“looking into the rear-view mirror”: Peter Haythornthwaite, Design Generation 

3 years ago by

Written by Lana Lopesi

Graphic Matters is a monthly column on issues and ideas related to New Zealand Design Culture

We’re in the last few weeks of Peter Haythornthwaite: Design Generation a major survey exhibition of “one of New Zealand’s most influential industrial designers” currently on at Objectspace. Curated by design historian Michael Smythe, the exhibition which opened on the 3rd of March focuses “on the output of his prolific design practice over forty years. The examples of product design, branding and experience design will be familiar to many who have never had reason to consider how they were created. From ideation sketches to form models and working prototypes, Haythornthwaite’s creative process illuminates the professional skill-set of the hands-on pre-computer era.”

Peter Haythornthwaite: Design Generation is the sixth commissioned project in Objectspace’s Masters of Craft series. The series which honours a significant design practitioner and industry leader whose enduring impact has reached well beyond New Zealand has previously featured Richard Parker (2011), Kobi Bosshard (2012), Nanette Cameron (2013), Mark Cleverley (2014) and Susan Holmes (2016).

While the exhibition is soon to leave us to join the archive of canonical single designer surveys we are left with a design object in and of itself, a book entitled Design Generation: how Peter Haythornthwaite shaped New Zealand’s design-led enterprise. The book is also written by Smythe with an additional text by Michael Barrett and foreword by Objectspace Director Kim Paton. The publication tracks Haythornthwaite’s “career through childhood influences, education in Auckland and Illinois, work experience in California and New York, and teaching and consultant practice back in New Zealand.” It also highlights his role in elevating New Zealand design education, through “successful design integration initiatives in New Zealand and Victoria”.

In Barrett’s essay, he includes a quote from Haythornthwaite about the need to move away from money concerned design and instead concentrate on “…what we can take to the world”. This sense of optimism and desire for innovation is laden throughout the mammoth historical account of Haythornthwaite’s professional life. A large chunk of the book is a timeline-like record of his design outcomes. Providing unique insights into his creations which most of us take for granted as household objects like the ‘spife’ that comes with your Zespri kiwifruit or the Raven Mop-a-Matic.

Judging by my choice of topic for this month’s Graphic Matters as well as last months, you may have garnered the importance I place on building a design history, well actually design histories for that matter. For that reason, Peter Haythornthwaite: Design Generation the exhibition and the book are both invaluable contributions to that historical legacy. A massive acknowledgement goes out to Michael Smythe and Objectspace for bringing this all together, and without moving on too quickly from this current project, I wait with anticipation for the next Master of Craft series.


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