New Zealand has a reputation for being a particularly independent thinking nation.
It is also known for being relaxed, green and friendly.
These characteristics when combined in a context of design, product development and manufacturing lead to a unique approach to, and understanding of, the term ‘innovation’.
Set at the bottom of the world, nz’s isolation and deprivation in previous decades, has equipped nzers with both an inquisitive mind and an unusual level of self reliance. Innovation of ‘need’ has been substantially replaced by applied innovation in creative and technological contexts. The isolation that used to be seen as a real disadvantage has, through clever marketing and technological change, become one of nz’s strongest assets.
This attitude has affected the way everything is done in nz. From the way children are brought up to social policies that ensure fair treatment for all people, well most people, to the way designers see the world that they contribute to. The ‘can do’ attitude of nzers is what differentiates them from most other cultures and this attitude contributes to the freshness and clarity of designs and designers in nz through natural innovation, previously, the need for innovation.
To challenge convention and not to accept the norm is fundamental to designers, or should be, and this provocative approach to problem solving is enhanced by the social and environmental conditions prevalent in nz through its global location and historic precedents. True innovation only occurs when social conditions support it and when culture and economies benefit from it.
The push towards 2025 in Chinese economic developments has emphasized the need for innovative and creative attitudes to lead the way in the economy of the future. The areas of economic support have been identified by the state council and financial support will be focused towards these emerging and already established businesses. However innovation and creativity do not just happen, the right social and cultural conditions are required to encourage and support these left brain activities.
Reading the brief analysis of the nz design/innovation situation shows one way that an environment that needs, and then supports, innovation can benefit an economy in much the same way China’s leadership is promoting. Within China there should be positive movements in both the economy and education to create an enabling support for creative activity and in this way the seeds of innovation and creative endeavour in all forms can grow to support, not just the economic growth of China, but also the culture and arts of China.
So this week’s chat is to encourage people to become aware of the design work that happens in nz and to use this as a start point for researching social, historical and economic influences in other nations that claim a design or innovation heritage (Italy, France, Scandinavian countries, England etc) .
In this way a deeper knowledge of the importance of design to the expression of nationhood, the identity of cultural strength and importance of geographic influence will help to inform young designers’ development and professionalism. To understand why we do things assists in developing the confidence we need to challenge the how we do them.
For further information about design and designers in New Zealand check these links: