Simply the Best

For DINZ chief executive Cathy Veninga, the Best Awards (coming up on October 5) are a chance to look back on another year of design evolution.

DINZ chief executive Cathy Veninga on another year of design evolution ahead of this year's Best Awards.

How has the client-studio relationship evolved, or is it still restricted to budgets and the bottom line?

There’s an increasing awareness of service design, the relationships – both internal and external. The day has gone for it just being about the bottom line. The community we have now is no longer about the product but the experience – we expect our service needs to be met. Consumers reward that with loyalty, so smart studios understand that. There’s also resurgence in the trend back towards our craft, so you take that clients strategy and articulate that with a well-crafted response. The Best awards are about celebrating that craft, the visual interpretation of a company’s strategy.

What are some trends in the industry internally?

The trend is toward collaboration, cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary, between the studio and the client, but also between studios. Designers and smart studios are working together strategically in the background before they’ve even talked to the client. The points of view might often clash but the best results come from that tension and collaboration.

What are the Best Awards looking to recognise this year?

It’s about raising standards, so we’ve brought in the Best Effect Award for design that has had measurable impact on output and sales, to prove design can have a real impact on the bottom line. We’ve also introduced the Nga Ahou Award. It recognises design of who we are as New Zealanders – our indigenous culture, heritage and sense of place, as well as collaborative efforts.

So the Best Awards aren’t just about the final product?

No, it’s also about the story and the transformation. For example, The Rock at the Wellington airport was great. It was the client who pushed the studio to do something more out-there, so those relationships and compromises add to the back story, which we like because that’s the reality of design.

Many businesses took a no-frills approach after the GFC. Does that still threaten the design industry?

Companies that ‘get’ design won’t cut back on it, because they understand its value. That’s the big battle. The government is now starting to realise the importance of design for science and innovation going to market – Better by Design is a great example. But, you’re right – sadly design is usually the first thing to go when markets dip.

 The Best Awards winners are announced on October 5.

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