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


The future of design in New Zealand

Recently I have posed this question – and now I think I have the answer – to what the New Zealand design community needs to focus on, and deliver to.

We have been an active contributor to and practitioner in New Zealand’s design and business communities for over 23 years. In that time we have seen a degree of evolution and maturation in the industry, and a growing need for and value recognised in what design is and what it can realise. However it's been too slow an evolution and too poor an adoption for the economy and many New Zealand businesses to have benefited to the degree required.

We believe that design, the thinking that fuels it and the values that underpin it are critical to New Zealand’s future. If we are to be a truly and wholly prosperous nation we need to overcome three large and interlinked challenges. 

We must:

  • Compete internationally to fund the social provision we became accustomed to in earlier, more prosperous times in spite of unhelpful age demographics
  • Maintain our prime asset; our environment asset in spite of climate change economic and population pressure
  • Build social cohesion in the face of galloping income inequality.

The challenges are significant, but they are not new. We cannot rely on luck, we should realise cost management can only ever get so far, understand the vagaries of market dynamics and appreciate the fast pace of socieltal, technological and economic change.

Design thinking brings the ability to solve current problems and forsee emerging issues. It allows testing, iteration, learning, collaboration and de-risking of products, services, business models and markets.

When these challenges are surmounted, we will see:

  • Our cities be vibrant, creative and supremely liveable spaces
  • Our wild spaces, mountains, rivers, forests, wetlands, oceans and coastlines be pristine, valued and thriving
  • Our productive land high yielding and sustainably managed
  • Our primary exports dominated by branded foods, clothing, hi-tech wool and timber products, neutraceuticals and furniture rather than logs, carcases, milk powder and fleeces
  • There will be dozens of Fisher and Paykel’s, dozens of Icebreaker's, dozens of Formway design’s, dozens of Xero’s, dozens of Gallagher’s – multitudes of companies succeeding at the top end of international markets
  • Our growth based on firm fundamentals not disasters, bubbles, consumption and debt
  • A well-funded health system serving everyone’s needs
  • Our schools actively equiping all to fully participate regardless of their background. Futures will no longer be determined by your school’s decile
  • Iwi will be prosperous and able to support Maori wellbeing
  • Immigrants will be welcome, integrated and contributing to the fullest rather than driving taxis and cleaning.

These will only happen when (amongst other things) design in all its forms has been intelligently, vigourously and holistically applied to most of our endeavours.

The companies and organisations that we see succeeding are the ones who have adopted and integrated design into their practices. The companies that have sustainable futures are the ones that are designing resilience, agility and value into everything they do. The companies that will unlock the most value and realise their full potential are the ones that put users first and use design to solve problems and unlock innovation.

Design is a powerful force when its understood, valued, applied with purpose and measured.

The future for design requires companies to actively explore it – and for designers to enable applying design to old and new problems in more flexible and inventive ways than ever.


Chris Barker 26 June 2015 at 11:26pm

Inspirational Noel - thanks for sharing this very relevant wisdom.

What do you think?