achieved world acclaim for his craft. He is a thoroughly modern designer who has helped to redesign one of the most traditional of British newspapers.

While it may seem to be an unusual craft in this digital age, people like Kris have reinvigorated the art of type design. He has been described by admirers as one of the leading rock stars of type design because he combines historical knowledge with rigorous contemporary workmanship and finish.

Kris is a graduate of Whanganui’s School of Design, and after graduation spent three years teaching himself to design typefaces. His first retail typeface, Feijoa, was released internationally in 2007, and his second, National, won a certificate of Excellence from the Type Directors Club of New York. Since then he has received two more certificates of Excellence. Kris is a member of the prestigious Alliance Graphique Internationale, he has been honoured by the Art Directors Club and this year won the Judges Choice in the Type Directors Club awards, for his Domaine Sans typeface.

Clearly, as can be seen by the commission from the Financial Times, Kris has achieved international acclaim at a relatively young age. Despite the antisocial time difference, Kris spent some months working on a new typeface for the new design of that august organ, the Financial Times, which has been widely praised by its readers. The typeface was aptly named Financier.

“The reaction of readers to the font has been very positive. In focus groups, readers typically described it as “elegant, distinctive and more attractive to a modern readership.”

Kevin Wilson, Head of Design for the FT, said the newspaper specifically wanted type that wasn’t a traditional news typeface. He said “We wanted the typeface and redesign to have a considered personality to match our style of journalism, which is our strengths in analysis and comment.

“The reaction of readers to the font has been very positive. In focus groups, readers typically described it as “elegant, distinctive and more attractive to a modern readership.”

Kevin also said Kris was quirky, knowledgeable and fun to work with.

—Andrea Stevens

Black Pin


Mark Cleverley Designers Institute Black Pin

The Black Pin for Outstanding Achievement recognises a someone who has made a lasting and valuable contribution to the design profession.

Calling Mark Cleverley’s contribution to New Zealand design ‘lasting’ is almost an understatement. From graphic design, to object making, pottery design, textiles, teaching, and architecture, there’s hardly a type of design that Mark hasn’t touched over his six decade legacy.

To describe the extent of Mark’s multi-faceted career in full would take hours. But in brief, Mark started his illustrious career at age 18 in Hamilton as an architectural draughtsman at the NZ Co-operative Dairy, then moved to Christchurch to work at Warren and Mahoney. He won a scholarship to the Elam School of Fine Arts, and was one of the first students in the new graphic design programme. From there, he freelanced in graphic design – and even designed the Ballantyne’s façade and engravings. He ventured to the big smoke for a brief stint in advertising, then dived into the 3D world of packaging.

During this time, he made his first foray into stamp design. And he certainly stamped his mark. He introduced modernist, simplified designs to New Zealand Post – a move that proved incredibly popular.

Arguably, his most prominent work was as a creative director at Crown Lynn. He was always one step ahead of worldwide trends, creating new designs and printing techniques, taking reference from indigenous patterns, fighting traditional ideas. But his most influential role was teaching in Christchurch and Wellington – his students rave about his passion for typography and design history, his clever and challenging briefs, and above all his engagement and enthusiasm in their own projects.

Mark has been an important player in the international design industry. In 1972, he was made a full member of the prestigious UK based Society of Industrial Artists and Designers (SIAD), and was also nominated as the NZ representative at the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) Interdesign conference in Canada in 1974.

During the sixties and seventies, he was involved in founding professional design organisations – the ancestors of the Designer’s Institute – to create a supportive network to promote and connect designers around New Zealand. He even helped establish an early version of the Best Design Awards.

Black Pin


Matt Holmes John Britten Black Pin

With his accomplished career, one suspects Matt Holmes has already achieved a kind of design nirvana upon top of which the Black Pin for Career Achievement is, perhaps, a cherry – albeit a sweet one – on top.

Holmes, a Nelson boy, has, through design, ended up quite a way from the top of the South Island. Since May ’97 he’s been based in Portland, Oregon, working his way through the ranks to the position he holds today: creative director of innovation at Nike Global Footwear. There, on a campus of around 10,000 staff, including 800 designers, Holmes works out the future product directions of the footwear and apparel giant.

Talking with Holmes, one thing is obvious. He loves his work; however, importantly, he’s found a way to maintain delight and curiosity, two qualities he exhibited as a sports-mad Nelson youngster extending the life of his weekday tennis shoes ($9.95 Bata Bullets) with metal plates, Shoe Goo, tape and deodorant roller balls (toe-dragger) so his number ones (Nike Resistance, yes, presciently on brand) were preserved for Saturday mornings. He’d literally rip through a pair of Bata Bullets in a fortnight, he says. Modifications were essential.

Born in the UK to creative parents (Mum: sculpture and piano; Dad, “everything”), Holmes was five when he arrived in Nelson, a town that was perfectly suited to his parents’ arts and crafts inclinations. At home, he learnt woodworking, welding, metal casting – aluminium, bronze – air brushing and sculpting. A few years later, the school guidance counsellor, finger perhaps not on pulse, suggested he enrol in nursing school – which he duly did, before being saved from a life of saving lives by a ‘Delorean moment’. That is, he saw a Delorean (you know, Back to the Future’s time machine, if you have to ask you’re too young) on the streets of sleepy Nelson. He saw it when he was answering a classifed ad placed in the Nelson Evening Mail for a pair of Nikes, believe it or not. “It stunned me,” he recalls. “Wow! Somebody is making these things?”

The following day he went to his art teacher on a quest to find out “who does cars, shoes and equipment?” “An industrial designer.” “Why have you never told us about industrial design!?”

One viewing later, of a video showing Phillips designers at work on radios, and he knew; “This was it.”

“It stunned me,” he recalls. “Wow! Somebody is making these things?”

Wellington Design School beckoned. Leon Yap, Noel Benner, Mark Pennington, Tony Wincart and Helen Mitchell were lecturers. Workshop tutor Eric Bond is fondly remembered: “He was just brutal but you learnt so much about perfection; you’ve got to keep doing it until you get it right”. Tony Parker, he recalls, was the only professional industrial designer. “He was our role model…great at rendering and finishing skills. He was super talented.”

After graduating, Holmes’ career followed what has become an almost typical New Zealand design trajectory. He went to Mosgiel, to Fisher & Paykel, to work on ovens and cooktops before joining the DishDrawer design team. Them that achievement squared away, and after seven years in Dunedin, it was time to head offshore. Portfolio in hand he hit San Francisco and was interviewed at Ideo, Sony and Apple. Job offers followed, including, memorably, a position at Apple. “I was sitting with Jonathon Ive,” he recalls. “He said, ‘We’d love you to join our team but it seems like you’re really into sports and fitness. Do you really want to work on computers? Do you think it’s something you’d love to do?’”

Actually, it wasn’t. I've, admiring his honesty, put in a call to a friend at Nike. “They flew me up the next day and I got the job. It was pretty crazy.”

At Nike, Holmes’ first role in cross training gear was aided by his wide interest in sports. It was, he says, initially challenging because there was not one clear consumer, but it was an opportunity to learn about “how to get products to connect with consumers without a lot of help from the brand”.

Nike Running – the company’s biggest category – was next. After a four-year stint as design manager he became design director for the next three. It was hard work. Long hours, a huge amount of travel. “Sixty-five hours a week travelling to Korea and Taiwan nine or ten times a year. It just about knocked me over. In the end of that they just said where do you want to go? I said tennis or innovation. So I got a short time in tennis, it was supposed to be a year and half, but ended being nine months. I got to work with Roger Federer and Nadal, and that was just amazing. Because of the nature of the tennis tour, you just follow the sun.”

Today, as Creative Director of Innovation Footwear, Holmes role is to set a vision for his team, recruit the right people, find the right mix of problem solvers, those aesthetically strong and maintain an all important “positive vibe”. At the moment, there are 23 in his direct team, which includes sector design directors each with a team underneath them. “I’m setting the future direction for those guys, challenging them, trying to show them things on the horizon from science that are coming along and are going to affect athletes – and us – across the next 10, 20 and 30 years.

So, what sorts of things are Homes’ priorities right now. What are the things to look out for. “Design starts with insights,” he says. “You’re always trying to make it better for athletes, so you’re constantly searching for insights, whether it’s in the Nike sports research lab, by looking at high speed video, watching games and analysing data around a game. You might be watching Rafa [Rafael Nadal] serving and see his shirt twisting and pulling; we can eliminate that and then, when we do, we want the solution to be as bold and iconic as it can. It’s also got to be intuitive, so people get it immediately…make it clear and make it bold.”

“I’m setting the future direction for those guys, challenging them, trying to show them things on the horizon from science that are coming along and are going to affect athletes – and us – across the next 10, 20 and 30 years.”

Innovation also comes in the form of manufacturing. A good example is Nike’s Flyknit shoes. Knitted, as the name suggests, rather than traditionally assembled, the shoes offers benefits to users – they are light and strong – and production efficiencies. For every two shoes that are produced in a more traditional manner there’s one of waste, explains Holmes. “So a third of our materials are basically getting thrown away”. One of the first attempts at more efficent manufacturing involved taking the waste and turning it into shoes, “which is kind of a half-arse way to do things”.

“It was looking at the problem but not in the right way.”

Direct manufacturing, which means being able to send a programme to a machine and have it knit exactly what you want with no left over waste, has “made a massive change”.

As a designer that is near the apex of the professional, it is always interesting to hear about the chracteristics of the best designers. For Holmes, it’s curiosity, “an attitude; you’ve just got to be a problem solver, an entrepreneur, you’re looking for that mindset, that person that would probably go and do it out by themselves.”

“They’d find a way to do it by themselves, but when they join our team and we give them the resources they need they just catch on fire and start thriving on the collaboration.”

-Michael Barret

Black Pin


Cathy Veninga Designers Institute Black Pin

In 2013, the Designers Institute of New Zealand honoured its Chief Executive, Cathy Veninga, with its highest award – a Black Pin for her outstanding “contribution of service and leadership to the institute.” As Tony Parker, a Fellow of the Institute, said at the awards presentation, Veninga is “totally dedicated to advancing the importance and contribution of the New Zealand design profession, to the value and quality of design professionals in our country and to the vitally important role design makes to our economic performance, cultural expression, national identity and sense of wellbeing.”

Like all Black Pin winners, Veninga has a long background in design leadership. She was first elected to the Institute’s Board in 1998, was its first female president – an important milestone with gender parity in design and architecture still under the microscope around the globe – and, in 2005, she was appointed as the first Chief Executive Officer of the Institute in 2005.

“At that time there were major global influences around design thinking and we needed to be responsive to this thinking as a professional body if we were to remain relevant,” she says. “Organisationally, and as a design community, we had to stop navel gazing and develop a more inclusive collaborative approach to the way we worked and engaged. The Institute, as a multidisciplinary organisation, gives us this rich and our unique point of difference.”

Veninga’s career in design could be considered synchronous with the growing sophistication of New Zealand’s growing design industries and cultures.

Up to 2005, the Designers Institute was an organisation that relied solely on the voluntary support, hard work and passion of its members. A full-time CEO provided some real operational structure to the organisation and allowed it to widen its ambitions while improving its ability to respond nimbly to challenges it faced.

Over the years, it began developing richer programmes that both inspired, educated and justified membership. The Designers Speak Series, says Veninga, has been especially successful in communicating the challenges designers face; “it talks about design process; it gets inside the stories”.

From the outset of her tenure, Veninga says her aim has been for the development of an inclusive organisation that encouraged the development of peer relationships through industry events. Importantly, the exponential growth of the Best Design Awards provided an annual benchmarking activity for the industry.

“The significance of the Best Design Awards is that has been crucial to raising standards in design while also providing a window of insight into what is actually happening in the design community. It is also an opportunity for those involved in design to get together with their clients and colleagues.”

Veninga cites the establishment of the Best Effect and Ngā Aho awards as important recent milestones. Best Effect qualifies the values of design to potential clients and might offer leverage in the argument that design has an important role to play in New Zealand’s economic future. Ngā Aho recognises New Zealand’s fortune in having strong indigenous culture and heritage to reference in its design expressions.

“The significance of the Best Design Awards is that has been crucial to raising standards in design while also providing a window of insight into what is actually happening in the design community.”

“Ngā Aho – that’s really important. I would say it is the most unique award of its kind in the world because of how it really values and appreciates how we are imbued with our own indigenous culture and how we are able to work collaboratively towards a co-design agenda.”

Just as the Best Design Awards can be seen as a means of benchmarking and standard-raising across the country, Veninga thinks the establishment of relationships with like-minded organisations in Australia and further afield can both raise design standards here and draw international attention to the quality of work here.

Veninga has formed strong partnerships with key Australian design organisations, such as AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) the DIA (Design Association of Australia), and the Australian International Design Awards, as well as reaching out to other international design organisations.

Networking with like-minded international design organisations has been a key component of Veninga’s time as CEO of the Designers Institute.

“Building these international relationships puts the spotlight on New Zealand design,” she says. “But the most important advocacy is to New Zealand’s central and local government, and to local businesses. It is important for us to produce case studies that demonstrate that design is a significant part of New Zealand’s economic future. Designers and their clients already achieve significant and measurable returns internationally. We just need government to signal more widely that New Zealand is an innovative country using great design.”

Veninga, who looks across New Zealand’s design landscape from an almost unrivalled position, believes New Zealand has a richness of community.

“It is important for us to produce case studies that demonstrate that design is a significant part of New Zealand’s economic future.”

“We are a diverse community operating across different design disciplines, but there is a recognition, I think, of the need and opportunity for collaboration. I think our communities are very responsive to global influences, especially around how design is implemented for clients. What the Institute is really about though, is building community, and while we try to deliver meaningful professional services as an organisation, we are really about facilitating the growth of the community and developing value for the community.”

Veninga was humbled to receive the Black Pin award – and also, perhaps, just a little angry that she was singled out for the unexpected honour. As many people in the design industries might agree – work can be its own reward. Veninga certainly enjoys hers. “I have the best job in the world as it offers diversity, vision and challenges. The challenges form part of the vision that creates the excitement.”

Black Pin


Grenville Main Designers Institute Black Pin

The Designers Institute Black Pin for Outstanding Achievement is conferred upon an individual, who, as a member of the Designers Institute of New Zealand, has made a lasting and valuable contribution to the design profession and to design in general.

Grenville Main, creative director and managing director of the design consultancy DNA and Fellow of the Designers Institute of New Zealand, has done more than most to improve the perception and raise the value of design in this country.

Across his career, Main has worked to improve the perception of graphic design above that of “the colouring in guys”. He works strategically with significant companies, improving their systems, communications and services. He has also played a key role in fostering the talents of a number of New Zealand’s top designers.

It was at a youngish age that Main discovered his own talents lay in the visual arts. As a student at school he recalls being “relatively aimless” until a career councillor suggested he venture into the art department. He took to it, and cites himself as being lucky to have someone at school suggest that he go to polytech to do a course in design. He was young, though, but already a potential disruptor: “I was seventeen-and-a-half when I began design school and loved it. I had a bit of a rocky road; I had a poor professional attitude and was actually put on probation for my last year, so I had to sharpen my attitude up. Actually, I’ve probably still got a poor professional attitude…”.

Out of design school, Main was employed by Gus van de Roer, who was confident enough to entrust him with the task of establishing Van de Roer Design in Auckland. He eventually returned to Wellington, “took a bit of a break to work on Wellington’s version of Metro magazine for while”.

“I can’t remember what it was originally called, Cosmo I think, which was a disastrous name, but then they called it City Mag”. Lloyd Jones was the editor, but Main was soon on the move to Bright Newlands and Associates (BNA), where he became a partner, helping to help drag the company through the post-1987 doldrums.

BNA was eventually renamed DNA in 2000. It is, says Main, “a classic little Kiwi company”.

“It started off with five people and grew to 60 at one point, until the recession said that that might have been a little on the high side. And, we’ve developed as the industry has. We’ve got people in service design, we’ve got people in digital, and we’ve got people researching services and experience out in the field with customers. We’ve become a lot more user-focused which has made us a lot better at what we do.”

What was once just “graphic design” has, for Main, become a constantly changing and ever-interesting field. Over the years, his firm has morphed from a graphic design team into a strategic consultancy with full digital capabilities, and he’s quick to point out that New Zealand design companies are selling themselves short by not seeking stronger quantitative analysis of the benefits their skills bring.

“Graphic design is where the discipline started, but I think that’s a term that really holds us back as an industry,” he says. “Graphic designer doesn’t sound hugely compelling any more. It’s a thing that everyone understands at one very simple level. But communicating what it does rather than what it is – that’s the thing that is the challenge. As an industry, we’ve just been woeful at selling the value of what we do.”

“We all think we’re pretty good. I mean in my case, I’ve lived through the 80s, you know, god forbid, where people were a bit obscene. There were pots of money being thrown around. From a design point of view, you might almost be fooled into thinking that people then appreciated design better than they do now – but it was all about showing off. Today, people really need design based on what it helps them do. Design has come to the fore and a lot of organisations really see its value – and that’s where Best Effect comes in.”

“Today, people really need design based on what it helps them do. Design has come to the fore and a lot of organisations really see its value.”

The Best Effect is, of course, the new Best Design Awards category for which Main was an influential agitator. It is a “business take on what has design done here, what’s it unlocked, what’s it achieved, rather than what does it look like.”

Main’s other keen interests have included harnessing talented young designers and putting them to work in effective ways. Ten or fifteen years ago, he says, employee selection might have been about picking the best craftspeople. “Now, effectively, before anything else, we’ve got to have listeners that are problem solvers that can increasingly work in a really collaborative and fast-paced manner. If you’re a really good craftsperson and a stylist but you don’t have an ability to communicate – that’s a fail. If you don’t have empathy for other people and it’s all about you – then that’s a fail. I look for people that are broad and ambidextrous.”

The current crop of talent impresses Main. “They’ve been open minded, they’ll have a crack at anything. They are here to learn. There’s also a bit of that classic kind of Gen Y of thing, they want to run faster than maybe they can, but at least they're ambitious, they learn remarkably fast, and are so capable.”

And what of Main’s work. Any chance of playing favourites? Not really. It’s hard, he says, to pull out key works. He enjoyed doing early strategy work around the All Blacks brand.

“I suppose that stands out in some respects, because it is quite nice to work on quiet iconic brands and organisations and really help them. I suppose that its really important to look at lots of other sectors – the power sector, the public service – where we’ve made massive inroads and transformational change into the way businesses do things. That’s all through design thinking and good delivery of a much better experience”.

After twenty-four years at DNA, and having witnessed his own industry’s transformational change, you get the feeling that design thinking is what it’s all about for Main.

“People choose us to help them because we’ve got particular methods, basic fundamental practises, that involve observing and finding different ways to unpick a problem before building it back up to deliver something – a better service experience, a communication, whatever it may be.”

Black Pin


Kent Parker John Britten Black Pin

Kent Parker, 2013's John Britten Black Pin recipient, has a well-lived life in design. But cast your eye across his Black Pin alumni and you might notice his comparative youth – this is a career with legs left yet.

The young Kent Parker can be found in the Hawkes Bay. He was exposed to the process of ‘making’ early. His father was handy and Parker had “no choice” but to watch projects go on. Apparently they go on still: “He’s 80 and building houses. He can’t stop. It’s in the blood a little bit. I was exposed to it young.”

Hawkes Bay was soon swapped for Wellington. Victoria Uni’s School of Architecture called first but two-years later industrial design was discovered and a move to Wellington Polytech was completed. Parker had found his calling.

At design school, Parker’s tutors included (Black Pin recipient) Mark Pennington, “a big influence”, as were many other staff members. Design school was close-knit and, while studying, Parker found another close-knit team: Richard Taylor – a fellow John Britten recipient – and Tania Rodger. At Weta, Parker was exposed to a philosophy that would percolate throughout his career. “Richard is a passionate man. He had a huge influence on my belief that you can do whatever you want. He has that attitude of being able to take on anything and make it happen.”

After design school, Parker headed to Dunedin and a job with Fisher & Paykel. Employed from his graduation presentation, he wasn’t particularly enamoured with the big company environment but got a product range through the system in his year there. Europe was next, and employment with a Swiss-German designer, Luigi Colani.

Colani lived in a restored French chateau with the stables converted into a design studio. Parker lived on-site, working across everything from concept trucks to ironing boards. Colani, eccentric as well as eclectic, had few rules. “He asked me to go to Germany for a couple of days on a project and I ended up living there for two months. I only took clothing in a bag for the two days,” he laughs. But the Swiss designer reiterated the lesson of Weta. “Anything was possible. It made me realise that if you want to do something then get off your butt and do it.”

Parker returned to Wellington and worked on Lord of the Rings for a year, but it was a “young man’s game” and he wanted to do something that lasted longer.

Cue Formway, where he certainly found longer projects. Four years is the average period from concept to completion at the company. Parker started as a designer, before leading projects and, eventually, with long-term collaborator Paul Wilkinson, running the company.

“Anything was possible. It made me realise that if you want to do something then get off your butt and do it.”

Product design can be a risky business. Hum, a desking system, “was, and is, a very good product”, but the licensing and distribution channel weren’t as good as they could have been. “When a product doesn’t fly like you think it will it can have a huge effect on your business… You’ve got to get the right partner or all sorts of things can happen.”

Formway’s “right partner” was Knoll. How did a Lower Hutt design studio form a tight relationship with a renowned international player? Chutzpah? Self-belief? “All of those companies are open to good ideas. Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone about what you’ve got if you think it’s worth something – they’ll be interested.”

The development of ‘Generation’, the Formway/Knoll collaboration that sold 120,000 units in 2013, gives good insight into Formway’s ethos of engineering and observation, sustainable design-thinking and delivering on a real need that helps people achieve real benefits.

The company had found itself at an “awkward scale” – too small to deliver a global product, but needing to do a global product to beat the global players in its own market. It decided to develop the best product it could, fully aware that it wouldn’t be able to tool it and without the distribution channels to get into a global market. It had, however, identified a number of companies that could, and Knoll was one of them. Andrew Keogh, Knoll’s CEO, was impressed enough with his taster to jump on a plane. The rest is history.

Formway today, under Parker and Wilkinson, is focused solely on seating. It has just released a reclining chair for Natuzzi, and Parker, I suspect, is becoming interested in products with longevity; classic things his children might appreciate. Does he see himself doing anything else? “I’ve dreamt a number of times about throwing in the commercial side and buying an old milk factory in Taranaki. Just making furniture and selling it.” A dream on hold. And what of his Black Pin – where does that reside? “It’s in a box on my desk – I think. New Zealanders aren’t very good at receiving things like that. We all expect that it should go to someone else.”

Parker is wrong of course. His career has successfully bridged product design, management and strategy. He has advanced New Zealand design at home and abroad. This John Britten Black Pin, in a box, on his desk, recognises his leadership, vision and creativity.

Black Pin


Sven Baker Designers Institute Black Pin

Sven has worked with Designworks for more than quarter of a century. His significant contribution has helped to develop a design practice with prolific outputs across Designworks' New Zealand and Australian offices. Sven's leadership has seen his team work with New Zealand's best companies; helping to establish strong identities for Air New Zealand, Auckland International Airport, Silverfern Farms, Gallagher Group, Tait Electronics and Kiwibank. Sven’s design work has left a indelible mark on New Zealand's visual landscape and has been recognised internationally. Sven's skill is demonstrated through the brands he has had an impact on, helping them to communicate important stories, while enriching our lives with creative visual solutions.

Black Pin


Ian Athfield John Britten Black Pin

Ian Athfield has won a string of awards, more than 100 at the last count. In 2004 he was the recipient of the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ highest honour, the Gold Medal and from 2006-2008 he was president of the NZIA. In 2006 he became the first New Zealand architect to be registered as an APEC architect. In 1976 Ath won an International Design competition for housing in Manila. He has been involved in a teaching fellowship with Victoria University and has been a keynote speaker at a number of international conferences.

Ian Athfield has designed some of New Zealand’s most distinctive buildings, including Telecom building and Civic Square in Wellington, the library with its sculpted nikau palms, Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University.

But undoubtedly, his lifetime’s project has been Athfield House, perched on and spilling down Khandallah Hill like some 21st century crusader fortress, where up to 25 people live, and up to 40 people work. Athfield House is one of the most defining sights as you fly into Wellington – it looks amazing from the air, and of course from the ground.

The Designers Institute honours Ian Athfield's visionary thinking on how urban spaces are used, how we live and how we should be designing our cities. As Ath says, often the space between a building is more important than the building itself. Ath believes that in a house you should get a surprise every time you turn a corner or look up. Certainly, people do when they visit Athfield House.

Black Pin


Fraser Gardyne Designers Institute Black Pin

The Designers Institute Black Pin for Outstanding Achievement is granted to an individual, who, as a member of the Designers Institute of New Zealand, has made a lasting and valuable contribution to the design profession and to design in general. 

The recipient of the 2011 Black Pin for Outstanding Achievement is Fraser Gardyne, principal of gardyneHOLT and past president and current Fellow of the Designers Institute of New Zealand.

As a graphic designer for more than 30 years, Fraser Garydne has made a significant contribution to New Zealand design. His first job was as a book designer for Reeds and after that job he joined the design company that became Designworks. He became a Director at Designworks before leaving to set up his own boutique design firm, Gardyne Design in 1993. In 2006 he joined forces with Mike Holt and PDF Communications to form gardyneHOLT.

“He is fantastic to work with and he has always had a balanced point of view. He is a strong advocate and spokesperson for designers in general. He works quietly in the wings, and doesn’t seek the limelight.”

Before the Designers Institute was formed in 1991, Fraser was a founding committee member of the IDA – the Illustrators and Designers Association set up in 1984. The IDA merged with MZSID – the New Zealand Society of Industrial Designers in 1987 creating the Designers Secretariat and Fraser became Councillor of the secretariat.

In 1988 Fraser was on the steering committee for the inaugural Best Design Awards. He was vice president of the Designers Institute in 2003 and President from November 2004 until August 2005.

Fraser and then President and now CEO of Designers Institute, Cathy Veninga, worked hard to lift the prestige of the Best Design Awards and invited then Prime Minister, Helen Clark to present the John Britten Award in 2004 and 2005.

Fraser has acted as the graphics convenor of the Best Design Awards since 2003, a challenging category to judge as it is by far the largest of the four disciplines. He has been a member of the steering committee and a judge of the Pride in Print Awards since 1993 and was also selected as one of ten international design judges for the WOLDA09 worldwide logo design competition judged in 2010.

Cathy Veninga says Fraser Gardyne has consistently supported the Designers Institute in any way he is able to help.

“He has”, she says “been a stalwart supporter who has worked hard to develop the Best Design Awards into the prestigious event it has now become. He is fantastic to work with and he has always had a balanced point of view. He is a strong advocate and spokesperson for designers in general. He works quietly in the wings, and doesn’t seek the limelight.”

His good friend, Designers Institute 2011 president Tony Parker, who is now Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor at the College of Creative Arts at Massey University, classes Fraser as “an all round nice guy” and says “humour and amusement bubble from his soul.”

Grant Alexander, director of Studio Alexander, and also Fraser’s brother in law says that Fraser has been tireless in his contribution support for the Designers Institute, especially in earlier days when the institute was not well funded.

Black Pin


Mark Elmore John Britten Black Pin

Mark Elmore is Head of Industrial Design at Fisher & Paykel and under his design leadership in the 28 years he has been with the company, Fisher & Paykel has been transformed into a modern, technology savvy, design led company. The first design led product to make a global splash for Fisher & Paykel was the double dishdrawer while other innovative products designed under Mark’s watch include the Izona Cooksurface, and also the new OB90 oven.

Black Pin


Tim Hooson Designers Institute Black Pin

Tim is an architect and director of interiors at Jasmax. He is a loyal supporter of the Designers Institute who has previously served on the Institute Council. Tim has been the lead interior architect on some of New Zealand’s most admired commercial buildings, such as the NZI Centre in Fanshawe Street, the Vodafone Building in the Viaduct, and the BNZ Centrecourt in Wellington and his own home Icestation won a Gold at the 2007 Best Awards.

Black Pin


Dean Poole John Britten Black Pin

Over the last decade he has built up a successful design team of 17 and led them to numerous national and international awards. And he’s no stranger to the Best Awards stage, being the previous recipient of two Stringer awards. Dean has made a significant contribution to the New Zealand design industry over the last 10 years.

He has been a formative influence in the Design in Business Awards, run by the Institute, from helping to form the objectives through to the awards criteria and the Design in Business brand. Dean has also played a key role with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Better by Design programme since its inception in 2004.

He has been an enthusiastic and articulate supporter of the Designers Institute and has toured the country speaking at Designers Institute events. Over the years he has been an enormously positive influence at Institute meetings and gatherings. He has always given generously of his own time to the Institute and has supported two members of his team to play an active role on the Board. Dean has also undertaken the new visual identity of the Designers Institute and the Best Awards. In August this year Dean was made a Fellow of the Institute because of his valuable contributions to the Institute.

Dean is a frequent keynote speaker at local and international conference, including Semi Permanent, AGIdeas and AGDA National Conferences.

He has been awarded some of the highest accolades in the international design world. Since 2005, under Dean’s creative direction, Alt Group has been recognized in over 200 national and international awards, including a Cannes Gold Lion, ADC Gold Cube, Webby Award, and the Red Dot Grand Prix in Germany last year.

Dean is a visionary design leader, a champion of creativity and design thinking and a passionate advocate of New Zealand’s future as a design-led economy.

Above all, Dean Poole strives for design excellence and strategic innovation.

Black Pin


Dave Clark Designers Institute Black Pin

Dave has worked with many of New Zealand’s largest companies. Among the many high profile design projects Dave has worked on are the All Blacks Silver Fern logo, and a rebranding of Air New Zealand. He has worked across design boundaries in corporate identity, branding, print collateral, packaging and new media. Dave focused particularly on the financial services sector, helping to deliver many successful annual reports and prospectuses over the years.

As well as being a talented design principal, Dave is also an astute businessman who understands the role of design in business. He has also fostered young design by hiring graduate designers straight from tertiary institutions, many of whom went on to have successful careers, often with Dave Clark Design.

Dave is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London and an honorary associate from the Auckland University of Technology. Through his involvement with DINZ over many years and in numerous roles including council member and treasurer, Dave has worked tirelessly to foster and develop New Zealand design culture. He was president in 1998 and again in 2001, where his financial acumen helped greatly to knock the DINZ finances into a healthier shape. He gave his time and expertise to developing a strong financial model for DINZ and helping to establish it on a more professional footing.

He also worked tirelessly as the overall convener of the Best Design Awards from 1997 to 2002, and helped to build them into the fantastic awards programme they are today.


Joseph Churchward John Britten Black Pin

If you’ve been to an optician to have your eyes checked or have read the Dominion Post, you’ll have come across the work of this year’s John Britten Award winner.

He is a man who, through a combination of his innate creative talents and early technical training, has enriched the world of lettering and design, with his contribution extending not just across this country, but around the world. A pioneer and legend in the world of typography, he has dedicated his life to his craft – perfecting it, and in turn, gaining worldwide recognition as a true master. He is, of course, the one and only Mr Joseph Churchward, arguably one of not only this country’s but the world’s leading typesetters and graphic designers.

Born in Samoa in 1932 (1933 according to his birth certificate – an inaccuracy that Joseph says can be put down to his grandparents registering his birth in the wrong year), Joseph moved to New Zealand at aged 13, later attending Wellington Technical College where he gained an Art Distinction award for his lettering – a passion that can be traced back to his childhood in Samoa, when he would draw letters in the sand.

“His accomplishments are not only significant on a national scale, but place him highly on the global stage. He is a pioneer and I admire his continued dedication to the craft of design. He is a true inspiration.”

After graduating from college, Joseph went on to work as a commercial artist, founding his own company in 1969 - Churchward International Typefaces - which became New Zealand’s largest typesetting firm. Not long after establishing his company, leading German type company Berthold Fototypes accepted some of his fonts for international distribution, and they were soon in use throughout the world.

His Wikipedia entry says he has created more than 582 original typefaces – each taking between 150 to 300 hours to complete and each done by hand – however, in February this year, Joseph finished his 604th typeface, which is reputed to be more than any other individual in the world.

The quality of his work is reflected in his international reputation, with his work seen on billboards, newspapers, and other printed media around the globe. In 2008, a special exhibition was set up for his art at the Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa and a biography on his life and work was published earlier this year.

One of the DINZ Council members had this to say of Joseph: “When I first became aware of Mr Churchward’s accomplishments, it absolutely blew me away as he has achieved so much without any ego and without his name flashing in neon lights.”

His accomplishments are not only significant on a national scale, but place him highly on the global stage. He is a pioneer and I admire his continued dedication to the craft of design. He is a true inspiration.”

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Professor Leong Yap Designers Institute Black Pin

Professor Yap was the first Professor of Design appointed into New Zealand’s academic fraternity. His work in the development of design curriculum, firstly at Massey University and then at AUT University has been pivotal to the long term growth and development of design as an economic force in this country.

Born in Malaysia, Professor Yap was trained as an industrial designer at Wellington Polytechnic and studied for his Master of Science at Loughborough University of Technology in the United Kingdom. He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Massey University and is a chartered designer and a certified ergonomist.

After a period of full time design practice in visual communication design, advertising, interior design and product design, Professor Yap joined the Accident Compensation Commission as a designer and ergonomist to undertake product safety research and accident prevention.

Before joining the School of Art & Design at AUT University, Yap was inaugural Professor of Design at the College of Design, Fine Art and Music at Massey University. He was Director of Research, Director of Postgraduate Studies and Head of the Industrial Design Programme for 20 years. His research interests include human centred design, delivering emotional experience and value through art and design, product design and equipment, health care and medical equipment design, ergonomics and accident prevention.

“He continues to work tirelessly to advance design thinking and innovation in design education. ”

He has won a number of design awards, including a Feltex Design Award, and in 1991 he was a Sir Winston Churchill Fellow. Professor Yap was a member of the NZ Growth and Innovation (GIF) Design Industry Taskforce to advise the New Zealand Government on design strategy and policy.

Professor Tony Parker, Professor of Industrial Design at Massey University and a member of the Designers Institute of New Zealand’s Council, said that Professor Yap had made an enormous contribution to design education in New Zealand, and to design in general.

“He continues to work tirelessly to advance design thinking and innovation in design education. Many of Leong’s students are now leading designers in design-led companies in New Zealand and internationally.”

Professor Parker said that Professor Yap’s involvement has seen him develop a (design in business) Masters programme at AUT University that is “developing the type of graduates that are capable of leading design businesses into the future.”

Desna Jury, Head of School of Art and Design at AUT University said that Professor Yap has been an award winning innovator and design leader and academic whose contribution to the design sector spanned 30 years of “exemplary activity”.

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Laurie Davidson John Britten Black Pin

As a boat designer, Laurie Davidson is best known for his International America’s Cup class sailboats which successfully challenged and defended the America’s Cup Trophy.

However, throughout a long and illustrious career, he became renowned locally and international for designing racing and cruising boats of many different styles and sizes suitable for serious races ranging from one ton day races through to the America’s Cup races. It was his Davidson 28° that brought his name into the households of many New Zealanders and among his best known designs is the VOR 60 Djuice Dragons. In the 1960s Laurie was the most prominent of a group of New Zealand boat designers who began designing keel yachts of an international standard which helped to establish New Zealand’s boat building industry and reputation.

Laurie Davidson is now regarded as one of the best America’s Cup designers since the introduction of the new American’s Cup class in 1990. He also played a role in the design of the New Zealand fibreglass 12-Metre boats (colloquially known as plastic fantastics) that were among the top performers during the 1987 World Cup competition in Fremantle, Australia.

In 1995, Laurie Davidson designed NZL 32 which won the America’s Cup in five straight races and in 2000, Laurie was Chief Designer for Team New Zealand, which again won in five straight races against challenger Luna Rosa. While working with One World Challenge he collaborated with the designers, Bruce Nelson and Phil Kaikoo to develop the team’s two IACC boats.

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Brian Richards Designers Institute Black Pin

Richards, principal brand strategist and director of Brian R. Richards, has spent over a decade developing highly effective brand strategies for many leading export brands, regional identities, and major corporate brands in Australasia, Asia and Europe including: The New Zealand Way, Orca, Icebreaker Clothing, Cervena (New Zealand farm-raised venison), Singapore Food Fair, Tower Insurance, Richmond, Holcim (International), Auckland Regional Council, the University of Waikato, Marlborough, Southland and Manawatu.

Reuben Woods, a Council member of the Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ) who worked alongside Richards last year on a project for one of his clients, Design Mobel, said Richards’ extensive knowledge and expertise of national and international branding made him an “inspiration to any designer developing a brand identity from his strategy.”

Mr Woods, who described Richards as an ‘authority’ on branding said Richards’ ability to articulate the essence of how to develop a brand to a congregation of people is “something that should be heard by every designer in New Zealand.”

Said Woods: “I recently went to a seminar called ‘Brand Building’ where Brian spoke about how New Zealand businesses are taking on the world and articulating their own unique New Zealand story through each of their brands. His speech was motivating and inspiring for any business owner. Brian’s knowledge and expertise in branding is a real asset to New Zealand.”

Fellow DINZ Council member and leading New Zealand industrial designer, Professor Tony Parker, described Richards as a “great ambassador for New Zealand design, who has done an outstanding job promoting the value of design to New Zealand businesses.”

“Brian continually demonstrates how New Zealand businesses can present themselves compellingly through design. I was fortunate to have heard Brian speak at this year’s Better by Design CEO Summit, and I have to say he was the best speaker in an international line-up. He is a true inspiration.”

Better by Design Director, Judith Thompson, said she was delighted to see Richards receive the recognition and that he was a truly deserving recipient of the award.

 “Through his unique vision and expertise in brand, Brian has made a significant contribution to many of New Zealand's most innovative companies. Beyond helping to create some of New Zealand's most iconic brands, Brian also plays a vital role in building greater understanding within the business sector of how a well executed brand and authentic story telling creates real value and makes companies more internationally competitive.

Brian is world class and a true champion of the design cause.”

 “Through his unique vision and expertise in brand, Brian has made a significant contribution to many of New Zealand's most innovative companies.”

Jeremy Moon, CEO of iconic New Zealand clothing company Icebreaker described Richards as a “brand visionary.”

“In the early nineties Brian forged a new link between the skills of design and storytelling and the business community.  He has a great skill in slicing through clutter to cut to the heart of a new opportunity.”

Moon praised Richards saying that his knowledge, expertise and contribution to the success of many iconic New Zealand companies made him a worthy recipient of the Institutes’ Outstanding Achievement Award.

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David Trubridge John Britten Black Pin

David Trubridge is a true advocate of the New Zealand design industry, who has dedicated much of his time to nurturing young design talent, while at the same time achieving international success and recognition for his own remarkable designs. He is someone who has played a significant role in putting NZ design on the map and who has long spread the gospel of sustainability.

David graduated as a Naval Architect from Newcastle University Britain, but since then he has worked as a furniture designer/maker and architect. He settled in New Zealand after a long yacht voyage with his family.

He is New Zealand's best known furniture designers and regularly exhibits overseas in Australia, North America, Europe and Japan.

In the last few years he has exhibited at 100% Design in London, six times at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, and three times at ICFF in New York. His ‘Body Raft’ design is currently being manufactured by Cappellini, and was voted ‘iconic’ by Urbis readers.

In New Zealand he has set up his own manufacturing workshop and the Cicada incubator for design graduates. He was one of the Antarctic Arts Fellows who were selected to go to Antarctica in the austral summer of 2004/5, which has led to a whole new emphasis on sustainable design in his work, and an awareness of both the moral responsibilities and the enormous opportunities for today’s designers.

Claire Mora, owner of Essenze and a friend of Trubridge’s said “David has enriched my life, as he has enriched many other peoples’ lives around the world. With his constant questions of: ‘But why?, Can’t we?, Must they?, he drives me crazy at times, but he makes me question things previously taken for granted or ignored.”

There is a never ending source of creativity and energy in David as seen through his designs. If he only touches a small number of people through this, he is achieving this goal and serves as an example to us all.

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Grant Alexander Designers Institute Black Pin

Grant returned to Wellington in the 70’s after working with David Hillman on Nova magazine, the iconic London lifestyle magazine, to take up the position of art director at the Listener. For his sins he was given the responsibility of keeping contributing cartoonists Tom Scott and Burton Silver in line (and tone). He pushed the conservative Listener hard to improve editorial design standards battling a mindset that only recognised the power of words. Grant gave many photographers, kiwi illustrators and designers their first national exposure.

He met up with Ray Labone while at the Listener and later joined him in a graphic design collective where Grant secured publication design contracts for the New Zealand Wool Board’s ‘Natural Choice’ magazine and Hand knitting yarn company Crucci. Grant travelled the country and abroad on fashion shoots, in the company of attractive models and the photographers Sal Criscillo and Des Williams, who epitomised the image of the 70’s fashion photographers. Between them they managed the unlikely achievement of making women in cardies look sexy.

He joined Ray Labone in the Publication Graphics partnership which was successful in securing major corporate communications clients such as Fletcher Challenge and Brierley Investments. Publication Graphics changed its name to Designworks and during the 80’s corporate boom built a reputation for corporate communications design. In dealing with the CEO Grant would always exercise strong belief in his opinion based on his experience and skill. Grant could never be accused of rolling over to please the customer. He would stand his ground in the face of powerful men and as such earned their respect.

The rapid acquisition and growth period of the 80’s led to many changes of ownership and name in the New Zealand corporate world and the corporate identity design business flourished. With Grant’s input Designworks extended its reputation from corporate communications design to corporate identity, later moving on from corporate Identity to brand identity. While it was doing so Designworks was adding offices in Auckland and Sydney. Grant was manager and creative director of the Designworks Auckland office for a number of years.

Throughout his time with Designworks Grant was the driving force for design standards and professional development. He encouraged all Designworks design staff to become members of DINZ and to support their profession. He made it his business to ensure young designers received effective professional development and was responsible for hiring and developing some of the best designers in the business. Indeed throughout his career Grant has campaigned tirelessly to ensure design achieves high professional standards and that it gains recognition as a strategic business discipline.

Grant left Designworks in 1999 to establish the family design practice Studio Alexander. He has been a DINZ Council member and was twice convenor of the Best Awards. In 1992 he was made a Fellow member. He has won numerous design awards and continues to work at the cutting edge of the profession in both a creative and strategic role.


Gary Paykel John Britten Black Pin

Gary commenced employment with Fisher & Paykel in 1960, initially in whiteware manufacturing at Mt Wellington. He then transferred to Sales and, from thereon, worked his way up the ladder into new roles and served in many other Divisions of the company.

Gary was appointed Managing Director of Fisher & Paykel in 1987. In 1989 he was appointed Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, a position he held until 2001, when he retired from executive duties. In November 2001 Fisher & Paykel Limited split into two separately listed companies, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Ltd and Fisher & Paykel Appliances Ltd, and Gary continues as Chairman of both companies, still maintaining a very active interest in both.

People working with Gary at Fisher & Paykel report that he is a great motivator, who has the ability to build a design culture around sustainable points of difference.

During Gary Paykel’s executive leadership period at Fisher & Paykel, the company was transferred from a local domestic appliances manufacturer and importer, into a truly global company - which today has a turnover of more than $NZ 1 billion, exports to more than 80 countries and employs in excess of 4,000 people worldwide.

Under Gary’s leadership, as well, the company developed a number of innovations that included in 1985, the ECS, or electronic control systems washing machine, which was launched after five years of intensive development. This washing machine no longer had the traditional gearbox of alternative models.

Other product innovations include the Respiratory Humidifier, from the Healthcare Company. Also, the DishDrawer, from the Appliances Company - which is not a dishwasher, but is a drawer that washes dishes. The DishDrawer has been a platform for entering the UK, European and Middle East markets.

What’s more, Gary is no idler as a sportsman. He completed the trans Atlantic leg of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World race on the boat ‘Fisher & Paykel New Zealand’, and is now a director of Emirates Team New Zealand.

DINZ applauds the F&P design values of style, integrity, care and innovation and we would also like to pay tribute to the fact that the company has certainly been an incubator for young designers, who have gone on to excel in the industry in NZ and overseas.

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