World-class work celebrated at the National Best Design Awards

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AUCKLAND, Friday: Excellence in Aotearoa New Zealand’s design scene was celebrated this evening, with hundreds of designers gathering for the biggest occasion on the Australasian design calendar – the Best Design Awards. 

Hosted by Toi Manahau Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ), the Best Design Awards recognises the strongest work produced across eight core categories: Digital, Product, Toitanga, Graphic, Moving Image, Spatial, Value of Design, and Public Good.

Returning to its pre-pandemic home, the Viaduct Events Centre, the evening was MC’d by Jennifer Ward-Lealand and saw exceptional designers and studios singled out with Black, Purple, Gold, Silver or Bronze pins for their achievements in their field. 

Cathy Veninga, chief executive of DINZ says, “I can speak on behalf of this year’s convenors and judges when I say we were blown away by the calibre of entries, and it’s energising to see Kiwi design go from strength to strength, even on a world stage.”

“The winning projects told important, engaging stories and dealt with confronting themes, offered innovative solutions to real problems, and pushed the boundaries of what design can do, whilst showing exceptional technical craft. It’s a privilege to bring the DINZ community together, and I can’t wait to see what next year holds,” adds Cathy.

The winners included …

“DDB, Gladeye, Finch, Special honoured.”

Digital: The DJ and the War Crimes (Purple and Gold), Correct the Internet (Gold), and Blunt Umbrellas (Gold)
The DJ and the War Crimes: Gladeye
Design Director: Gladeye
Client: Rolling Stone
The judges said, “We loved the social justice element to this, as it works to expose the roles of right and wrong. Overall, a perfect marriage of technology and storytelling.”

Correct the Internet by DDB Group Aotearoa and Finch
Design Director: Dean Pomfrett
Client: Team Heroine
Many of the world’s biggest sporting records are held by women, yet algorithms and search engines incorrectly favour male athletes, ignoring women’s achievements. Part of a UN-backed initiative, this platform sets the record straight and serves you with a list of over 50 incorrect, biased search results collected from around the internet, and clear instructions on how to report them with just a couple of clicks.

Blunt Umbrellas by Studio Almond
Design Directors: Monica Murton, Alex Murton
Client: Blunt Umbrellas
The judges said, “This highly crafted site brought joy to a product that is not typically joyous. It felt animated in a way that even brought life to the technical specifications. It communicated well why it is such a high price point, yet wasn’t superfluous in any way. This was an elegant product storytelling experience that truly delivers what a world-class ecommerce website can be.”

Spatial: Faradays (Gold) and RK Residence (Gold)
Faradays by Cheshire Architects
Design Directors: Nat Cheshire, George Gregory, Emily Priest
Client: Edward and Constance von Dadelszen
The judges stated that the retail space “masterfully blends textures and elegant luxury in a transformed building, showcasing meticulous craftsmanship and a curated selection of items that collectively create a sophisticated and abundant retail experience while emphasising the ethos of thoughtful design and conscious abundance.”

RK Residence by Seear-Budd Ross
Design Directors: Thomas Seear-Budd and James Ross
Client: Richard Coppell and Katie Farrelly
Crafted mostly from weathered timber and light, sand-coloured materials, this home imitates its native surroundings through texture and tone. Judges commented that, “the design skilfully adapts vernacular typologies to create a serene, beautifully crafted home that seamlessly merges with its environment while exuding an inviting sense of tranquillity and connection to the landscape.”
Thomas Seear-Budd was also the recipient of the illustrious Emerging Designer award at the ceremony, celebrating his architectural success with both Seear-Budd Ross, and on a  personal scale.

Product: RAAIE (Silver)
Creative Director: Studio Lowrie
Client: RAAIE
RAAIE stands apart from the melee of cheap plastic packaging that is dominated by garish colours and faux-pharmaceutical packaging. RAAIE’s reusable glass vessels feature sculptural silhouettes inspired by the earth. Once the consumer is finished with the product, RAAIE collects and refills the vessels, ready to be sold again.

Graphic: Kynn (Gold) and Departed Spirits (Silver)
Kynn by Marx Design
Creative Director: Ryan Marx
Client: Bronwyn Payne
Created in response to the universal need for shapewear for everybody, Kynn is a celebration of inclusiveness. The brand promotes body confidence, comfort, innovation and sustainable practices, shown on models of all different shapes, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds – plus the packaging itself doubles as colour swatches to match skin tone.

Departed Spirits by Marx Design
Creative Directors: Ryan Marx and James Bruce
Client: Departed Spirits Co
With the tagline Departed Spirits uses anti-craft as its point of difference to inform the brand’s tone of voice and how it turns up in the world. The aluminium flask, known for its recyclability, has both a utilitarian appeal and exudes a coolness factor, distinguishing itself from traditional glass bottles.

Moving Image: Kathmandu – Summer Never Sleeps (Purple and Gold) and Crafted in Chocolate (Bronze)
Kathmandu – Summer Never Sleeps by Special Group
Creative Directors: Tony Bradbourne, Lisa Fedyszyn and Jonathan McMahon
Client: Kathmandu
Judges: “This piece of work stood out because all of the elements are beautifully executed, expertly crafted and then lovingly combined to create a unique and wholly entertaining experience. Across the board, from the casting to the colour grade, this piece of work hits the mark. Woven together with an amazing soundtrack, it delivers a highly entertaining and original audio-visual experience.”

Crafted in Chocolate by Breakout Room
Creative Directors: John Plimmer, Duncan Munro, Amber Ardern and Kimberley Torrie
Client: J.H Whittaker’s & Sons
This cinematic social content series consists of 72 short films taking Chocolate Lovers on a journey beyond the bar. Each piece utilises detailed lighting and purposeful camera movement to follow an unknown “maker” as they mould, craft, etch, grate, and imprint the chocolate ingredients. This leaves room for the loyal chocolate-loving audience to guess before the final artisanal masterpiece is revealed.

Public Good: Fire For Life (Purple and Gold) and Exhibit A-I (Gold)
Fire For Life by Escea LTD
Team Members: Troy, James Fisher, Nigel Bamford, Paul Noakes, and the Escea Design Team
Client: N/A
With 12 million refugees in Syria living in displacement camps, open fires are a source of life, providing warmth, light, and a way of cooking and drinking clean water. Designed over six years by fireplace designers and engineers in Dunedin, ‘Fire For Life’ is a not-for-profit project that provides families in displacement camps with cooking stoves that are designed to use less fuel, cook faster, are transportable, and produce less smoke.

Exhibit A-I by Howatson+Company
Creative Director: Gavin Chimes
Client: N/A
Refugees have been detained by the Australian Government on Nauru, Manus, and Christmas Island for over 10 years. Journalists are banned from these centres, and indefinite detention remains in place. Australia’s leading social justice and law firm, Maurice Blackburn, sued on behalf of detainees, but the case was dismissed in 2021. Using 300 hours of interviews Blackburn conducted with refugees, Howatson+Company collaborated with AI technicians to generate the first visual evidence of their confronting experiences.
Judges called it, “A stunning example of how AI technology can be put to good use in the right hands, giving hope that new technologies in design can give authentic voices where images are not always available. Technology mixed with human craft achieving something extraordinary.”

Toitanga: Taumata o Kupe (Purple and Gold) and Limitless Range (Silver)
Taumata o Kupe by TOA Architects
Creative Director: Nicholas Dalton
Client: Te Mahurehure Marae
The design of this building depicts a traditional whare Māori in a contemporary way, using innovative materials and methods. Traditional Māori buildings are repositories of whakapapa, knowledge and history. Every element of a tupuna whare tells a story, from the pou whakairo (carved figures on the walls) to the tukutuku (decorative lattice panels), and kōwhaiwhai (painted rafters). It was a clear stand out that captured the hearts and minds of the judges.

Limitless Range by Noa Blanket Co.
Creative Directors: Whakaawa and Josh Te Kani
Client: N/A
Noa Blanket Co. weave luxury NZ Wool blankets that share stories of our inherent identity, intentionally drawing on Māori design.

The Best Design Awards were established in 1988 and have been held annually since 1996.

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