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Search Is On For NZ’s Design In Business Champions

Media Release

July 10, 2008

Search Is On For New Zealand’s Design In Business Champions

Design is not just about creating stylish products or making things look pretty. It is about giving businesses a competitive edge by helping them to gain market share and to increase exports. And it is of vital importance in highly competitive markets.

That’s the message from the Designers’ Institute of New Zealand and Better by Design, the organisers of the Design in Business Awards 2008, who are once again on the lookout for New Zealand companies that have successfully used design to give their businesses a competitive advantage, either in the local or global market, and preferably both.

The Design in Business Awards, which open for entry on July 14, were established by the Designers’ Institute of New Zealand in 1997 and aim to celebrate New Zealand companies that have strategically used design to drive innovation and business growth.

The Design in Business Award rewards specific design projects or design strategies that have generated measurable results for an organisation, such as increases in sales and revenue, profitability, brand value, market share or internal economic improvements.

Previous winners include Formway Furniture, whose Life Chair is now sold in over 50 countries; Glidepath, a New Zealand based international baggage handling company; Furnware, the Hastings based manufacturers of school chairs, which fit children by size not age; and Obo, the Palmerston North based company that is the leader in the manufacture of hockey goal keeping equipment.

Cathy Veninga, Chief Executive Officer of the Designers’ Institute of New Zealand, says that incorporating design into business strategy helps to overcome a range of business challenges:

“With the volatility of the Kiwi dollar and an increasingly competitive global marketplace, many New Zealand companies are finding things incredibly tough. The economic survival of New Zealand businesses is now very much dependent on the pace at which they can innovate, develop and change.

“Businesses who adopt a design-led approach and are using design to develop more internationally competitive products and businesses are better able to adapt to pressure and are more resilient.”

Her sentiments are supported by Judith Thompson, Director of Better by Design who says,

“Growth focused companies know that ambitious targets cannot be achieved through a business as usual approach. Design is the essential ingredient in the development of breakthrough products and services and achieving long term success. We are increasingly seeing companies who are producing better results and greater global impact because they have applied design principles across their business. It's time to recognise and celebrate this success."

Thompson says many New Zealand companies are seeing real tangible benefits in design thinking. Take Mokum for example, the winner of the 2006 Design in Business Award, which is internationally recognised for its innovative and contemporary textile collections.

What began as an ‘indent’ company - with 50 per cent of its sales through international brands and 50 per cent by original product - has grown, in just over four years, into an internationally significant supplier of prestige fabrics. The company's studio collections are now represented in 14 residential showrooms and 8 commercial sales locations in the United States. Sales have increased there four fold since 2006 and Mokum has felt a new found sense of pride and confidence since achieving the award.

With headquarters in Auckland and studio based in Sydney, Mokum designs all of its own collection's with a distinctive Antipodean design perspective, while continuing to proudly represent a respected portfolio of international brands in New Zealand and Australia.

“The firm applies design to every aspect of its activities, which means Mokum has come to ‘live’ design as a ‘strategic enabler’ rather than simply a product development tool,” said Derek Lockwood, Worldwide Director of Design at Saatchi and Saatchi and a judge of the 2006 Design in Business Awards.

Another New Zealand company successfully integrating design into its business is national carrier Air New Zealand, the recipient of a Highly Commended Award at the 2006 Design in Business Awards.

In 2004 the national airline was at a crossroads. While its position in the domestic market was solid, it was coming under pressure from international competitors such as Emirates, and a lack of investment had left the airline lagging in terms of its long-haul onboard product and aircraft.

The company’s vision which drove a two year design program was designed to appeal not only to their travellers’ physical requirements but also their imaginations.

“Air New Zealand realised they were no longer just selling tickets, but were acting as a gateway to one of the world’s most inspiring destinations, and, with this goal came the understanding that –as gatekeeper to the New Zealand brand – they could hold a competitive advantage that couldn’t be copied or matched by any other operator in its territory,” said Cathy Veninga.

Key projects under this design-led strategy included changes to the new long haul in-flight product (interior, fabric, crockery, and in-flight entertainment design); a new frontline uniform, a new meal service, lounge concept and a rejuvenated brand identity.

Judges of the 2008 Design in Business Award include Derek Lockwood, Worldwide Director of Design, Saatchi & Saatchi; Nevil Gibson, Editor-in-Chief, National Business Review and David Walker, leading design strategist, former professor and a member of the University of Auckland’s INNOVATIONZ team.

Entry to the Design in Business Award closes on Friday, August 8 at 5pm. New Zealand businesses wishing to enter the Award, or looking for further information should visit, call (09) 377 2907 or email

The winner of this year’s Design in Business Award will be announced at a cocktail function in Auckland on September 18, 2008.


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