The Blunt + Idealog + Generator umbrella experiment: meet the finalists

Back in February, we asked the Idealog audience to submit a design that defined modern New Zealand, with the winning effort going on to become a limited-edition Blunt umbrella. And the power of a deadline to create action among designers saw the entries flooding in at the last minute, with 239 in total and 3,734 votes for the People’s Choice category. Here are the finalists.

As we’ve seen with previous crowd-sourced design competitions, there is always a mix of high and low quality. That’s half the fun of them. But some believe that they devalue the craft of design by asking for something for free. As such, we made sure the prize was worth the designers’ time and effort. And, with a six-month co-working tenancy at Generator for up to four people valued at $28,000, an iPad Pro, a commission from each umbrella sold, some of the finished products, a credit on the packaging and a profile in this magazine, we felt it was.

The judges from Idealog, Blunt and Generator asked a few questions about the designs to choose the best: 1) did it fit the brief and show us a clever interpretation of modern New Zealand identity? 2) Was it aesthetically pleasing? 3) Would it work on an umbrella? And 4) Was it commercially viable? There were plenty that ticked all those boxes so the judges wielded their immense power and unilaterally changed the rules by increasing the number of finalists, adding highly commended and making up a few new categories to reward some of the more creative entries. One of the finalists’ designs will be made into an umbrella that will be sold at retail and the winner will be announced at an event in May.

Thanks to all the entrants and congratulations to those who made it through. Check out the list of finalists below.

People's Choice winner: ‘The Land We Are’, JY Hew

“New Zealand’s landscapes are both just as marvellous and diverse as its people. Using the landscape as a medium, this design represents the culmination of New Zealand’s different people and cultures. The land is something that binds us to Aotearoa. It has enabled us to accomplish wonders far beyond what others could envisage as we constantly draw upon it for inspiration. We are fortunate to live in a country where we can gaze upon the stars, traverse across Middle Earth and enjoy life’s simple pleasures in our own backyard.”

Finalist: ‘Blooming Brella’, Bonnie Brown

“At first glance this might just look like a fun floral print, but there are elements woven into the piece that reference the history of Aotearoa. Much like New Zealand’s design identity the flowers in this print are growing, changing and being influenced by both the past and the present. That and it looks like your grandma’s retro wallpaper, so that’s cool too.” 

Finalist: 'Te Wheke’, Joseph Norris

 “Long ago, when the sea was young, Kupe hunted a giant wheke (octopus) across the ocean. Wheke were considered to be notoriously bad omens, and Kupe hunted this giant through rough waters to discover a land dressed in a long white cloud. The fray lead Kupe down to the southern island where he took the wheke's life and returned victorious to Hawaiki. This design is a modern-day take on that giant octopus. It is imbued with the spirit of New Zealand. Ta Moko is paired next to a colonial tattoo; jandals with gumboots. Our diversity is matched only by our sense of unity. Can you personify modern New Zealand? I think you can, and I think it is Kupe's giant wheke.”

Finalist: ‘Te Reo of Flowers’, Christine van Hoffen

​ “As New Zealanders, our connection with the land is undeniable. More than just a source of sustenance and shelter, our relationship with nature is woven deep throughout Māori mythology and storytelling. When the British arrived to colonise the country in the Victorian Era, they brought with them other non-native plants, as well as a penchant to ascribe symbolic meaning to each - this is referred to as the "Victorian Language of Flowers". Each plant represented in this design has been hand-picked (pun fully intended) for its symbolic meaning in either Maori culture/storytelling, or for its Victorian Flower Language meaning. They were selected based on the characteristics I personally use to describe New Zealand, along with those I believe the rest of the world would apply to our country. Outstretched hands have been incorporated to illustrate the act of give and take that constantly occurs when multiple cultures combine to create a modern society.”

Finalist: 'Ngahere Pārūrū', Chris Hutchinson

“An array of hybridised ferns, greenery and creepy critters coil into a humid arrangement of native South Pacific flora and fauna. The dense texture and pattern drawing your peering spheres forward to see what new fronds they might discover amongst the undergrowth. Lift the forest skyward and let the rainwater nourish new growth.” 

Finalist: Wild Canopy, Kate Baxter

 "Wild Canopy celebrates the beauty and organic forms found in NZ flora and fauna."

Finalist: ‘The winds of Tāwhirimātea’, Johnson Witehira

 “In considering a bi-cultural/Māori approach to this project I considered who might be relevant in terms of the kaupapa. Considering that an umbrella is about the weather I thought it might be appropriate to feature one with Tāwhirimātea, the Māori god of the skies. In this playful design Tāwhirimātea can be seen welding lightening bolts. The design looks to combine Maori ideas and content with Western ideas around gods, the heavens and here, Zeus.”

Finalist: ‘Cross-pollination’, Matt Blackmore 

“Uniquely ours, together. A small, yet ubiquitous symbol from our little ten cent coin, crossed with the buzzing little critters that feature memorably in our childhood and which now hold great importance for our little island nation. For me, the design encapsulates something I love about New Zealand: cross-pollination. Ideas, cultures, people. And, like the bee, although tiny, New Zealand is an important part of the global ecosystem.” 

Finalist: ‘Marama’, Michael Smythe

“Blue sky - sunshine – togetherness. What more do you need under your Blunt brolly?”

Finalist: ‘Moving landscape’, Steven Huish

“A clean representation of the flowing New Zealand Landscape and our connections between the mountains and the sea.” 

Finalist: ‘Raw NZ’, Georgina Hoby

 “Graphic references to Maori culture, native flora and fauna, land, sea and roadways indicating journeys and progress. Bold and basic mark-making to reflect the undeveloped essence of Aotearoa.”

Highly commended

‘Geometric NZ’, Laura Cibilich

“Inspired by traditional Māori and Pacific patterns, brought together in a modern way, this design also features a lot of black, linking to our affinity with the colour.”

‘Sandy Kiwi Doggos’, Daniel Ido

“My design incorporates a bunch of dogs in New Zealand, wearing some new icons, some old classics, and some meme-worthy items. And there's also a cat. The umbrella colour is a take-on of old Japanese umbrellas, yet takes on a nice sandy colour which is reminiscent of something we all want... with a passion... in the wet, cold, INSUFFERABLE dread of winter; hopefully inspiring a little bit of nostalgia and a reminder of what's to come when you’re dripping wet in one of Auckland's spontaneous rain showers.”

‘Shelter’, Alice Berry

“This was painted by me and is an abstract about finding shelter from the storm – figuratively and literally.” 

‘Pop Tiki’, Leonard Lim

“A courageous tiki immersed in a serene yet confident displayed backdrop design. There is no better way to exhibit New Zealand pride.” 

Special awards

Best worst: ‘And in today’s weather’, Edvard Air

Best use of food: ‘Breaky’, Antonio Rodrigues

Best effort from a nine-year-old: Lily Bulman, ‘Cats don’t like rain’

“My cat Minnie hides in the rain, now she doesn't have to”

Best use of food #2: ‘Lolly Cake’, Rachel Beswick

Most politically charged: ‘Saviour’, Tim Thach

Best use of food #3: ‘It’s Raining Pickles’, Michael Kennedy

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