Autumn Conversations: Meet the Wellington panel, Wednesday 21 April 2021

6 months ago by

WELLINGTON DA Event: Autumn Conversations – The Business of Design Today

April 21 @ 6:00 pm8:00 pm
Optimal Workshop, 25 Courtenay Place

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One year on from the emergence of Covid-19 in Aotearoa and we have all been affected by the global pandemic in many and different ways. It’s time to check with you all and ask how are you doing? How is your studio or practice going?

Join your professional local community as we navigate the topic of The Business of Design amidst Covid-19.

It’s hard enough finding your way as a designer but how do you create and maintain a thriving business that aligns with your life? We’ll hear from our local panel as they share their stories, tips and tricks that have helped them navigate the last year in the business of design.  The Christchurch panel will feature:


Facilitator: Donna Maxwell, Founder, Running Mate

Donna was an owner and director of DNA for 10+ years. The last three years of her tenure at DNA were in the role of General Manager, responsible for ensuring the agency was well-designed to hit both commercial and strategic goals.

Donna now runs a consultancy called Running Mate, which she set up to help business owners and leaders grow and sustain good businesses. Donna offers coaching, strategic consulting, project-based work and business-sitting. She also has multiple governance positions.

This year, Donna will be leading DA’s new Business of Design workshop series in Auckland. This series of three workshops will help studios large or small with continuous improvement of the things that keep an agency running well. Register to attend one, or all three in Auckland.

Matt Innes – Strategic Partner, Strategy Creative

Matt is Strategic Partner at Strategy Creative, an award winning creative agency. Currently based in Wellington he works with a wide variety of clients from start-ups and not-for-profits to government agencies and private businesses.

Before deciding to call Wellignton home, Matt worked for world renowned creative agencies in Sydney on some of Australia and New Zealand’s most influential brands.

Despite calling himself a generalist, Matt would admit that branding is his first love in the world of creativity. He believes that when done right, a brand can make many other elements of a business significantly more effective.

Ralph Johns – CEO, Isthmus Group

Ralph takes care of the business—he leads the strategic direction of Isthmus. As a landscape architect Ralph has won a number of industry awards. He was the driving force behind the Isthmus book, Coast Country Neighbourhood City. As Isthmus’ design-led CEO since 2014, Ralph has led the practice through a period of rapid growth. Ralph ensures that Isthmus stays grounded, committed to purpose, and keeps an eye firmly fixed on the horizon. Ralph lives in Wellington, works in Auckland and rides a bicycle whenever he can.

Liane Gee – Fortyfive Design Studio

Liane McGee, holds a BA English Literature, Library Diploma, Wellington Polytechnic Foundation course and Diploma of Visual Communication Design. She spent 7.5 years as a student and “everything I have done has added to the designer I am now. Nothing is wasted even though at the time you might think it is!” Liane spent the last 13 years doing her best to master work-life balance. “When I started Fortyfive Design in 2007 it was all about doing the opposite of what I found working in larger design studios. Less hours slaving over a computer, a more relaxed and accessible approach to client relationships and the freedom to do things in my own way. It has taken a while to get the balance right, as being a designer does not necessarily make you a good business person, but it’s been worth every minute! Love what you do!”


Kanhika Nikram – Lead Experience Designer, Springload

Kanhika is an experienced human-centred designer, passionate about early stage research, ideation, and testing. She’s well-versed in design thinking processes, ethnographic and customer research, qualitative analysis, and rapid prototyping.

Kanhika received a fellowship to study on Stanford University’s Graduate Design Program, and a scholarship for SIGM at the Stanford Business School. She’s run a mobile dating startup in California and developed educational tools with Mumbai-based IL&FS Education. Before Springload, she worked as a senior experience designer at PwC on projects for ACC and the Ministry of Health.

Creativity is in Kanhika’s blood. She makes short films, and is working toward curating a show of her ceramic jewellery creations. To refuel, she’s never far from a cup of tea. Or a dram of whiskey.

Julie Reddish – People Experience Officer, Optimal Workshop

Julie Reddish is the People Experience Officer at Optimal Workshop. She works with innovative tech companies committed to a people-first mentality to bring connection, collaboration and curiosity about bringing their best selves to work. In her spare time you will find her at the beach with her dog Tana, volunteering with Maranui Surf Lifesaving Club, or supporting her children on the court and pool playing sports.



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