2024 Hot New Things: Emma Le Quesne, University of Auckland

3 weeks 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, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.

Today we speak with Emma Le Quesne, who recently graduated from the University of Auckland. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself:

My name is Emma Le Quesne and I’m a newly graduated design student from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Design. I’ve been passionate about design since I was a kid. During highschool I was in multiple creative classes, ranging from interior design to computer programming. I knew then that I wanted to pursue design further by taking the next steps and studying it in university. I’ve always been skilled at visual communication, connecting with others and passionate about creating new products. What I love most about design is creating solutions alongside communities to solve problems they may face.

What did your graduating project focus on?

Rerenga was the name of my capstone project for my design degree and focuses on how the Māori lunar calendar named Maramataka can be incorporated within community gardens. Rerenga’s vision is for community gardens to plant and harvest following the traditional Māori knowledge of Maramataka, increasing the produce produced within these gardens. Rerenga streamlines Maramataka knowledge into one easy-to-use and accessible application to guide the users’ planting and harvesting according to the Maramataka. Rerenga features a calendar to plan planting and harvesting according to the Maramataka and a Te Reo Māori fresh produce search feature. Rerenga was created because research suggests that traditional Māori practices, specifically Maramataka, have the potential to successfully address challenges, such as food sovereignty, in local communities by restoring a sense of control over the local food production and distribution through promoting culturally appropriate healthy food and sustainable methods like community gardens. My design outcome was a working prototype of Rerenga and a short film detailing the application’s impact on community gardens based in Tāmaki Makaurau. 

Why did you choose to study at University of Auckland?

I heard of the University of Auckland’s design programme when a spokesperson for the university came and spoke at my high school. When I looked into the degree further, I found that I aligned with the belief that although we can’t accurately imagine what the future holds, designers can develop skills that will help the world adapt to these futures.

I thrive in small groups where I can receive one-on-one feedback from tutors and peers. As well as this, the small classes helped me get to know people. Being around like-minded creatives really benefited how I saw myself as a designer and where I stood in the degree.

Studying design at the University of Auckland, I have gained conceptual and technical skills relevant to the fast-changing design world. As well as this, I have been able to design a future I want to live in, by exploring all aspects of design thinking, making and applying. 

What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?

I enjoyed every aspect of this design course, and it confirmed that I am on the right career path. I enjoyed the challenging assignments and learnt a lot about myself, such as how I respond to challenges and communicate to others. This course exposed me to new learnings and experiences, my favourites were working alongside peers in group projects, and working towards challenging briefs and assignments. A valuable skill to come out of this course was learning how to design alongside communities instead of just for them, a valuable skill that I will no doubt continue to build on throughout my career.

Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?

I didn’t expect to come out of this degree with a new interest in user interface design. I came from a graphic design background so understanding how users interact with interfaces and how they are developed was a topic completely new to me. I worked hard to explore the boundaries of this subject and where it could be taken. This new found interest has taught me to give new things a go, as you never know where they’ll take you. Had I not tried user interface design the project I produced for my capstone project would have been completely different. 

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

Learning how to give and receive constructive peer feedback was a challenge I faced. Giving constructive peer feedback was difficult because I found that I would hesitate when giving it because it made me feel uneasy. To overcome this I learnt to balance the positive and the negative feedback, suggesting areas of improvement while also providing praise. Receiving constructive feedback was something I have worked on throughout my design degree as I would find it difficult to not take it to heart. To overcome this I learnt to ask questions as to why the feedback is there, as well as reminding myself the feedback was about helping me push the boundaries on the project, therefore pushing the boundaries on myself to become a better designer.

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

I have always had a natural passion for design, and people in my life have always encouraged me to follow it. I have always found creative ways to fill my time, from creating cards and journaling to making websites in my spare time. When out and about, I love looking at different packaging designs, as well as different types of typography and app design. I point these out to friends and family who I’m sure become annoyed by it after some time. Studying design in high school really made me realise it could be a career and taught me all the different ways design can be applied in everyday life.

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

I have a few pieces of work that I am proud of, but one that comes to mind is my recent capstone project, Rerenga. I am most proud of this work because it challenged me as a designer throughout the whole journey. I enjoyed every aspect of its design process and decision making, from designing the layout to deciding on font choice. As well as this, I learnt a lot about the Māori lunar calendar, Maramataka, throughout the whole project. I enjoyed learning something new while designing as it made the research, process and outcome more exciting. Finally, I am most proud of it because I feel it opened up different perspectives of being a designer to me. I was able to design something new, an app, and was taken on a journey of user interface design that I haven been on before.

What’s next for you?

I would love to get some free time to just work on designing as a passion. I recently met Kristy from the Pink Pony Collective and one task that she did when starting out as a designer was 100 designs in 100 days. I would love to give that a go, it looked like so much fun and I think designers can only get better at their craft.

In terms of beginning my career, I am completing a studentship at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and am a part of a team looking at how virtual reality can share what it is like to live with a traumatic brain injury to friends and family members of the patient. I’m looking forward to this opportunity because I haven’t had an opportunity to really focus on working with virtual reality and I look forward to learning something new everyday.

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

You can reach me via my email (emmalq@hotmail.co.nz) my inbox is always open, or through my design Instagram account (@emmasdesignn) 

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