Design at the Bottom of the World

13 May 2007|Darrel Rhea

The “Better by Design” conference held in Auckland, New Zealand last week was an impressive event. This was a conference aimed at CEOs to enroll them in adopting design thinking and tools to improve their bottom line. I keynoted this event, and was joined by a strong roster of international and local speakers. The New Zealand government is a primary sponsor (along with industry players) and is taking an enlightened approach to developing their economy’s competitiveness. They understand the importance of design in the export business and are actively supporting the country’s emerging design infrastructure. As evidence of that support, the Minister of the Economy and the Prime Minister each spoke passionately about design at the event.

What impressed me was that the conference organizers didn’t just talk about the importance of design thinking and user-based design tools – they applied these ideas effectively…

They had professional and balanced content that was very relevant to their CEO audience, offering everything from creative inspiration to practical nuts and bolts case studies. The attention to detail was present everywhere I looked: the choice of venue, graphics, signage, gifts, lighting, room design, audio/visual tech support, music, food, interactions, presentations, motion graphics – literally every point of contact with attendees. I have attended scores of conferences recently around the world, and the Better by Design event was one of the best designed and produced events I have been to.

The quality of this event will serve to forward their mission to promote the effectiveness of Design for the New Zealand business community. There is clear progress being made in changing the conversation, and this will pay dividends for the economy. And the impact will extend beyond the impressive list of business and political leaders in attendance — I was hiking in a remote area of the North Island and came on a farmer who, standing shirtless and sweating from his work efforts, said that he had read of the conference and could articulate the key ideas about design! It will be fun to watch this small country’s progress in leveraging industry’s best practices in design. Watch for good things coming from the bottom of the world.

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