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 2017 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.

Danny Coster

Industrial designer Danny Coster receives the 2016 John Britten Black Pin for outstanding leadership, vision, creativity and achievement in the field of design. Coster spent 20 years on the Apple Design team and is now Vice President of Design and Creative Strategy at GoPro, yet his links to New Zealand remain strong. 

Coster’s career began with a job in his father’s hardware store in Mount Eden, Auckland. While mixing paint and cutting timber, he also helped customers find creative ways to solve their DIY problems. At home, he was surrounded by his mother’s paintings of landscapes, still lifes and abstract subjects. His childhood was defined by design and craft, and he often found himself in the art department at high school while his mates were on the sports field. 

Coster left school at age 17 for an internship in Tony Winter’s retail design studio in New Lynn. This led him to pursue an industrial design diploma at Wellington Polytechnic. “I always liked complex problems,” explains Coster. “And it was the multifaceted aspects of the profession that drew me in.” 

At Wellington Polytechnic, Coster learnt how to translate ideas into process. Academic projects led to a real-world contract in which he and his schoolmate John Woolett were tasked with redesigning the entire range of Hutchwilco life jackets. This experience was his launching pad to a job at KWA Design Group in Sydney. 

“I had to develop my own point of view,” says Coster. “It was a time to work out how I could add value to the conversation. Humility was my foundation, and it allowed me to contribute in a way that served me well in the years to come.”

After four years in Australia, Coster set his sights on America. Apple offered him a position in 1996—about a year before Steve Jobs returned to transform the company into one of the most innovative and successful consumer brands on the planet. In his time at Apple, Coster worked on the design team led by Jony Ive and contributed to the design direction for a wide range of iconic Apple products. 

“Apple was the ultimate environment for elevating design,” says Coster. “They were so supportive of what could be quite fragile ideas that, if they had not been given the space and time, might never have come to life. It was a blessing to be with a wonderful company with such good friends and inspiring leadership.”

Coster is discerning about the future of technology and its impact on people’s lives. “Design can foster an intimacy that has been lost through technology,” he says. “Today, we can be in touch with anyone, anywhere, at any time, but it’s fleeting. If design could bring more compassion to how we share, and help us be more present with one another, well, that would be a big deal.”

—Andrea Stevens

Ben Corban

Ben Corban receives the Outstanding Achievement Black Pin for his commitment to promoting design as a tool for change, for his role in ensuring that Alt Group’s business is kept on an even keel, and for nurturing the young designers who have come through the studio doors – and stayed.

Corban knows a thing or two about hard work. His Lebanese great-grandparents were pioneers, founding Corbans Wines in the rugged gum lands of West Auckland in 1902. Two generations hence, and the family work ethic remains strong. “They started a commercial winery in an industry that was in its infancy in New Zealand,” says Corban. “We were brought up to understand the energy and perseverance it takes to build something. But to also love what you do – because you spend a lifetime doing it.”

Corban didn’t go the winemaking way. He studied painting at Elam School of Fine Arts and Goldsmiths, University of London. The art world was booming in the mid-nineties when he was in London, and he watched while the YBA movement turned traditional arts practice on its head. “When Damien Hirst sold his preserved shark to Charles Saatchi, he sold the idea of the work first,” says Corban. “That transaction was fascinating. It was the inverse of traditional arts practice.”

Corban and his friend Dean Poole were so taken by this creative model that they returned to New Zealand and in 1999 set up a design company with a difference. They would present clients with a strong idea and then develop the most appropriate execution of it ­– across multiple disciplines and media. They operated at the intersection of design, culture and business, with the ethos that it’s not what design is, it’s what design does that counts. 

Alt Group was founded as a classic start-up in a garage in Grey Lynn. They read lots of books, learnt quickly and began by doing work initially for people they knew. Every job was important and each job led to the next. And the rest, as they say, is history. Seventeen years later, Alt Group is New Zealand’s most awarded design company, having won over 450 local and international design awards, including eight Purple Pins, 30 Red Dots and the German Design Award. Corban is now managing director, and responsible for a multidisciplinary team of 24 strategists, designers and content developers, who work across New Zealand and on an increasing number of international projects.

“Design is a process of not knowing and finding out,” says Corban. “And when you say that to a client, it can be reasonably confronting. But, simply, that is the process. We bring collective experience and an objective point of view to an organisation, along with established systems and processes. The steps, jumps and leaps forward happen from the intersection of different perspectives and ways of thinking. Design can be used to generate insights, give form to ideas and make thinking visible.”

As an artist first drawn to commerce, he now draws commercial clients to creative thinking. And with the firm belief that creativity is as important as any profession around the board table, Alt Group engages businesses with design even before a new product or service is invented. “There is an inherent tension in every organisation between the preservation of what’s now and the invention of what’s next. One is about control, analysis and optimisation, the other is about exploration, creation and vision – survival and ultimately success requires both.”

“We live in a time where change is not only constant, but more amplified than it’s ever been,” says Corban. “Design, as one of the drivers for innovation, is now more important than ever.”

—Andrea Stevens

All Recipients

John Britten Black Pin Designers Institute Black Pin

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

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.