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These are a few of my favourite things: Tim Brown

What’s your favourite…

Brand identity?

I get a kick out of seeing the arrow in the negative space of the FedEx logo every time just as much as I wish it was executed a little more boldly. Wouldn’t it be more powerful if everyone saw it? 


I love the perversity and irreverence of the Pompidou centre. We use the extreme honesty of that piece of architecture as an example for our design process at Allbirds….


At design school we had an assignment one week to bring in our favourite piece of design. In part because it was a last minute, portable reach for a homework solution but also to be a little contrarian I presented a paper clip. My (much loved) design professor Gordon Salchow excoriated my choice claiming it wasn’t in fact design but merely invention. While I wasn’t in a position at the time to win the argument I am confident I was right and at the very least a more interesting talking point than the iPods….


Well apart from our very own Jamie McLellan, I have long looked up to Michael Beirut the Pentagram graphic designer. His identity work is stunning and has this unique ability to look like it was the only possible solution to the graphic problem it set out to solve.

Clothing brand?

Can’t get enough of APC’s focused minimalism that somehow manages to feel unique. I mean how many times can you put a twist on a blue t-shirt?

Use of design to change behaviour?

I absolutely loved the story of the NZ firm Goodnature’s Rodent Trap. True example of design impacting the entire life cycle of a business idea.

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

The Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design is worth a look.

Design project you’ve had a hand in?

Ha, well Allbirds springs to mind and very proud to say that I have had a hand in that, along with a bunch of talented folks.

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

I never ever buy it because it is too expensive but Aesop’s overall brand and product execution is just so good. 

What first drew you to design?

All the fun of art without the need to be able to draw.

Where does inspiration come from for you?


Do you have a design ethos/motto you abide by in your work?
The right amount of nothing.

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

To be honest it is Allbirds all the time at the moment as the business rapidly grows. It’s a really exciting time for our team at the moment.

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

To be honest, I actively seek to limit the impact of technology on my work and by association my thinking. I firmly believe that if you see the computer and technology more generally as a tool to execute on your ideas and not the source of them then you’re half a chance.

Who are some of your design heroes?

The aforementioned Michael Beirut, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, and Armin Hoffman to name a few….for those that know these guys there is a clear theme there. I had the amazing pleasure of meeting my namesake – IDEO CEO – Tim Brown last year and that was an absolute thrill.

Best design-related advice you ever received?

I once had a design professor, after reviewing my work, tell me I needed to go and get drunk. I often think back on that as a reminder to not take things too seriously. More pointedly I also recall getting pushed towards owning a real POV on design. There was the suggestion I was developing a way of thinking and I should own it. Up until that point I didn’t really have any confidence in my instincts.

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

That it touches everything; design is by definition a non-siloed profession.

How do you define New Zealand’s design culture?

Rooted in practicality. I mean that both as a compliment and a criticism.

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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