New Zealand celebrates the best of Kiwi design at Best Awards

New Zealand celebrates the best of Kiwi design at Best Awards

A stylish kayak, a sleek paintball gun, a breathing device that helps patients sleep easy, a social educational space, a crafty and eco-friendly cola... these are just some of the examples of the best of Kiwi design, recognised at this year's edition of the Best Design Awards last Friday night.

The Best Design Awards, organised by the Designers Institute of New Zealand, showcase and recognise the best design work produced in the country, be it spatial, product, graphic or interactive. 

This year, judges went through a total of 778 entries to choose the top designs of 2013, announced at a dinner at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland. 

“It’s heartening to see New Zealand designers pushing boundaries of innovation, inventiveness and originality in design, especially given that our budgets are often relatively limited. The ideas and their execution are truly world class, to bring the best results for businesses,” said Cathy Veninga, CEO of the Designer's Institute of New Zealand.

Torn between two outstanding entries, the judges in the Product discipline awarded two Purple Pins for the second year in a row, for the Les Mills SmartStep, and for the Fisher & PaykelSimplus.

Designed by Christchurch studio 4ormfunction, the SmartStep reinvented the standard Step exercise equipment that has been a staple in the gym’s core fitness classes for over 25 years. The SmartStep is designed to stop slippage with a multi-directional top surface to improve grip, a deck that locks into position, and stacks neatly in storage.

The second Product Purple Pin recipient went to Fisher & Paykel Healthcare for its innovative Simplus face mask for patients undergoing CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy.

“Fisher and Paykel Healthcare took the top pin for embracing a human-centred approach to design and for continuing to demonstrate leadership in their field," said the judges.

The Spatial Purple Pin went to the Auckland University of Technology Sir Paul Reeves Building, developed by Jasmax. 

The AUT project stitches together four existing structures, weaving the building to its surrounding city streets, using industrial materials like stone paving, raw steel and concrete, with tactile elements like an eroded sculptural timber cloak and sinuous steel ribbon. From lecture to tutorial rooms, and study spaces to social areas, the building constructs cohesive environments that “sets a benchmark for its genre,” according to the 2013 judges.

The Graphics Purple Pin this year went to Karma Cola. Karma came back around for sustainable producers All Good Organics and their Auckland agency Special Group, with their design for Karma Cola scooping the Purple Pin in Graphics.

With a mantra of ‘what goes around, comes around,” the distinctive identity for Karma Cola, a Fairtrade and organic local cola, featured hand-crafted illustration by local artist Beck Wheeler.

More than pretty packaging, the design identity expressed two clear business propositions; communicating the company’s organic and Fairtrade principles, while still conveying the right measure of fizzy drink messaging, so consumers are clear about what they’re about to consume.

The Graphics design judges, led by Peter Roband, applauded the project as “a compelling and witty way to tell a story with a great cause, demonstrating obvious craft and a strong singular idea that challenges a drinks segment dominated by the big players.

'Flash' for the New Zealand Transport Agency took home the Interactive Purple Pin. Flash is an online racing game with a hard-hitting personal twist that shows the real life consequences of speeding. 

Designed by Clemenger BBDO, the game is a thrilling first person perspective car race - but as the player progresses they are forced into an unavoidable crash, suddenly watching their life flash before their eyes, integrating photos of loved ones accessed via Facebook, to hit them with the consequences in a way that actually makes them think.

The 2013 Interactive Judges, led by convenor Che Tamahori, praised the project for its concept, deft execution, and capacity to engage a difficult to reach audience with fantastic payoff.

The Best Effect Award went to Les Mills SmartBar, created by 4ormfunction. The SmartBar set out to answer to complaints about the cumbersome process of fastening weight plates onto conventional bars. Les Mills and their design team, headed by David Lovegrove of 4ormfunction, developed a cutting edge design featuring a head (dubbed “the gator”) with retractable teeth that hold weight plates. Changing plates is made fast and seamless - the user just pulls the release lever and slides them off.

Two Black Pin awards, celebrating prominent people in New Zealand’s design industry, were given out during the night. The first, the John Britten Black Pin for an individual who has made a major contribution to design nationally and internationally, went to Kent Parker, joint manager of Formway Design Studio. 

The Black Pin for Outstanding Achievement was awarded to Grenville Main, Creative Director and Managing Director of strategic design consultancy DNA. With more than 25 years working within the design industry, Main is a strong advocate for the importance of design in growing the New Zealand economy, and has quietly nurtured many of the top designers in the country.

High profile Gold Pin winners include:


Studio: Hodge Ltd, Mosgiel | Design Director: Alex Hodge | Client: Hostile Inc

Gold Pin - Consumer, Product

The Rogue Paintball Gun was applauded for its ‘striking aesthetic resolution’ but also for its detailed attention to how it would best be used and the quality of its manufacturing. Designed by Mosgiel-based Hodge Ltd, the paintball gun features an internal air hose (rather than external tubes), a trigger that big-handed players can use, and a lightweight style – all to allow for quicker actions in the fast-paced world of paintballing.


Design director: Andy Jacobs. Creative director: Jamie McLellan, and the client is McLellan Jacobs.

Gold Pin - Consumer, Product

Inspired by the super yacht, the luxury kayak was built in pre-preg carbon fibre by America’s Cup boat builders in New Zealand. The lightweight design makes the kayak highly responsive and effortlessly driven through the water with luxury accessories including a magnetic drop-in seat pad held in by magnets embedded into the carbon hull layup, carbon fibre paddles with a teak veneer over a carbon shaft fibre shaft; and gold brass drip stoppers.


Studio: Cheshire Architects | Design Director: Nat Cheshire | Client: Cooper and Company

Gold Pin - Retail environments, Spatial

“A daring idea and a departure from the retailing norm, and yet deceptively simple, seemingly constructed from plywood boxes and trellis. Combining beautiful outdoor lighting, fresh bursts of planting life, and a roll call of boutique retailers, this built environment creates a sense of exploration and discovery that has no equal,” said the 2013 judges.

Transforming Auckland’s long-dormant Britomart into a desirable daytime destination was no easy feat. More than a collection of buildings, Cheshire Architects set out to create an experience, one that encompassed the entire precinct.


Design Studio: Waterfall Gunns Lowe Architects Ltd, Auckland | Design Director: Matthew Waterfall | Client: Subalpino (Shanghai) Limited

Gold Pin - Office & Workplace design, Spatial

A sparse aesthetic, made rich through layers of transparent materials, and juxtaposed against the heritage elements of its abandoned warehouse home – the design for Atelier Subalpino’s Shanghai offices exudes order and sense.

Building within an old unused factory in Shanghai, China, the space was the starting point for an Italian Luxury menswear brand expanding into a new market. For this multipurpose workplace - designed to house the brand’s design and production teams, with in-built display capacity and complying with FengShui sensitivities - Waterfall Gunns Lowe Architects of Auckland accentuated the space with natural and artificial lighting to create an air of considered, quiet refinement.  

All winners can be viewed online at

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