Design Futures Talk

Still in awe of these guys. Having seen both Vincent Egan of Maui Studios and Craig Scott of Otago Museum transition from students to two of Aotearoa’s most amazing creatives blazing their own path in storytelling and experience design. It was a privilege to present alongside them as alumni of Otago Polytechnic (and as former employee) and share our own journeys into the industry, our personal growth, the challenges, the learnings, the rewards, how to stay sane, find inspiration and share a project or 2 in under 5 minutes.

The Design Futures 2020 event was an initiative of Caro McCaw, Academic Leader for Communication and leader of DESIS at Otago Polytechnic. Caro brought us all together to talk to graduating students to discuss and answer their questions about Design Futures at a time where the design and digital industry has never moved faster and youth employment stats have taken a big hit in 2020. The future is in safe hands with these guys though.

Keynote speaker Noel Brown, kick-started the event. In the 70s and 80s he was a Te Reo Māori activist - one of several Pakeha who fought the good fight back then. For many years he led design at furniture company Form-way before moving to DNA, overseeing its development for over twenty years. On quitting the CEO role and becoming a non executive director he now guides and consults to support a new equilibrium with Tangata whenua front and centre. He reflected on our history, how the country was settled, how we self identified, what it multicultural means, our storytelling and our responsibilities looking forward.


Maui Studios illustrations — Image by: Developer Firebrand

Vincent Egan of Maui Studios talked about the importance of immersion during the design process, telling us about the work Maui had been doing with Ian Taylor of Animation Research. Vincent business partner and fellow creative Madison Henry travelled for 8 weeks on a waka navigating by the stars Polynesian ancestors who sailed to Aotearoa from Rarotonga 500 years before captain cook navigating by the stars. You can see more about this incredible story here

Maui Studios are renowned for their illustration and creation of amine inspired maori legend captured in children's books and recent years have evolved into augmented reality graphic novels using AR and VR gamification educating viewers about their whakaapa and expanding their knowledge of Te Reo Māori. Their super hero characters ooze a strong mana and sense of cultural pride. 

This work has resulted in off-shore projects and connections traveling to Japan, China and Asia. These guys are visionaries so if you aren't following them already you should be!

Design Futures Speakers — Image by: Otago Museum

Craig Scott of Head of Exhibitions and Creative Services at Otago Museum career has also been one of growth, having his first exposure to exhibition design while studying at Otago Museum and is now leading the Exhibition and Creative team. Craig talked about what it takes to work to deadlines and fulfill some sometimes rather audacious goals. You can see Craig's passion for what he does and the responsibility for telling the Chills story in an honest and empathetic way really shone through, as did his memories of burnt fingers from the hot glue gun while burning the midnight oil. He also shared with us how he frees his creative side through art and fashion, designing and printing his own fashion range at Guild and his support for other young creatives through Design Kids. 

Image by: Developer Firebrand

Then there was me. Lynda Henderson, Mission Commander. I reflected on a 25+ year career in the creative industry, starting in sign-making trade, the evolution to digital printing and the invention of the internet and the mobile phone. Yeah I know, I’ve been around a while! I did my time as a Senior designer in the Advertising industry before finding myself leading at Otago Polytechnic running a small communication design studio called newSplash giving students and grads there first break working on real, paid projects before in evolved to mark its own mark combining to become workSpace, a well-recognised and award-winning Research and Enterprise facility offering commercial communication, experience, spatial and digital design as well as product design, prototyping and development before finding my way to Firebrand where I deliver design coaching, lead workshops and projects, endeavour to do the right thing, be courageous and make a difference!

I shared our journey to Designing for Social Change and at the start of the year pitching and winning a 3 year contract on a Digital Services Panel for government and the design thinking process we went through and what we learned to create the prototype ‘Eddi, your work and wellness buddy’ designed to help support people into long term employment.

The takeaways...

  • Filter your social channels to the creative things that excite you, don't wait to be inspired, blaze your own trail.

  • Mental health seems to be challenging in our industry. Get others to keep you accountable when you're not looking after yourself as good as you should and call you on your shit.

  • You need to work hard, but know what that ‘something else’ is that fills your cup and do it.

  • Be brave. Talk to people in the industry, having a chat, getting some feedback about a creative piece keeps you memorable and can lead to good things.

  • And use YES and JobDUN off course!