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, digital, motion design, product and spatial along with the Value of Design Award, Public Good Award and the Toitanga award recognise the changing nature of our design industry. Year on year, the event grows in both its size and its impact.

View all of the 2019 winners on the Best Awards site.

Black Pin Recipients

Each year, the prestigious Black Pins are awarded to individuals for outstanding achievement within the design community. In 2019 DINZ introduced the Value of Design Black Pin.

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.

Liz and Neville Findlay

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

Speech presented by Designers Institute Black Pin 1999 recipient, Karen Walker.

I remember New Zealand in 1979. I was only 9 but that was old enough to be cognitive of a general beige-ness, blandness, flatness.

Politically we were deep in the grips of Muldoon-ism with no respite on the horizon.

There were four types of cheese in the shops - if you were lucky.  There might have been one coffee machine in all of Auckland. A dinner out was a treat saved for birthdays and there was a massive choice of Cobb & Co., Tony’s Steak House or The Top Of The Town.

In wider news, 1979 offered us the Erebus disaster, the pardoning of Arthur Allan Thomas and the murder of Mr Asia.

Economically, inflation and unemployment were high. The economy was fully regulated, sheltered and unresponsive to consumers. It meant controlled interest rates and foreign exchange rates.  Perhaps the most strongly felt effect of a controlled economy was the controlled imports with only a favoured few with licenses to import being able to do so.  That meant, well, you just couldn’t find anything decent to buy and, if you could, it was hugely expensive.

It was a huge deal in my household when we got a colour TV. That’s because, in today’s money, it would have cost over $8,000. And, there were only two TV channels to watch. And, all they played was The Dog Show and The Good Life. 

I remember the challenge of just getting a Levi’s denim jacket in the early ‘80s.  You couldn’t. It’s unthinkable now, but you just couldn’t buy anything then. Back in the late-‘70s and early-‘80s my grandmother used to go on  annual shopping trips to Norfolk Island! I mean, can you think of anything more depressing than going to Norfolk Island to shop. Whilst cleaning out my mother’s house a few years ago I came across a notebook my grandmother had kept on one of these trips listing every cardigan, nightie, set of sheets and Oroton handbag she’d bought.  God help us!  What a grey and grim place New Zealand was that the shopping in Norfolk Island was better!

And so, when Zambesi opened, in 1979 it was different.  So different. It was eye-opening and exciting and broke all the rules and set a new paradigm. It questioned what fashion looked like. It questioned what retail looked like. It was one of the first seeds in creating a culture that loved fashion, design and the arts and questioned constantly what they were.  Zambesi were one of the very first explorers to really question what design, fashion, culture could be for us here. Their approach to the world of fashion paved the way for a whole community to grow. I cannot over-state how critical they were to seeding the culture we now all benefit from. 

Liz and Neville, my thanks to you both for paving the way for my own brand to take it first steps on. Without the work you have done in the decade before I came along there would not have been the listening for indie fashion that there was in my nascency. And, my thanks and congratulations on four decades of questioning and raising the bar and dedicating yourselves to growing a community that values taste and design. All New Zealanders who have a love of design, art and culture owe you a debt of gratitude.

Jonathan Custance

The Designers Institute Black Pin for Outstanding Achievement is given to the individual who has made a lasting contribution to the design profession and to design in general.

Jonathan Custance is an instrumental figure within the interior industry and various design communities since the early 80s. He has been an advocate of good commercial design and inspired creative thinking, stressing that it needn’t be accessible for just boutiques and corporate interiors.

He setup the Wellington Committee in 1985, and ran this for a number of years. During the same period, he was also a member of the NZ Society of Industrial Designers. He highlighted the importance of bringing different design groups together to create a single voice, a stronger voice, particularly into government and the wider public. The Society negotiated with the Interiors Association into joining together, and like that, the Designers Institute of New Zealand was incepted in 1991.

Jonathan’s colleagues recall discussions from an early DINZ event, which introduced the concept of the Internet, and how a search engine called Google worked. They thought that one day this may be a useful tool for designers. And how very right they were. 

He has always been dedicated to DINZ and used to really stretch his time during the early phases, ensuring that Wellington design had a voice and was represented in Auckland. Although sometimes pushing this a little too far – once surviving a crash on the icy desert road racing to an institute meeting.

During the 90’s, the “Best Student” awards began and Jonathan undertook the sponsorship for spatial students. Since then, some 25 years later, he has consistently sponsored the Best Students, and the associated prize money.

In 1995 he was awarded the “Stringer Award”, which we now know as the Purple Pin, and has also featured as a spatial judge.

Jonathan’s contribution to the industry and the institute has been significant, and in recognition, has been awarded the Designers Institute Black Pin for 2020.

All Recipients

Designers Institute Black Pin John Britten Black Pin Value of Design Black Pin

Jonathan Custance

Liz and Neville Findlay


Annie Dow

Clive Fugill

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare


Rik Campbell and Steve Le Marquand


Kent Sneddon

Dan Bernasconi


Ben Corban

Danny Coster


Professor Tony Parker

Kris Sowersby


Mark Cleverley

Matt Holmes


Cathy Veninga

Grenville Main

Kent Parker


Sven Baker

Ian Athfield


Fraser Gardyne

Mark Elmore


Tim Hooson

Dean Poole


Dave Clark

Joseph Churchward


Professor Leong Yap

Laurie Davidson


Brian Richards

David Trubridge


Grant Alexander

Gary Paykel


Hugh Mullane & Craig Horrocks

Mark Pennington


Michael Smythe

Richard Taylor


Ray Labone

Peter Haythornthwaite FDINZ


Doug Heath

Ann Robinson


Robin Beckett

Humphrey Ikin


David Bartlett

Bruce Farr


John Hughes

Karen Walker


Not awarded

Gifford Jackson


Max Hailstone

James Coe


John Britten

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.


To The Floor - The Lifeforce

To The Floor is a design competition brought to you by
Milliken-Ontera to create a design that is to be translated for commercial environments.

The design theme for this competition was inspired by the circular flow of our living systems. Creating a rhythm between all living things, restoring and regenerating with each flow.

The winner will work with Milliken-Ontera's creative director to develop a carpet tile collection that will be manufactured and sold globally earning the winner 3% on sales.

See Winner Here 

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.

DINZ Podcast Series

Through the podcast series we will be bringing you insights, stories and reflections from our community.

D.Cast Episodes

DINZ Check-in

Check In is a page where we showcase things of interest in our community.

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