At Open we identify and examine customer issues. At DNA we deliver on that thinking.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

New Zealand

Sorting out New Zealand is a design job

Noel Brown November 2011

At DNA we help organisations thrive by making sure that everything they do lines up with, and springs from, their essential nature It’s a design exercise sometimes labelled as branding, service design or customer experience design, but, labels aside, in principle it’s a simple process. Understand clearly the essence of the organisation, then design everything – the way it works, the products it makes, and the way it communicates, recruits and connects with its world – to reflect and reinforce that essence.

The brighter future we are promised will materialise only when we collectively earn a better living in the world. We need to export more and get paid better for what we export. And we need to do that in a world economy which looks shaky at best.

Analysing New Zealand the way we would analyse a client before starting work quickly identifies the problem. A lot of what of what we do is in conflict with our essence.

In the world we are known primarily for our magnificent and unspoilt environment; our unique and renascent Maori culture; and, to a lesser extent, our social and technical innovation. I think of this bundle of core assets as Arcadia plus Utopia, and most of what we sell in the world is essentially a product of these characteristics – clean safe food, sustainably produced timber, holidays in paradise and, peripherally, a number of innovative products and services. All these things carry with them the imprint of us and our country. In many respects, when we sell honey or merino clothing we are selling a little of the dream of New Zealand Aotearoa.

So if you were the Government, the right strategy – the one good designers would recommend – would support, encourage and require New Zealand businesses and government to align their activities with New Zealand’s essential nature – the Arcadia Utopia complex.

This strategy would

  • keep our wilderness wild and our environment clean
  • make sustainability a virtue
  • invest in and profit from the natural and growing diversity of our society
  • encourage entrepreneurism and technical innovation, especially when it supports and feeds off the above.

With this platform in place, our businesses will be better able to move upmarket, increase scale and earn us a better living. Then we could afford to educate our kids, keep them healthy and safe, stay healthy ourselves and support our elders.

The design strategy is obvious, but clearly the politics are more difficult. What we are going to get is potentially contrary to our essence: mining, irrigation, postponing emissions trading, losing control of vital bits of infrastructure, less rather than more social cohesion. 

So, vote for design!


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