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25 things with Peter Haythornthwaite, part four

25 things with Peter Haythornthwaite, part four

Peter Haythornthwaite – industrial and creative design deity, Designers Institute of New Zealand fellow, owner of an ONZM for services to design, and current exhibitor of his life’s work at Objectspace Gallery in Auckland – knows things, loves things, predicts things, worries about things and improves things. In part four, here are five things he wishes New Zealand would do to support the design sector. 

Any support for design must be co-ordinated and united. Handouts without a clear sense of purpose, vision, strategy and accountability will lead, I believe, to failed outcomes. What we need is a series of woven-together initiatives. Appropriate channels for delivery could be through an semi-independent arm of the Designers Institute of New Zealand (possibly supported by other organisations) and our key universities.

1.      Better by design but better

Starting in the early 2000s Better by Design focused on enabling SMEs to be more internationally competitive by design. The programme, through various initiatives, enjoyed significant success with a good number of companies adapting design thinking and doing as a business norm, and aspiring to be world-class. For some, there were marked increases in growth, turnover and profitability. However, since 2013 the programme, I believe, has drifted and is now in danger of being a better by business initiative. A renewed Better by Design initiative transferred to become Design Integration programmes should be, both full-time and part-time, established in our key universities.  

2.      Energise students’ thinking

In Scandinavian countries there is an inbuilt understanding of the value of design to commerce and society. People naturally talk about the famous architects and designers of their country – it’s part of their cultural heritage. They see design as fundamental to their national culture and success. What if we were to comprehensively implement design education summer-schools for primary through senior school aged students? What better way than this to build in design thinking and understanding, and foster aspirations for New Zealand’s future success.

3.      Share designfulness*

Understanding who companies really are and why they are successful has been a career-long focus for me. I dissect them to determine their reason for being, their strategies and where design sits culturally, strategically and competence wise within the organisation. What if talks were given four times a year, from the top to the bottom of New Zealand, by ‘designful’ New Zealand companies and international exemplars such as Aesop, Gira and Vipp. The intent being to confirm the cultural and competitive power of design. Follow-up design culture and innovation ‘clinics’ could be run by selected universities and through the design museum. (*Marty Neumeier)

4.      A future-focused design museum

Rather than being incorporated into existing institutions, the museum would have a singular focus. Naturally it would be housed in a building of outstanding design yet it would be a living, outreaching ‘institution dedicated to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and educational’ communication of physical and digital design artefacts that record the past and forecast design’s future role. School visits and travelling ‘shows’ would be comprised of experiential and experimental events as well as physical engagement.

5.      Articulate our design in business story

When I came back to New Zealand in 1971 I had the opportunity to visit one of Japan’s Floating Trade Fairs. The purpose-built ship exhibited products and equipment demonstrating Japan’s commercial and creative ingenuity. It was highly inspirational, ripping the dark curtain of the WW2 past, it encouraged New Zealand to buy Japanese-designed and made. Be it digital or physical, New Zealand has much to gain by sharing its creative potential with the world. We should be sharing our innovative nation story, demonstrating how design serves to facilitate the competitive advantage of our scientific, technological, agricultural, digital, tourist industries, et al.

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