Paku Gardening Tools

The very best project in each discipline at the Best Design Awards is awarded the supreme, Purple Pin for work that truly raises the bar for New Zealand design.

Purple Pin 2022
Product: Paku Gardneing Tools
Studio: PAKU

Judge's comments

The judges believed Paku was this year Purple Pin winner as the design for evoking a sense of wonder and learning, of storytelling and adventure. The judges loved the simple yet clever way this toys design drew on inspiration from traditional Māori tools for working the lands yet reimagine that story for today's tamariki giving them fun ways to learn about tradition and where our kai comes from. From the elegantly and playful mouldings to the whimsical product colours inspired by New Zealand’s native vegetables Paku won the judges over.


The what:
The Paku Toki and Timo are a contemporary re-imagining of two traditional Māori agricultural tools.

The why:
We designed the Toki and Timo for one simple reason, we wanted our tamariki to grow up with things that reflect who they are and where they come from.

The how:
We spent over 2 years developing and prototyping the tools. A key question throughout this journey was, how do we engage with mātauranga Māori and Māori communities in a meaningful way. In the first instance, this meant asking Māori whether or not they thought the project was a good one, and if they saw value in the tools we sought to recreate.

In the very early stages, we took rough prototypes to a number of Maori spaces including kohanga reo, wānanga institutions, Massey University’s School of Māori studies and to Tāhuri Whenua Māori food growers association. We also put the prototypes out to a number of our Māori experts in design, education and agriculture. The response to the research was resoundingly positive. So, with support from our communities, we began to dive deeper into the development and refinement of the products.

Since our products are designed for kids, children were involved throughout the entire design process. We wanted to see how they reacted to and used the various prototypes in different settings. As our tools are scaled-down versions of the Māori gardening tools, these feedback loops greatly influenced the final design of the products. Our focus on tamariki also influenced the name of our brand, Paku, which translates to 'small'.

Partnering with a local manufacturer, we identified the waste stream from an existing product (one already made from recycled material). We then grind this plastic down again for use in the Paku toki and timo. While it's a bit harder to design things from a recycled source, the benefits of keeping waste out of our landfill allowed us to stay true to our practice.