These are a few of my favourite things: James McNab

As part of Idealog's Design Month, we picked the brains of some of the most interesting individuals in the industry to find out their favourite design-related things, their not-so-secretive side hustles and what inspires them creatively. Here's product and spatial design studio Think & Shift director James McNab. 

What’s your favourite…

Brand identity?  



Ricardo Bofill’s Cement Factory or Optical Glass House by Hiroshi Nakamura & Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP


Bang & Olufsen A9 Speaker.


Nendo (Oki Sato).

Clothing brand?  

Still searching.

Use of design to change behaviour?  

The High Line, New York City.

Inspiring design-focused book/podcast/TV show/website/magazine/story?  

Book: Kenya Hara, Designing Design. Film: The Human Scale.

Project you’ve had a hand in? 

Currently working on a participatory furniture design system for Saint Kent's college where the students are building a portable classroom we have designed. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing piece of work, but the idea and function are so clear that I think it makes it beautiful in a sense.   

 Project you’re envious of?

 The Amano fit out in Britomart, that place is amazing.

 What first drew you to design? 

The possibility to create the things around me.

Where does inspiration come from? 

People. Documentaries. Travel.

Do you have a design ethos/motto you abide by in your work?  

To always refine an idea to its simplest form. I believe design needs depth and this needs to connect with the observer at an emotional level, whether the design is commercial, utilitarian, artistically driven or conceptual.

 How would you define New Zealand’s current design culture?  

Small, growing but also inwards focused. I would love to see New Zealand designers expand our presence and collaborate more on an international stage.

Do you have any creative side hustles going on outside of your line of work? If so, what?  

I'm working on a dynamic sculptural piece that manipulates light through a series of lenses. I'm still to figure out if this will become a part of Think & Shift or whether it sits outside.

 How has technology impacted on your work? How do you think it will impact on it in the future?  

With the efficiency at which ideas are produced. Technology has made it easier for me to explore ideas with fewer boundaries, and work across multiple areas of design. In saying that, it's still a frustratingly slow process from the idea conception right through to the actual execution, so I'm looking forward to the day that we have seamless integration.

Who are some of your design heroes?

Oki Sato. Konstantin Grcic. Deter Rams. Naoto Fukasawa. Friso Kramer. Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

Best design-related advice you ever received?

Find your own path.

What do you enjoy the most about working in this industry? The multiple platforms I have to communicate different ideas. One minute I might be working on an Hour Glass, the next I might be designing a new office space.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).