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In Search of Design in Business Champions

In Search of Design in Business Champions

Entering the Design in Business Award (diba) makes “you think hard about why you do things,” says last year’s winner, Simon Barnett, who is Managing Director of Palmerston North based OBO, which dominates the world of field hockey equipment.

Says Simon Barnett: “Entering awards forces self reflection. Difficult questions are asked of you, “What do you really mean by that?”

“The diba award recognises the value of design in an organisation and reinforces why design is such a valuable driver in a company. The award also acknowledges the key people in the company who have a role in the process. People love acknowledgement.”

Especially says Simon, when “treating the planet as your market is a difficult thing to do, from a financial and energy perspective. Being a design led business is bloody hard work.”

Organisers of the 2006 Design in Business Award are once again on the lookout for New Zealand companies who have successfully used design to give their businesses a competitive edge, either in the local or global market, and preferably both.

The Design in Business Award (diba) began in 1999 as the Design Led Business Awards, which were part of the annual BeST Design Awards run by the Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ). In 2003 the awards became a separate award and DINZ renamed them the Design in Business Award.

Said Cathy Veninga, from the Designers Institute of New Zealand, of the awards and of the role that design plays in business: “As international trade has become so fiercely competitive, economic survival now depends on the pace at which companies can innovate, develop and change. The Design in Business Award aims to celebrate businesses that have utilised and fostered design to develop more internationally competitive products and businesses.”

The award is a world first in that it not only celebrates the economic benefits of design led businesses, but also recognises the cultural and social benefits that design can add. The Design in Business Award is for specific design projects or design strategies that have been carried out in the past year and that have generated measurable results for an organisation. Better by Design, as part of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, and ProDesign join DINZ as supporting sponsors of this year’s awards.

Previous winners of the Design in Business and the Design Led Business Award include 1999 winners, Formway Furniture, whose Life Chair is now sold in over 50 countries; 2000 winners, Zambesi Fashion; 2001 winners, Orca, who make the fastest wetsuits in the world, 2003 winners, Glidepath, a New Zealand based international baggage handling company. The 2005 winners were OBO, and Furnware, the Hastings based manufacturers of school chairs.

OBO is a small company of 16 people, and 80 per cent of its equipment, which is now sold in 61 countries, is made in New Zealand. Simon Barnett says OBO has become market leaders in its niche market by producing products that really work, last well, and they have a manufacturing process that produces products other manufacturers are not capable of making.

OBO works with goal-keepers in several countries to provide new ideas and test equipment during development. They then use professional product designers to put the finishing touches on their products, so they not only work well, but look good.

Furnware, the winner of the Design Innovation Award in 2005, has been the leading supplier of education furniture in New Zealand schools for 70 years. However, as global competition increased, the company had to make a decision, either to rest on its heritage, or to boldly invest in new product development.

Over four years the company measured 20,000 school children, before developing its Bodyfurn chair, which fits children by size, not age.

Furnware CEO Hamish Whyte says the results and response from schools to the new school chair system have “been bigger than we ever believed.” Vandalism has been reduced, and he says: “Schools report better hand writing, quieter pupils and not as much fidgeting.”

While the system has produced tangible results in the classroom the Bodyfurn system has performed well at a business level. Company turnover was 26% higher last year, which resulted in a staff increase of 12% to 65 people.

This year the Design in Business Award has one supreme award winner with entries closing on June 30, 2006. For more information and entry details visit the diba website:


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