The recipient of the Designers Institute Outstanding Achievement Black Pin for 2017 is Kent Sneddon, the former Creative Director for global bathroom products group, Methven, and one of the most talented and visionary designers of our era: a man who was taken away from us prematurely when he died suddenly in May, 2014.

Kent is best known as the design architect for the Aurora Jet Shower, which turned showering from a daily chore into a luxurious water experience.

Kent graduated from the Wellington School of Design, and first worked with noted designer Peter Haythornthwaite and then Fisher and Paykel where he went on to lead the development of a global strategy for a new generation of appliances and concepts for the company. 

He joined Methven in 2006 and built a design team that developed many innovative technologies, shower products and tapware collections.

During his time at Methven, the design team won Best Design Awards, a Good Design Green Award in the USA and Red Dot Design Awards in Germany. 

But Kent and his team just didn’t design showerheads and taps. As head of design for Methven Kent believed that a designer’s role was to listen and talk to customers. So they researched how people showered and how water spray affected different peoples’ skin. He and his team were also concerned about sustainability and water conservation, and their water saving shower heads were a particular success in the Australian market, where water is short.

Former colleagues said Kent had a great sense of aesthetic and a persistence to make sure the design intent made it through to the final product. He would challenge the boundaries and preconceptions of what could be done.

He had a bold and confident style and was not afraid to use curves and flowing surfaces to express and embody character and personality into the product.His sketching, they said, was phenomenal and he could change the direction of a conversation with a drawing to give clarity to the vision he was describing. 

He was an extremely talented designer and although he had achieved a lot he still had far more to give. His growth and ability to integrate design into business was one of the great success stories for the journey of design led business within NZ.

His passion and enthusiasm was infectious enough to pull everyone else along on the journey, always a combination of hard work mixed with a lot of humour, said friends and colleagues. His casual style created a fantastic team environment and made him fun to work with. The big personality that he was meant that he had a wide reach of influence, making the gap left by his passing a great void. 

His growth and ability to integrate design into business was one of the great success stories for the journey of design led business within NZ.

This year, the Methven celebrates its 130th anniversary and Kent would have been gratified to learn that the company was awarded the Best Shower Brand of the Year in the 2017 Bathroom and Kitchen Update awards in the UK, against such global giants as Grohe.

Kent made a lasting contribution to the design profession in New Zealand, and this award acknowledges that he hadn’t reached his peak and that he would have gone on to develop more innovative and ground-breaking designs. A great talent whose life was cut short.

—Pauline Ray