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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore to tātou waka e ū ki uta

New Zealand By Design: A history of New Zealand product design

Resource review


New Zealand By Design is a comprehensive account of the history of product design in New Zealand, from early Maori innovation, through the arrival of European settlers and into the 21st century. Industrial designer Michael Smythe discusses the political, economic and social influences of the times, and how designers responded to these challenges.

Curriculum/Qualifications links

The book links with all three strands of the Technology curriculum and fits particularly well with the Nature of Technology. Teachers of Social Sciences, Business Studies, Maori, Art and English will also find this book useful.


An extensive amount of material is covered in the 500 pages, from the functional, yet still decorative, products developed by early Maori/Europeans to the more artistic kinetic sculptures created by Len Lye in the 20th century. Smythe looks at a vast range of products/outcomes – kete, clothing, furniture, baking powder, agricultural products, transport, pottery, toys, electric appliances, compost bins, and online marketing, for example – and considers how the designers responded to changes in society and events such as the arrival of European settlers, economic depressions and two world wars.

The book looks at issues such as IP and patents, government protection and free markets; the growth of design schools in the late 1800s through to the university industrial design courses in the late 1900s; and at initiatives such as the Woolmark symbol, Design Awards, export conferences and Buy New Zealand Made campaign

Ease of use

The attractive cover means anyone picking up the book will start flicking through and inevitably pause to look at an interesting image. Although set out in chronological order, the book is interesting enough that a reader might look at a photo caption and start reading from there.

Students researching a specific designer, company or product can look at the index or skim through the relevant chapter.


This book contains such a wealth of information that it's difficult to do it justice in just one page. It would be an asset in any Technology classroom and also deserves a place on home bookshelves. Read it!

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