The Designers Institute runs many initiatives throughout the year to celebrate the achievements of the design community. 

The Best Design Awards

The Best Design Awards are Australasia’s largest annual showcase of excellence across graphic, spatial, product, interactive and motion design. Year on year, the event grows in both its size and its impact. The Best Effect Award, Ngā Aho Award, and Public Good Award recognise the changing nature of our design industry. You can view all past winners on the Best Design Awards site.

We’ve had a very successful year, and a record breaking amount of entries. View all of the winners on the Best Awards site.

Entries for 2018 open on the 18th April. 

Black Pin Recipients

Each year, the prestigious Black Pins are awarded to individuals for outstanding achievement within the design community.

The John Britten Black Pin is awarded to a designer for their leadership, vision and achievement both in New Zealand and internationally.

The Designers Institute Black Pin is awarded to a member of the Institute who has made a lasting and valuable contribution to the design profession and design culture in New Zealand.

Dan Bernasconi

The recipient of the 2017 John Britten Black Pin will tell you that he’s accepting this award in recognition of his team. That is true to some degree. But every great team needs someone to lead them. And for the design team behind Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup winning boat, that leader is Dan Bernasconi.

As the team’s Technical Director, Dan this year channelled 25 years of study, experience and innovation into one incredible moment - sending a brave and revolutionary boat design flying over the finish line in Bermuda to claim the ultimate sailing prize.

It’s been a long voyage for Dan. But it’s been a straight and purposeful one. Growing up in England, his love of numbers took him to Cambridge University. Drawn to the tangible rather than the abstract, he switched from pure mathematics to engineering and the practical application of maths and physics to design problems.

This soon led to the role that introduced Dan to the world of high-tech sport, as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer for the McLaren Formula One Racing team. 

At McLaren he quickly learned about the day-to-day realities of a being part of a high pressure, high performance design team with a razor sharp focus on winning.

“Good design is having a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve; being open to exploring as wide a realm of solutions as you can; focusing on the best options; and then thoroughly optimising the chosen solution.”

Over the next six years Dan’s own focus became racing simulations and the iterative design process, as every last ounce of speed and performance was coaxed out of the team’s racing car designs. 

At McLaren, he also learned the art of managing engineers, from his boss Dick Glover. As Dan himself admits, great engineers are not necessarily great managers of people. But a key piece of advice from Glover has stayed with him: you will never be able to do all the work you want to do yourself, so view your team as an extension of your own capabilities, giving you the resources to do more of the things you want to do.

Dan Bernasconi always had more of a passion for boats than for cars, however. So after taking time out to complete a PhD in Mathematical Modelling and Aerodynamics, he moved to the world of high performance sailing at the end of 2006 and to Emirates Team New Zealand in 2010, where he has been ever since. 

The team’s win in Bermuda was a triumph for design leadership. Over many long months and thousands upon thousands of simulations, Dan and his team of specialists worked to design the most radical boat they could within the rules. From engineers to management to the amazing sailors, everyone was onboard with their mission; to explore, to be radical, and to win.

From the finely tuned dagger boards to the complex foiling systems required to propel their AC50 to victory, Dan attributes Team New Zealand’s success to an attitude of experimentation and creativity. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that they have their eyes on new horizons. Dan and his team are exploring radical concept designs for their next boat. And a number of his former teammates are now working with Rocket Labs, leaving the water and launching New Zealand’s most cutting edge design work into the heavens.

We asked Dan what good design means to him. His answer encapsulated the thinking of any designer: 

“Good design is having a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve; being open to exploring as wide a realm of solutions as you can; focusing on the best options; and then thoroughly optimising the chosen solution.”

And in the case of Emirates Time New Zealand, that chosen design solution could not have been more effective.

—Mark Easterbrook

Kent Sneddon

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

All Recipients

John Britten Black Pin Designers Institute Black Pin

Danny Coster

Ben Corban


Kris Sowersby

Professor Tony Parker


Matt Holmes

Mark Cleverley


Kent Parker

Cathy Veninga

Grenville Main


Ian Athfield

Sven Baker


Mark Elmore

Fraser Gardyne


Dean Poole

Tim Hooson


Joseph Churchward

Dave Clark


Laurie Davidson

Professor Leong Yap


David Trubridge

Brian Richards


Gary Paykel

Grant Alexander


Mark Pennington

Hugh Mullane & Craig Horrocks


Richard Taylor

Michael Smythe


Peter Haythornthwaite FDINZ

Ray Labone


Ann Robinson

Doug Heath


Humphrey Ikin

Robin Beckett


Bruce Farr

David Bartlett


Karen Walker

John Hughes


Gifford Jackson

Not awarded


John Britten

Max Hailstone

Purple Pin Case Studies

The Best Design Awards is the annual showcase of excellence in graphic, spatial, product and interactive design. The entries judged Best in each category are awarded the Gold Pin. The very best project in each discipline is awarded the supreme, Purple Pin for work that truly raises the bar for New Zealand design.

DINZ Student Council

Today’s design students are tomorrow’s industry professionals. That’s why the DINZ Student Council exists. Its twelve national representatives work to forge stronger links between the bright minds currently studying design and the industry peers, design leaders and potential mentors who will work with them in the future.

The Student Council run several initiatives including Interviews, Folio Nights and Best of the Best Students Speak. 

Learn more about the Council

DINZ Interviews

When the opportunity arises, DINZ interviews leading designers from here and overseas. These interviews seek to dig beneath the surface to address the common and uncommon challenges, problems and opportunities the design community faces.