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These are a few of my favourite things: Reuben Woods

What’s your favourite…

Brand identity?

At the moment it’s the Pap Tav. This is an iconic kiwi pub that I’m sure pretty much every person reading this article has been to over new years. Recently it’s had a makeover, but what they did was retain the heritage of the building and its history of the brand and use this to reinvigorate the premise and its identity. It’s pumping most days again, it caters to all audiences and most importantly you can have a beer while the kids run riot.


The old fire station here at the Mount. It’s been here forever and it’s a classic. It housed firefighters who saved lives. It should now house a creative agency who help businesses. And I’ve always wanted a fireman pole in our studio.


A wax comb. They’re silly little colourful pieces of plastic that to most people would look like some weird nit brush, however, they are very critical pieces of equipment for keeping your wax on your surfboard raked and ready for your feet to grip on to. You also always lose them and keep buying new ones, so whoever designed them is making a killing.


Bees. They are masters of design. They work tirelessly as a team with a common goal. They produce outstanding results time and time again and they are an extremely important part to the success of our world.

Clothing brand?

RPM. They are good friends of ours and have built an iconic New Zealand brand from Mount Maunganui. They have been able to reinvent their brand over the years and change their positioning to always make sure they are relevant to their audience. (He’s also good a dropping in at the island and snaking in the Mentawais – haha – I hope he’s not reading this.)

Use of design to change behaviour?

The traffic light concept as a design system is just so successful and simple. What started off being three different coloured lights to notify people when to stop or go is now becoming one of the most used business reporting systems in the world for dashboarding and reporting.

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

Book: The 26 storey Tree House. It’s genius. Me and my boy read it every night. Funny, witty, cool illustrations and doesn’t take long to read a chapter so you don’t have to spend all night reading to kids that just need to go to sleep. 

Design project you’ve had a hand in?

I’d have to say being part of the founding and developing of the Young Innovator Awards (YIA) here in the Bay of Plenty. It’s a secondary school competition teaching students the process of innovation. It’s been a huge success and we are helping so many students throughout the Bay of Plenty solidify their career path and opening their eyes and minds to the power of creativity.

Design project that isn’t yours, but you’re envious of?

Ubco Bikes. What a fantastic product. And equally a fantastic story and brand identity. I love how successful it is and is becoming and that our good mates at Locus Research from the Bay of Plenty are behind bringing it to life.

What first drew you to design?

My dad John Woods. I grew up in the industry. My Dad started the first daily newspaper in New Zealand then went on to found NZ Geographic, NZ Adventure and NZ Skiier magazine plus many other ventures. More recently owner of the Cook Islands News, which we actually rebranded a few years back. So it was inevitable that I was going to be in the industry. 

Where does inspiration come from for you?

Surfing! That brings freedom and sparks creativity. My wife who is essentially like my creative partner – but I do sulk when she give feedback most of the time. Usually get over it. And then I’d have to say, my kids – they ALWAYS amaze me with what they say, make and do.

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

It’s always about the idea. The idea will drive the design, not the other way round. It’s the hardest thing to do, cracking the idea but when you do everything flows and falls into place.

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

Running an agency doesn’t really give me much more time for anything else. Surfing is my creative outlet and it’s good for you. At home, the kids and I are building skateboards at the moment. They are made from random bits of wood and we tape them up and spray paint the decks with any colour they want.

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

It’s just part of our lives now. At work, we still believe in the power of the pencil but of course we execute our designs using technology. Technology in the future will just become more and more integrated into every part of lives so it’s how we continually use design to make technology more human-centric.

Who are some of your design heroes?

Marty Neumeier, David Carson, Luke Thompson (our senior designer).

Best design-related advice you ever received?

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

And if in doubt, paddle out.

What do you enjoy the most about working in this industry?

The people you meet and the businesses you work with, learn about, become part of and help succeed.

How do you define New Zealand’s design culture?

Fresh, raw, new and full of personality.

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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