Design Finally Coming of Age

In 2015 we shouted about our love of the design thinking and process behind a new national flag of New Zealand

Flag Blog

I have harped on for many years about how the power of design to impact positively on our lives and even to engage in politics is underrated. I grew up at a time and went to school when design wasn’t considered a career for people from my background and in fact I doubt if the word design was ever used in my household or at school.

For many years now, at HemingwayDesign we have had a strapline “Design is about improving things that matter in life” and I have often been questioned about the value of having this attached to a design brand. However so much now points to the power of design to improve our lives and to get us engaged in things that matter.

Ever since Hilary Cottam (then of the Design Council) won Designer of the Year in 2005, for her “achievements in championing higher standards of design and the development of new design thinking in schools, prisons, the health service and other areas of the public sector” (and boy didn’t this create a furore in the industry!) the Design Council has championed service design and correctly sought to widen the perception of design from being a “nice to have” to something vital to our wellbeing. The Design Council website is happily awash with this thinking from Design for Care to Reducing Violence and Aggression in A & E. 

At Imperial College NHS Trust they have brought in designers to simplify what was a complicated pathway for patients with breast cancer. Many patients have been confused about the care and no wonder as when all the paperwork was laid out it covered a table two metres by four metres! Designer have come up with a simple leaflet for breast, bowel and brain cancer patients that is revolutionising understanding…a simple leaflet!

In the health sector another design initiative is exciting me. I know from my own experience as a dad how young children with breathing issues & asthma have difficulty using peak flow meters (to measure lung capacity). A “genius” idea is getting round this. Helix have come up with the idea of a whistle linked to a smartphone, called Floot, which measures peak flow via the pitch of the whistle. Floot is clearly great fun for kids to use and I look forward to hearing those whistles in doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. It is likely to revolutionise things.

In New Zealand the proposed re-design of the national flag is engaging a wide number of the population both in design and politics. This wonderfully brave government led project has really caught the public’s attention and the long list has been narrowed down to a shortlist of five

Flag Blog

The five designs are to be put to a public vote in November and then the winner will go up against the current flag in a referendum.

Flag Blog

The New Zealand government says “At times New Zealanders have talked about change. Designs have been put forward but there has never been an official public discussion about the future of our flag.”

This is a design competition helping to get a population to talk about its national identity, about its links to the UK and it will help engage millions in politics. It is going to be a fascinating process.


“If I were a Kiwi I would vote for the new flag.”