Meet our friends… Oscar Thomas, Designworks

10 months ago by

We love the opportunity to get to know our DA friends better, so we’re happy to get the chance to speak with Oscar Thomas, designer at Designworks. We spoke to Oscar about his career journey, an interest in motion and film, the Designworks philosophy and culture, the mahi he is proud of, tech he is excited about and creative satisfaction.

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Kia ora Oscar, since we last spoke you moved from NZ police to Designworks, tell us about your new role?

Kia Ora! I joined Designworks in December 2019 as an Intermediate Designer, just before Covid. The role has meant an opportunity to work on a wider range of challenges and projects with a bigger team of designers which has been really exciting. It has also been a lot of learning, some hard work, some long hours, and lots of stepping outside of my comfort zone.

But since starting, I’ve become more confident being off-balance, learned that good design doesn’t sell itself, and most importantly — learnt to ask for help. There’s been a lot of growth both personally and professionally. I also saw a design studio I admire battle its way through a pandemic, which had some really tough moments. But there’s no place I’d rather be.


What are you enjoying most about the transition from an in-house role to working in a studio?

Every day I am surrounded by a team of kind, remarkable people who love the same things I do. They are the most resilient bunch. They are determined. They are tireless. They come in every day and work their asses off. They make me think bolder, push harder, and laugh louder. They keep me on my toes and have my back. They’re the best.

Do you miss the cuddles with the Police dogs or are you keeping up with the canine contact?!

Yea, I miss the pups. But now I have my very own Police dog, courtesy of the NZ Police team, who guards the house during the day!

What does a typical workday involve for you?

I get up at 6:30am. I go to the gym, bike to work. Then there’s 8-9 hours of laughs, collaboration, food, catchups, and bit of head-scratching. The I bike home. This was June 23:

What insight to the Designworks philosophy can you share?

At the heart of Designworks is identity — What does it mean to be a New Zealander? To be a New Zealand business? To represent New Zealand? What are the beliefs, desires and abilities that are unique to us? The studio has been lucky over the past 40 years to produce some really interesting and iconic answers to those questions, and shape New Zealand identity at a range of scales. 

There is a rich legacy of anthems that have been developed while doing that work — ‘Hand up early and often’, ‘logic & magic (together)’, ‘Tick tock motherfucker’, ‘Box of fluffies’ — are some of the better known ones. These anthems are key to the studio. When we’re a bit lost or tired, they remind us what to focus on and to just keep going.

But it’s best summarised in the name — Designworks — It’s about design, that actually works. It’s not about creating a beautiful artefact that nobody gets to see or use. It’s about creating the best for the most, and something that actually has an effect.

Also, I love this quote from Edgar Degas — “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”, and Brian Collins’ take on that —  “Design is not what we make, it’s what we make possible for others.” I think that’s what design is really about.

Is there a notable project you’re especially proud of?

I love all my kids equally!

But the latest one is Rocki, the new mascot for Rockit Apples. He just puts a smile on everyone’s face. He’s been a reminder that design has the power to brighten someone’s day.

You also make films (and have hosted film festivals), where did you passion for motion come from?

All of my mates were into movies, so I got into movies too. It’s a smaller part of my life now I’m living away from those people, which I all miss a ton. But I still love a good movie night and it’s something I might circle back to in the future.

Do you feel creatively satisfied with your design & motion work? 

Ben Crick has a great point that to be a good designer, you have to be an optimistic masochist. We believe that tomorrow is going to be better than today, but we can really put ourselves through the wringer to bring the work into being. The process is full of anguish and anxiety, but if it was easy it wouldn’t be satisfying. To see your work out in the wild after going through all of that feels pretty great. And that dynamic — between anguish and pleasure — is a key part of what makes the creative experience so compelling. 

Do you pursue other creative outlets outside of work hours? 

I’m finding that these days for me, it’s less about making my entire life about design. I’m trying to find more time to fully turn off my designer brain, just forget about design entirely. Tuning out is hard, but to see things without looking through the lens of ‘design’ all the time is sobering. It makes you a more empathetic designer when you turn that designer brain back on.


Which technologies or innovations in design / production are you excited about?

Creative automation is very exciting and terrifying — take a look at Celtra.

Finally, where can we see more of your work and connect with you?

Slide into my DM’s


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