Innovative Experimentation: 10 Designers from New Zealand

Designers in New Zealand, regardless of their particular school of design, are looking at materials in new and exciting ways / Pixabay
Designers in New Zealand, regardless of their particular school of design, are looking at materials in new and exciting ways / Pixabay
Photo of Sophie Finney
18 December 2016

Designers in New Zealand, regardless of their particular school of design, are looking at materials in new and exciting ways. From up-cycling in architecture to ethically sourced bamboo for lighting, New Zealand’s designers are at the forefront of material innovation.

New Zealand is a country famed as a destination for thrill seekers, in pursuit of high octane activities such as bungee Jumping. However it is also a country that is producing some wonderful designers with great ideas regarding the innovative use of materials. Whether this is exploring ways of using materials in unusual ways, or up-cycling pre-existing items to create new products or spaces, these designers really are thinking outside of the box. Working across a whole range of different design professions, this lateral way of thinking is producing some exciting prototypes, products, and ideas.

©Bonnifait and Giesen

Bonnifait + Giesen

Founded in 2001 by Cecile Bonnifait and William Giesen, Atelierworkshop is an architectural firm based in Wellington, New Zealand. Both Bonnifait and Giesen trained as architects, but have very different and diverse architectural experiences around the world, in both a professional and research based faculty. With an approach that is orientated towards reconnecting people with their surroundings in a physical as well as cultural context, it is unsurprising that they experiment with up-cycling and material reuse in some of their projects. This is certainly the case in Port-a-Bach, a prototype for a portable home that is secure and finished to a high, and environmentally clean, level. Comfortably sleeping two adults and two children, and comparatively inexpensive, this is a clever way of creating a smart, even if temporary, living-space.


David Trubridge

Product designer David Trubridge boasts of extremely good eco credentials. At every stage of his design process, he aims to minimise the environmental footprint of the product. As a result great care goes into selecting the materials for his products, for example the design team uses bamboo sourced ethically from farmed forests in China. Additionally they use an E0 rated glue, meaning it contains no formaldehyde, thus causing less harm to the environment. Trubridge’s Green ethic has also led him to redesign a number of his lighting solutions into ‘kitsets’ to be assembled by the consumer, thus enabling them to be sent flat-packed, saving space and therefore energy in transportation. Inspired by the flora and fauna of New Zealand and Australia, these kitset lamps are both beautifully designed, as well as eco-friendly.

©Studio Gascoigne

Studio Gascoigne

Working with numerous leading retailers in New Zealand, and winner of multiple awards, Studio Gascoigne is a multi-talented design studio that works across architecture, Interior Design, Branding and Identity. Creating high end interiors for stores, Studio Gascoigne believes that good design is instrumental to increasing sales for its clients. Maintaining a close relationship with its clients is key to creating a successful and aesthetically pleasing interior. Always exploring new approaches to retail design, in 2011 Studio Gascoigne collaborated with Designworks to create the interior for Telecom New Concept Store in Victoria St, with the intention to create a new way for retailing technology. Combining a brightly colored and open space with some high tech features, it is unsurprising that this store won Gold at the BeST Awards in the Retail Environment category.



Established in 2011, Resident is a contemporary design and manufacturing company from New Zealand that authentically combines craft, engineering, and innovation to produce a simple, functional, and elegant range of furniture and lighting. With an eclectic team of inspired designers, Resident champions New Zealand based manufacturing and aims to explore new materials and processes. In the same year that Resident formed, they exhibited their inaugural furniture and lighting collection at designjunction during the London Design Festival. With them, the team brought a fresh perspective to the European design scene with regards to material usage, as well as the way in which space is interpreted. Resident’s aim is to produce iconic products that can stand the test of time; additionally, the majority of the products can be flat-packed, thus lessening the impact on the environment caused by transport.



Headed up by brother and sister Pippin and Ella Wright-Stow, F3 is a family run design firm who create innovative, practical, yet playful products for the home. Running alongside the manufacture of products are various other design practices, including architecture, exhibition, and graphic design. In 2011 F3 came up with an innovative way in which to make use of old agricultural grain silos, by converting them into eco-friendly and affordable accommodation complexes. These accommodation units fit in with the company’s passion for environmental sustainability; they have even created an energy unit which houses a gravity-fed wood pellet boiler that heats the entire complex. Sitting within its own silo, it has been custom designed with glazed panels so that visitors can see how it work.

©Timothy John

Timothy John

The eponymous product design studio Timothy John is truly a marvel of exploratory design techniques, always trying to push the boundaries of creativity, creating new ideas yet simultaneously respecting the old. Dedicated to exploring and using materials to their full potential, John creates unusual and wonderful furniture, combining materials that aren’t often thought of as suitable for the purpose at hand. For example Timothy John has used woven strips of felt to form various objects from lighting, to clocks, to dining room tables. More recently, he has created a product that have been inspired by the glass beakers found in science labs, entitled Sidekick. With a powder coated steel base, and a top made from either Ash wood or hand-turned cork, this product is easily stackable and multifunctional, doubling as both a stool or side table.



The husband and wife team behind Designtree are passionate about creating products that are socially and environmentally ethical. They develop innovative lighting and furniture that is suitable for both homes as well as businesses. As well as creating their own products, they also work on commission, collaborating closely with a variety of clients on their projects. In order to ensure the eco credentials of their products, the Designtree duo search at great length for materials that adhere to their strict green ethics; additionally, they make all their products locally in New Zealand, thus ensuring social sustainability within their own country. All of this is apparent in the Frankie Lamp series, formed of a felt lamp shade made from recycled plastic, and a responsibly sourced timber base. The lamp is also non-toxic and non-allergenic, thus ensuring that it is also safe for human use.


Hakaraia Designs

Drawing heavily from Maori traditions and cultural narratives for inspiration, Hakaraia Designs explores how the traditions can be translated into contemporary design pieces without losing the Maori sensibilities. Combining modern production techniques with traditional designs, David Hakaraia, who founded the company, has a personal interest in the narratives that he uses in his work, as they related to his own Maori heritage. Entitled Waka Whakaka, the lamps Hakaraia produces are laser-cut LED lamps that, when turned off, look fairly ordinary. However, when turned on, the intricate koru patterns are revealed on the elliptical wooden panels that form the lamp. These lamps are not simply well designed lighting solutions, they are beautiful works of art that pay tribute to an important cultural heritage within New Zealand.



Founded by husband and wife Jelle Nijdam and Helen Stipkovits, Joug design is a family run business based on the south coast of Wellington overlooking the Cook Strait in New Zealand. Unsurprisingly, the designers take inspiration from their beautiful surroundings, from the coastline to the Kaikoura mountain range on the South Island, just visible on a clear day. Stating that they are particularly drawn to the golden proportions and mathematical equations found in flora and fauna, such as Fibonacci number sequences, Joug then translates these into an exquisite range of lighting designs. As well as being inspired by nature, Joug does its best to protect nature; sourcing materials from around Australasia, they aim to leave as low a carbon footprint as possible. Additionally, the plastic used by Joug contains a 30% – 40% recycled component, and any waste in the manufacturing process is sent to a plastic recycling plant.

©Fletcher Systems

Fletcher Systems

Established in 1999 by New Zealand designer Fletcher Vaughan, Fletcher Systems is recognised and respected throughout New Zealand as well as internationally for creating creative and original furniture, product design, and even public sculpture. Specialising in the design and supply of contemporary commercial furniture for offices and public spaces such as airports or retail, Fletcher Systems offers custom design and manufacturing services to both commercial and domestic clients alike. An example of design specific for public spaces is the Why modular ottoman system, which can be used as stand-alone seats or be grouped together. Its tri-armed shape, sturdy frame and high quality flame retardant foam makes it an idea seating solution for public spaces. Manufacturing its products within New Zealand is something that is immensely important to the company; additionally Fletcher Systems aims to support other up and coming designers within New Zealand.

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