Design-led Manufacturing To Create Our Future

Why is design-led high-value manufacturing so important?

That’s one of the big questions being explored at “Manufacturing our future”, an exhibition and speaking series organised by Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) from 4 – 30 September.

The exhibition comes from the passion of Simon Fraser, Professor of Industrial Design at VUW. Simon’s career spans the globe and he is an Associate Director of the MedTech Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE) and leading investigator of Design & Manufacturing Technology Platform.

Design is a key element in medical devices and digital health to ensure the technology is useful in its environment, friendly to end-users and will be adopted to provide the health outcomes envisaged.

“What we have now is an opportunity to redefine what high-value manufacturing is in a New Zealand context, rather than watching the likes of Silicon Valley, Finland and Israel from the side-lines,” he says.

Fleshing out this context are the two exhibitions at “Manufacturing our future”, one looking back and one looking forward.

“We have a retrospective of Peter Haythornthwaite’s work, a man who is arguably our most high-profile industrial designer. For example, we can all relate to the now-ubiquitous Kiwifruit spoon-knife found in Zespri fruit packs, or the Wella hairbrush, or the Crown Lynn Country Kitchen collection.

“The second exhibition responds to this by looking forward, to opportunities where design and science can collaborate.”

Professor Fraser says New Zealand comes from a design history of improvisation, functional engineering and practical solutions, a history where the human focus wasn’t regarded as relevant or necessary.

“NZ had a very protected manufacturing industry and it was only the change to the market led economy in the mid-80s, when manufacturing migrated offshore, and when our domestic market opened up to imported products that we got greater awareness of what design could bring.”

He believes New Zealand must find niche markets or products where our geographic location – or isolation – and our resources and our expertise align., and he cites Rocket Lab as a great example of this.

But, it’s the human interface, or emotional aspect, that’s crucial when it comes to health technology. Professor Fraser cites the PodMRI transportable scanner project in collaboration with the Robinson Research Institute.

“There are significant benefits with a mobile scanner, but we also have to create positive experiences for what might otherwise be an intimidating process.”

In carving out a niche for Victoria University in the healthcare sector we are keen to seek design-led applications of the technologies that emerge from the Medtech CoRE while calling on the CMDT networks to bring them to market – and in doing so, creating a regional hub of national, and ultimately international significance.

The exhibition, supported by social media and a customised website, provides a canvas on which we can start drawing the future.

Manufacturing our Future: 4 ‒ 30 September

  • Design Generation: how Peter Haythornthwaite shaped New Zealand’s design-led enterprise

  • Future Design Generation: how VUW will shape New Zealand’s future design-led enterprise

More information about public presentations and invitational workshops.

By Prue Scott

Design Generation: Peter Haythornthwaite