25 things

Peter Haythorn­th­waite – i ndus­trial and cre­ative de­sign de­ity, De­sign­ers In­sti­tute of New Zealand fel­low, owner of an ONZM for ser­vices to de­sign, and cur­rent ex­hibitor of his l i fe’s work at Ob­jectspace Gallery i n Auck­land – knows things, l oves things

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De­signer Peter Haythorn­th­waite

5 things you wish you knew be­fore you started a ca­reer in de­sign

My ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion at Elam and the Univer­sity of Illi­nois was broad rang­ing and fa­cil­i­tated my ca­reer path­way. But clearly ed­u­ca­tion can­not fully pre­pare a grad­u­ate for a yet to be de­fined pro­fes­sion – that comes through ex­pe­ri­ence, re­la­tion­ships and learn­ing.

1 De­sign in­te­gra­tion

Through my read­ing and re­search at univer­sity I came to un­der­stand that de­sign is a con­tin­uum. No one dis­ci­pline is the hero. More so than ever, in our chang­ing world, it will be pre­req­ui­site that all as­pects of de­sign dove­tail to­gether in an in­te­grated and holis­tic man­ner. Prod­ucts, ser­vices, brands, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and be­hav­iours will fail if they stand alone; in­te­grated de­sign en­ables them to strate­gi­cally and har­mo­niously work across all touch points.

2 Suc­cess rarely hap­pens by chance

Be­ing good at the busi­ness side of de­sign made sense. How­ever, fi­nances, staff se­cure­ment, con­tracts, brief­ing, project plan­ning, busi­ness struc­ture and so forth were largely over­looked in col­lege. It was when I be­came a full-time con­sul­tant that I came to re­ally un­der­stand that good man­age­ment is fun­da­men­tal to good de­sign prac­tice. For­tu­nately I found these skills could be as­sim­i­lated by seek­ing good ad­vice and learn­ing from one’s suc­cesses and mis­takes.

3 En­trepreneur­ship and sound judg­ment

En­trepreneur­ship is ‘in’ a per­son. It's an in­nate abil­ity to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties and see ways to ef­fec­tively ful­fill them. For­tu­nately en­trepreneur­ship can also be nur­tured to be­come a com­pe­tence. In the early 90s I ad­vo­cated for uni­ver­si­ties to set up de­sign-en­ter­prise pro­grammes. How­ever, the rec­om­men­da­tion was not taken up, per­haps be­cause the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit is best ac­quired by it­er­a­tive do­ing, not just teach­ing. De­sign en­ter­prise must be un­der­pinned by con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment and good de­sign judg­ment.

4 Good­ness

We leave col­lege with hope and a be­lief that there is al­ways a bet­ter way, what­ever the task. The re­al­ity is that other people in the project mix don't al­ways hold the same per­spec­tive; they do not nec­es­sar­ily share our be­havioural and moral be­liefs. By stu­dent de­sign­ers be­ing repet­i­tively en­gaged in role­play­ing the hard as­pects of busi­nesses, learn­ing to lis­ten and trans­late bet­ter, and to en­gage oth­ers in a cause, they would be bet­ter pre­pared for the com­mer­cial en­deav­ours.

5 From their per­spec­tive

Go­ing out with an im­pres­sive port­fo­lio does not nec­es­sar­ily mean it will en­able a client or an em­ployer to un­der­stand your real value. I soon re­alised that to be more ef­fec­tive in shar­ing my propo­si­tion/story I needed to bet­ter un­der­stand their view­point. It meant lis­ten­ing and ob­serv­ing bet­ter so as to be more able to in­ter­pret their cur­rent state and what they were re­ally say­ing. While well-re­solved so­lu­tions were one part of my role, more sus­tain­ably im­por­tant was the need to help clients un­der­stand that de­sign was cul­tural and about con­tin­u­ous ad­vance­ment. It meant guid­ing them to con­sider the un­met needs of end users, in­te­grat­ing de­sign think­ing through­out their busi­ness so they could be world-class and win in their cho­sen mar­kets.

5 things that sum up New Zealand's mod­ern de­sign iden­tity

I don't see a New Zealand de­sign iden­tity. Swiss de­sign of the 50s - 70s, the sim­plic­ity of Bauhaus de­sign, and the strong graphic na­ture of Ja­panese de­sign cre­ated na­tional de­sign iden­ti­ties. In re­al­ity, defin­ing unique­ness is cre­ated by in­di­vid­u­als not by the masses, un­less a com­mu­nity is en­gaged in a com­mon ver­nac­u­lar such as Mata Or­tiz ce­ram­ics. What we do see in New Zealand are ex­am­ples of highly orig­i­nal and thought­ful de­sign by world-class in­di­vid­u­als and teams, across all dis­ci­plines. Our place, our pi­o­neer­ing her­itage, our evolv­ing cul­ture shape a cre­ative lens. Maybe, ag­gre­gated, one day this will give rise to a New Zealand de­sign.

There are how­ever a num­ber of com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tics which can be iden­ti­fied in cer­tain New Zealand de­sign­ers and their work – of course they are also in­her­ent in cre­ative people world­wide.

6 Spir­ited

An en­ergy and abil­ity to po­si­tion com­pa­nies and of­fer­ings in a sin­gu­lar man­ner – go­ing against the

grain of com­mon id­ioms. For ex­am­ple, phd3’s Bella Akroyd has helped cap­ture the hearts, minds and tastes of milk prod­uct buy­ers across New Zealand and many parts of the world through a dis­parate, non­con­formist ap­proach. Such com­mer­cial en­ergy is not cre­ated by mim­ick­ing what oth­ers have done.

7 Flu­ent

The abil­ity to shift from one area of de­sign to another with ease, trans­fer­ring a way of think­ing and do­ing into a new space of en­deav­our. Cheshire Ar­chi­tects are ex­em­plary for an abil­ity to shift from ob­jects to plan­ning, from churches to workspaces and from houses to re­tail. Their mul­ti­dis­ci­plined work for the Auck­land City Works De­pot project is a marker of de­sign flu­ency. 8 Orig­i­nal The abil­ity to see and do things dif­fer­ently, in a ‘new and bet­ter way’. In­house De­sign, for ex­am­ple, con­sis­tently surprises and chal­lenges with their pub­li­ca­tion, brand and pack­ag­ing de­sign. Project re­quire­ments, sifted by in­ge­nious minds, lead to unique in­sights which in turn de­ter­mine clever, re­fined and com­mer­cially vi­able out­comes. No two an­swers are the same.

9 Con­tex­tual

An in­nate sense of time and place. An abil­ity to grasp the global, so­cial, cul­tural and tech­no­log­i­cal changes that are oc­cur­ring, or likely to oc­cur, on a na­tional and in­ter­na­tional scale; and to trans­late what is mean­ing­ful to de­ter­mine what is needed.

10 Ob­ser­vant

Watch­ing and en­gag­ing so as to bet­ter un­der­stand what people think, feel and de­sire. The word ‘em­pa­thy’ is overused but it is ger­mane to bet­ter de­sign. Equally, so is a com­pre­hen­sive con­scious­ness of global is­sues that must be ad­dressed by bet­ter fu­ture think­ing and de­sign.

5 things you pre­dict for 2038 11 The rise of spir­i­tu­al­ity

Psy­chol­o­gists tell us that liv­ing for ‘me now’ leads to empti­ness, a lack of a sense of well-be­ing. People will yearn to find greater mean­ing to life and pur­pose. Where will they turn? To their spir­i­tual needs. The mush­room­ing of tech­nol­ogy, bur­geon­ing sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies, trans­for­ma­tional med­i­cal in­ge­nu­ity and so forth may help with phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial im­prove­ments but that does not nec­es­sar­ily lead to a per­sonal seren­ity and hap­pi­ness. By 2038 people will be more fo­cused on per­ma­nent, less tran­sient, spir­i­tual val­ues.

12 From many to one

People will long for au­then­tic­ity, gen­uine­ness, not what is in vogue. There will be an in­creased fo­cus on per­son­alised de­sign. De­sign crafts­man­ship will be greatly val­ued. Un­der­stand­ing, and know­ing the maker and de­liv­erer will be as im­por­tant as the ob­ject it­self. The om­nipres­ence of tech­nol­ogy will lead to, for ex­am­ple, an in­crease in ser­vices, trans­port, ac­com­mo­da­tion, house­wares, fur­ni­ture that will be tai­lored to meet our per­sonal needs and de­sires.

13 The mak­ing of China

China has be­come the home of on­line sales and trad­ing. Apps like WeChat are be­com­ing dom­i­nant ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing and trans­act­ing. Man­u­fac­tur­ers are shift­ing from be­ing sup­pli­ers to brands to be­com­ing brands in their own right. People are rapidly mov­ing from buy­ing replica prod­ucts to choos­ing by au­then­tic­ity. De­sign judg­ment is ris­ing.

These changes are un­stop­pable. Al­ready China may have tac­ti­cally won the eco­nomic com­pe­ti­tion. By 2038, un­less we are strate­gi­cally very, very smart, the world will be be­holden to the col­lec­tive in­ge­nu­ity of China.

14 The in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of cre­ativ­ity

There is no way that mankind will al­low AI to dom­i­nate de­ci­sion mak­ing and ac­tions to the point that life will be run, in a sense, au­tonomously.

Hu­man in­ge­nu­ity and cre­ativ­ity will in­ten­sify to en­able AI to be more ef­fec­tively em­ployed for the ev­ery­day and repet­i­tive. Gen­er­a­tive de­sign en­ables de­sign­ers and engi­neers, sci­en­tists and med­i­cal spe­cial­ists to set the cre­ative pa­ram­e­ters and make the hard de­sign res­o­lu­tion de­ci­sions while com­put­ing power gen­er­ates myr­iad op­tions to solve the prob­lems. The same thing will hap­pen in mu­sic and vir­tual re­al­ity. No doubt, as Elon Musk and oth­ers be­lieve, we will likely have di­rect brain to com­puter in­ter­faces.

15 XYZ of cities

Un­for­tu­nately more cities will have de­fin­i­tive X and Y bound­aries with a greater Z axis (height). Creep­ing cov­er­age of land with the loss of ameni­ties and en­gage­ment with na­ture will be stopped. Ac­com­mo­da­tion will need to re­turn to fam­ily and so­cial en­gage­ment and, if we can we can make it af­ford­able, the joy of own­er­ship. As is al­ready well un­der­way, trans­port log­i­cally will be­come more shared and on-de­mand.

5 things you wish with 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 semi­in­de­pen­dent arm of the De­sign­ers In­sti­tute of New Zealand (pos­si­bly sup­ported by other or­gan­i­sa­tions) and our key uni­ver­si­ties.

16 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.

17 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.

18 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)

19 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.

20 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 Ja­panesedesigned 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.

5 New Zealand- de­signed things that you love 21 Jamie McLel­lan’s Spar Light

Jamie has an abil­ity to re­duce ob­jects to their min­i­mal essen­tials. A power cord is of­ten em­ployed to hang a light fit­ting. But here the cord is in­te­gral to the floor mounted can­ter­liev­ered light struc­ture. No cord, no struc­ture. Red de­fines it as the source of en­ergy. An ele­gant re­duc­tion­ist struc­ture that brings ‘A Smile in the Mind’* (*McAl­home & Stu­art).

22 An­tipodes wa­ter bot­tle

In a sense it’s ‘noth­ing’, but it's ev­ery­thing in terms of ex­press­ing and car­ry­ing pure min­eral wa­ter. With no em­bel­lish­ments, and min­i­mal graph­ics, the bot­tle de­clares that what’s inside is very good. It’s hon­est. There’s no pre­tence, no gild­ing. What it looks like is what it is. De­sign that’s good to hold, no shout­ing, but there for our ful­fil­ment.

23 Mark Clev­er­ley’s stamps

In 1970 the New Zealand Post Of­fice held a com­pe­ti­tion to de­sign a new set of stamps. Mark’s win­ning de­signs rep­re­sented a com­ing of age of de­sign in this field. Rather than de­pict scenes and in­for­ma­tion re­al­is­ti­cally, Mark abridged his de­signs to graphic shapes, planes, lay­ers and strong colour. The re­sults were strik­ing stamps that re­moved ex­tra­ne­ous in­for­ma­tion and that were fresh, clear and con­tem­po­rary. Mem­o­rable. Fi­nally we had stamps that did us proud, in­ter­na­tion­ally, and rep­re­sented an in­no­va­tive nation. They’re time­less.

24 Paul Ma­son’s de­sign craft

Paul is the con­sum­mate mas­ter crafts­man/de­signer. His at­ten­tion to de­tail is fault­less. What­ever medium he uses he con­trols it. We have a num­ber of Paul’s ob­jects, all have their spe­cial place be­cause of their ma­te­ri­al­ity – in­trin­sic value, crafts­man­ship, vis­ual and tan­gi­ble qual­i­ties. One of his bowls con­stantly pleases me – how could he make some­thing so per­fect, us­ing dif­fer­ent woods and shell to be so durable, so fine to gaze upon, just so beau­ti­ful? Thank good­ness he did.

25 Peter Tasker’s pur­pose­ful de­sign

Al­most ev­ery time my wife Carol and I go across to Aus­tralia we buy, for fam­ily and friends, Tasker’s brush and pan sets. Why? Be­cause this prod­uct is the epitome of pur­pose­ful func­tion­al­ity. It’s pared back to a ro­bust min­i­mum, com­fort­able to hold and hun­gry to pick up the dust and scraps. I of­ten re­flect that the man­u­fac­turer re­ally doesn't know how good the prod­uct is – all of Tasker’s brush de­signs could have a life in Aus­tralia (there’s noth­ing as func­tional, well-con­sid­ered or so proven) and other parts of the world. And it’s pretty darn af­ford­able.

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