Best in House – the 2017 NZ Best Design Awards

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The graphics and ad agency stars at the 2017 NZ Best Design Awards unveiled on Friday were: Designworks, Alt Group, Osborne Shiwan, TBWA, Assembly, Colenso BBDO, Clemenger BBDO/Touchcast, Special Group, Inhouse Design, FCB, and McCarthy Christchurch.

Their work included a dairy-centric slam poetry film, a high-tech scale that scans RFID chips in farm animals, a new government website combatting cyber-crime, and an exhibition space housing Aotearoa’s iconic constitutional documents.

From a record pool of 1178 initial entries, two design studios – Designworks (in collaboration with Air New Zealand) and DNA – each took out two Purple Pins – a signal honour to both design agencies (scroll down to read the judges’ comments).

The Gold & Silver Pin winners’ list (scroll down for the link) featured multiple wins for Designworks, DNA, Alt Group, Osborne Shiwan, TBWA, Assembly, Colenso BBDO, Clemenger BBDO/Touchcast, Special Group, Inhouse Design, , FCB, and McCarthy Christchurch.

The biggest night of the Antipodean design year, the Best Design Awards, is organised by the Designers Institute of New Zealand and recognises the strongest work produced in nine categories – Spatial, Product, Graphic, Moving Image, Interactive, Best Effect, Public Good, Nga Aho Award (which showcases multicultural design collaboration) and the freshly introduced User Experience category.

Designers Institute CEO Cathy Veninga said the standard this year was higher than ever. “Every year it gets stronger and we have more new studios entering. It’s become so widely respected that although we don’t promote the awards internationally, this year we had interest from as far afield as Turkey and Cyprus and we had strong entries from China and Japan, one of which won a Gold award.”

  • The Best Design Awards were established in 1988 and have been held annually since 1996. All winners can be viewed online at


Spatial Purple Pin
He Tohu Exhibition by Studio Pacific Architecture: He Tohu is the new permanent exhibition of Aotearoa New Zealand’s iconic constitutional documents. The kaupapa of the brief is expressed as He Whakapapa korero, he whenua kura: talking about our past to create a better future.

He Tohu is a marae for all Kiwis and all generations, designed to be a space for New Zealanders to stand and reflect on the taonga’s multiple narratives and meanings.

Designed to feel like a waka huia (timber treasure box), the curvilinear space is built out of rimu to reflect our humble beginnings and give the document room its own sense of warmth and texture.

The judges said, “There is magic here! The design has a beautiful sequencing that reveals an inner sanctum harbouring our most treasured documents in a crafted and protective cocoon. The tactility of the ripple detail to the timber sends shivers up the spine. Exquisite detailing with considered integral lighting effects provides a technically brilliant solution.”

Design Director: Evzen Novak; Client: Department of Internal Affairs

Nga Aho Award Purple Pin
Air New Zealand Te Tohu by Designworks: Born out of a common recognition of the importance of te reo Maori, Air New Zealand’s Tohu began as a means of identifying te reo-speaking cabin crew, but transformed into something meaningful to all New Zealanders.

The design team chose a traditional carver’s approach with an edge of modern design, shaping the waha (mouth), touches on the oral origins of te reo Maori while still leaving the form open to individual interpretation.

Individuals may see the waha, a heart, or four people binding together having a hui (conversation). This Tohu is more than a simple badge to identify te reo speakers; it is a symbol to acknowledge the importance of te reo Maori to us all, and to champion its growth and prosperity into the future.

The resultant ‘waha’, or mouth symbol, derived from traditional carving motifs/language was described by judges as “a beautiful small object with a credible process and big agenda behind it”. The judges commended Air New Zealand for bringing te reo Māori to life inflight and saw potential for such an icon to gain currency beyond Air New Zealand in recognising and celebrating te reo Māori speakers.

Creative directors: Jef Wong, Clive Fugill; design director: Anzac Tasker; client: Air New Zealand

Product Purple Pin
Gallagher TW Series Weigh Scale by Massey University College of Creative Arts and Gallagher Animal Management Systems.

The design of the TW series carries innovations at every level of engagement for professional farm workers. It aims to fill the gap of precise data management and enable international regulatory traceability of animals from farm gate to food plate.

TW series leverages RFID animal tag technology for animal weighing, data collection, monitoring and analysis.

The judges said the design shows “a highly resolved product solution that encapsulates a complex digital management tool in a rugged, yet simple product outcome. The Gallagher Weigh scale is a truly Kiwi design in the best possible way.”

Design director: Professor Tony Parker; client: Gallagher Animal Management Systems

Best Effect Award Purple Pin
Air New Zealand by Air New Zealand in association with Designworks, Thoughtfull, and True.

Over the past decade, Air New Zealand set in motion a comprehensive overhaul to its brand design and strategy.

Products and services created as a result of the new ethos include a $100m lounge refurbishment programme; Airband™ which uses a wireless chip to provide updates to guardians of children travelling alone; a chatbot named Oscar, and a unique coffee ordering function on the airline’s mobile app.  The airline’s 75th anniversary also became an opportunity for an award-winning exhibition at Te Papa.

The design philosophy has touched all areas of the business, using tools and framework to create customer profiling, employee experience programmes and significant investment in design processes.

This year Air New Zealand announced its second highest earning result in history of $527 million. The airline also now holds the number one spot in Colmar Brunton’s Corporate Reputation Index as well as the top spot in AMR’s 2017 Corporate Reputation Index in both New Zealand and Australia.

The judges said, “It should be saluted in the design industry as a company that was having problems (back in 2001) and had to innovate to success. Sure, we can all say that they are big, with massive resources, but that wasn’t always the case and three impressive CEOs and a board who believed that the Kiwi culture was a differentiator on the global stage deserves respect.

“They are a showcase for design, 16 years later and we need to recognise that … and the time it takes to get there!”

Design directors: Sarah Cowan; Jef Wong; Geoff Suvalko; Craig Pethybridge

Graphics Purple Pin
Steinlager Tokyo Dry by Inhouse: Inhouse was brought on board to revitalise the Steinlager brand as they launched a new offering – Tokyo Dry. Responsible for the naming, branding, packaging and briefing of advertising and point of sale agencies, Inhouse aimed to communicate Japanese elegance and sophistication for Tokyo Dry. The result was Lion Breweries’ most successful new product launch to date.

The judges said the designs were “an exemplary piece of work across various mediums from packaging to brand standards with a clear idea executed to the highest standard. Something fresh and different in a tough and saturated category.”

CD: Arch MacDonnell; design director: Toby Curnow; client: Lion Breweries

Interactive Purple Pin
CERT New Zealand by DNA: The cost of cyber-crime in NZ in 2016 was an estimated $257 million and 83% of Kiwis have experienced a cyber-breach, but 61% did not change their behaviour online.

CERTNZ is New Zealand’s response to cyber emergencies. DNA worked alongside MBIE to establish a new government agency that enables all New Zealanders to be alerted to, and able to report cyber security issues. The website was developed to make it easy for people to access the information they need alongside the reporting tools, allowing CERT to react.

The judges said, “This entry places the spotlight squarely on a real, urgent problem. It is inspiring to see a brief taken to this level with a resulting outcome that is approachable, easy to consume, never overwhelming, and user focused above all else. Here’s to pushing the limits of not only government sites, but large-scale digital projects full stop.”

Creative directors: Phil Dunstan-Brown, Charlene Turei; design director: Stacy Orr; Client: MBIE

Moving image Purple Pin
Inside Out by Assembly: For the first 13 years of our lives, we do exactly what our parents tell us. For the next 13, we do the exact opposite. That is the premise for Anchor’s Inside-out campaign.

Words by world champion slam poet Harry Baker paired with abstract sound, film footage – 3D and stills – brings to life an inventive idea that boasts the benefits of milk.

The judges said the video is “the perfect representation of moving image craft applied to design thinking and delivered as a brave piece of visual communication.”

Creative directors: Dave Brady, Nick Worthington; design director: Jonny Kofoed; client: Fonterra Brands NZ

User experience Purple Pin
Immigration New Zealand website by DNA: Immigration New Zealand wanted to create a website that would simplify the visa selection and application process, and support attracting the best talent to our shores. The new build needed to drive self-service, improve documentation completion rates, and reduce call centre costs.

Immigration NZ built a business case around value to the user, organisation, and country – and now thanks to DNA, they have improved the way targets are met and have mitigated overheads right across their ecosystem. The project has highlighted the value of using a dynamic data driven design.

The judges said, “Serving over 12 million users each year, this solution shows how goal directed design and user research at the inception of a project can unlock innovation and compellingly frame up the case for transformation.”

Creative director: Charlene Turei; design director: Stacey Orr

John Britten Black Pin
The John Britten Black Pin is the highest award given by the Designers Institute and celebrates an individual who has achieved significant success in the field of design both nationally and internationally.

This year the recipient is Dan Bernasconi, technical director at Emirates Team New Zealand. His unique style of a bringing a whole team together to be a part of the design process has been noted by colleagues and is credited as being a significant driver in Team NZ’s victory.

Bernasconi’s extensive efforts in R&D have also benefited New Zealand with the emergence of a hydrofoil industry for which manufacturing and design takes place here.

Bernasconi originally studied pure maths and started his career as a software engineer before quickly realising it was the practical application of maths and physics to meet design problems that was his passion.

Before long this passion led him to a world of high-tech sport, as a vehicle dynamics engineer for the McLaren Formula One Racing team. Over the next six years his focus became racing simulations and the iterative design process. 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.

Bernasconi emphasizes that his entire team was a part of the design process and the resulting craft is a credit to them all. However, behind every great team is a strong leader and that leadership for Team New Zealand has come from Dan Bernasconi. The Black Pin recognises this.

The Designers Institute Black Pin
The Designers Institutes Black Pin for Outstanding Achievement is awarded to a member of the institute who has made a lasting and valuable contribution to the New Zealand design profession and towards design in general.

This year’s Designers Institute Black Pin was awarded posthumously to former Methven Global design director Kent Sneddon, who died suddenly in May 2014. Kent Sneddon is best known as the design architect for the Aurora Jet Shower, which turned showering from a necessary chore into a luxurious water experience.

He joined Methven in 2006 and built a design team that developed many innovative technologies, shower products and tapware collections. As head of design for Methven Kent was interested in the science of showering. So he and his team researched how people showered and how water spray affected different peoples’ skin. They were also concerned about sustainability, and their water saving shower heads were a particular success in the Australian market.

Kent Sneddon set the foundation for design thinking at Methven and lifted the role of design in the business. This year, Methven celebrates its 130th anniversary and 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.

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