Hot New Things 2020 – Kees Bakker, AUT

2 years ago by

Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects and dreams for the future.

Today we speak with Kees Bakker from AUT

Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?

Growing up in a time where I was able to watch Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc. orchestrate product design that changed the world was a great inspiration to me. Growing up in a time where I was able to see Uber CEO Travis Kalanick globalise the ride-sharing industry with the use of UX strategy was also inspirational. My decision to pursue design was because I want to communicate and influence and create impactful design that can help shape the future.

You completed your full time studies at the end of 2019. Can you tell us what your final year’s project focussed on?

My project Te pūrākau ō Māui rāua ko Mahuika focused on interactive storytelling of a traditional Maori legend, the story of how Maui brought fire to the world. The project is centred around the Maori tradition of oral storytelling within Māori culture and aims to bring interactivity, contemporaneity and accessibility of a traditional Māori story, for Māori who reside in an urban environment.

What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?

The most exciting discovery was the seeing the effect of adding Te Reo narration to the experience. When I facilitated user-testing it was something that the Māori participants really liked as it added a greater level of authenticity and value for Māori.

What did you love doing most?

What I loved most was facilitating the user-testing sessions through the development of the project. It was really enjoyable watching and listening to participants engage with the prototypes up until it’s final iteration.

What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge would definitely be time management. I started studying two degrees concurrently at AUT; a Bachelor of Design, and then a Bachelor of Business that I will have completed at the end of 2020. Managing my time between the two degrees was very difficult, it’s a totally different mindset shifting from studying a design paper one day to a business paper the next day. However, I would like to say it has made me become an organised and adaptive individual.

How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?

The ability to adapt, experiment and strategise I felt has grown significantly since my first year at AUT. This is because of the need to collaborate with a variety of people throughout projects. Collaborating with peers was definitely one of my favourite things about studying at AUT.

How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?

I see my design practice developing through continuous learning of new skills, collaboration and networking with other creatives. I have recently started learning processing (a programming language and integrated development environment) which has enabled me to build interactive user experiences utilising sensory devices. My main aspiration at the moment is to network with other like-minded individuals and collaborate on some projects together.

Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?

I would say Te pūrākau ō Māui rāua ko Mahuika, the interactive Māori story. I am proud of this project because I am of Māori descent and I felt as if working on this project brought me closer to my own culture.

What does your dream job look like?

My dream is not to work for someone but to have the ability to found my own design and creative technology lab; helping developing products, brands and emerging technology meet unmet needs.

Why did you choose to study at your design school, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?

I chose to study at AUT because I was able to do a double degree programme. and I am glad I chose AUT because the students, lecturers and all of the staff are friendly and supportive. I have taken away many valuable life lessons, close friends, and I now know that I have become a part of the AUT alumni family, which is truly an awesome thing to have.

Where to next for you? What does 2020 hold?

In 2020 I am completing a Bachelor of Business which I hope leads me on towards my path as an entrepreneur. However at the moment I’m Currently, I’m also seeking out the right creative environment to work in. I would love to work for an innovative start-up part time (while I am studying) in a place like Icehouse, or the GridAKL.

How can people get in touch and see more of your work?

To get in touch contact me through

To check out what I am all about my instagram handle is: @keesbakker_

And my current website:


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