Best Design Awards finalists stir Aussie judge

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Karen Walker & Mikhail Gherman, Te Papa, Alt Group, and Colenso BBDO are among the 514 finalists for the 2015 Best Design Awards, organised by the Designers Institute of New Zealand, and announced overnight.

Also among the selected works were brightly coloured high topped sneakers for toddlers, a smart band for weight training gym classes, a real time app for lost dogs, minimalist “lonely” design for a fashion store and an intelligent operating table for surgeons.

Handpicked from nearly 1000 entries, the finalists represent the best graphic, interactive, moving images, spatial and product designs for the past year. Other categories include Nga Aho, for the best indigenous designs; Best Effect, for designs that contributed most to their clients’ bottom lines; and the Public Good, a new category for designs that simply worked for the benefit of the community.

Designers Institute ceo Cathy Veninga said that the depth, calibre and craft in all disciplines was “internationally sophisticated yet with our own Kiwi identity showing through”.

“We are always proud of our community and quality of work,” she said. “Moving Images is a new category which gives us a new opportunity to acknowledge the amazing craft in film and animation in this country.

“It was good to see spatial [interiors] flourishing under the current construction boom. The quality was very high, especially in large scale institutional and retail projects.

“It was fantastic, too, to get feedback from our international judges, both of whom said the entries really reflect who we are as Kiwis, and how the world looks at us.” The international judges, both from Australia, were Andrew Ashton of Melbourne, a member of AGDA and Alliance Graphique Internationale, and Queensland Design Institute directorYvonne Rantzen from Brisbane.

Ashton said he was “floored by the depth and quality of the work”. He particularly enjoyed the style of assessment of the judges’ panel.

“We looked at every entry during the first stage so every entry was judged, considered and reviewed. I was truly privileged to be a small part of unearthing a very wildly interesting, rigorous, exciting body of work that offers the community a unique regional point of view.

“I think there is a centre of creativity here in New Zealand which comes from a peace between the people and the land in which all New Zealanders operate from. From that extraordinary space the community is creating work with a truly unique point of view.”

He said New Zealand “owned black like no one else in the world”.

“There is a real point of view from New Zealand. It is not necessarily black, but you have really nailed black. It may be the connection with Maori. Maori culture used to be a closed community but there is a beautiful knife edge creeping in with more collaboration between Maori and Pakeha.”

Product design innovations that made the finalists’ cut included a utility bike, a disruptive piece of technology, say the designers, Locus Research, that redefines the term farm bike.

In a nod that design is not just for adults, there was a strong focus on children’s designs, such as an ergonomic cot, made of laminated birch with mesh sides, and the Hideaway chair, so children at child care centres can find refuge from the general hub bub.

In the spatial discipline, hospitality and retail designs were strong with standout spaces including Lonely, a minimalist space for customers to interact and shop at both an analogue and digital level,  Miss Moonshine, based on a client’s love affair with Southern Texas style and a dental premises. While design is the last thing we expect to be sharp at our dentist, the judges said that the Tooth Company sought to “redefine dentistry design”.

The graphic design judges, led by Wellington designer Janelle Rodrigues, said the diverse range of entrants in design craft “show some brilliant blending of art and technology”.

Strong contenders in the interactive and moving image category were mostly smartphone and web based applications with finalists including an app from Supreme Supreme café (Sons & Co.) that allows you to take a picture of yourself twice and merge the image for quirky clone pics, and a touchscreen table top from the Auckland Museum (Flightless) that players can interact with board game-style pieces.

  • The winners of the Best Design Awards 2015 will be announced at the awards ceremony at the Viaduct Events Centre on Friday 9 October.
  • To see all of this year’s finalists, visit Join the conversation by using #bestawards or follow @bestawards for updates.

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