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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Chairs from Lower Hutt

What do the ZAF chair, the LIFE chair, and the Be chair have in common?   They have all been designed by New Zealand exporting company Formway which is based in Lower Hutt.

The New Zealand School of Export's file on Formway makes very interesting reading with three newspaper articles and one magazine article covering 2008-2011.  In the earliest article the furniture maker had just been awarded the Outstanding Individual Award at the Design in Business Awards.   The company had made a ZAF chair for Prince Philip and a LIFE chair for both Steve Jobs and President Bill Clinton.
The next year 2009 seems to have been a roller-coaster year for Formway with the Be chair winning the Gold Award at the Neo-Con trade show in Chicago.   But just a month later the newspaper article from 1 August reports that the Unemployment axe falls on Lower Hutt companies.  Formway was forced to shed 50 staff but decided to retain its design team.
This year in a survey article on 'design thinking' published in the New Zealand Listener (June 4), Formway features alongwith key NZ companies such as Gallagher, Pacific Aerospace, Howard Wright and Zeacom.   The author Rebecca Macfie reports that Formway's Be chair has generated $60 million in international sales since it was launched in 2009.
So what is this design thinking that had been so crucial to the success of these NZ companies?

The guru of design thinking is Tim Brown (Change by Design) and it is about using intensive observation - of customers and potential customers, work and social patterns, and global trends - to uncover latent needs, and applying teamwork, experimentation and expertise to figure out ways to meet them.

Creative design is becoming a key feature of New Zealand's export products and this blog has earlier posted on the innovatove lighting firm David Trubridge Ltd.

Formway's website is at: http://www.formway.com/ and is well worth looking at with two fascinating case studies.

The Be or Knoll Chair -  Image source: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/136/in-the-hot-seat.html

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