Kōrero: Knowledge-based industries

Whārangi 3. Design and digital content

Ngā whakaahua me ngā rauemi katoa o tēnei kōrero

Design and digital content are expanding industries in themselves. They are also ‘enabling technologies’, technologies used in other knowledge-based industries. Companies that place a strong emphasis on the design of their products – not just their appearance but the whole production, packaging and marketing process – are typically more competitive internationally.

Industrial design

In the 1990s New Zealand industrial designers emerged as boutique producers of sophisticated everyday objects, including dishwashers and school chairs, which sold worldwide.

In 2007 the New Zealand furniture company Design Mobel opened stores under the name Okooko in Wellington, Hong Kong and Philadelphia to sell its eco-friendly beds and bedroom products.

New Zealand is a world leader in the design of racing and luxury yachts. Former Aucklander Bruce Farr’s yachts won many international titles.

Jump start


In 1944 Auckland furniture designer Garth Chester mass-produced the world’s first cantilevered plywood chair, made from a single elegantly curved sheet of plywood. At first the public distrusted the chair’s strength. The designer had celebrity wrestler Lofty Blomfield jump up and down on one in public. Chester helped form the Auckland Design Guild to promote local design in 1949.


Digital effects

Weta Workshop in Wellington was set up in 1993 by Peter Jackson, designers Richard Taylor and Tania Rodgers, and film editor Jamie Selkirk, to provide digital and visual effects for Jackson’s movies. By 2023 Weta (now Wētā FX) had won seven Oscars. The New Zealand film industry has created other digital content companies specialising in artificial intelligence, sound post-production, web design, 3-D visualisation, and interactive game development.



‘Leetspeak’ users replace ordinary alphabet letters with keyboard characters when they communicate online: h@x (hacks – cheating or breaking the rules), n00b (newbie – someone new to the scene) and ROFL (roll on the floor laughing) are examples. Now there’s a word combining Māori and Leetspeak: rofflenui. Add the word nui (big) to ROFL and you’re rolling on the floor laughing big-time.


Interactive games

The interactive games industry has grown quickly. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the rings trilogy quickly spawned a number of computer games.

Terabyte, based in Auckland, was one of the first New Zealand companies to work primarily in interactive design. The company developed the yacht-racing computer game Virtual Spectator in 1999. They went on to design and build interactive websites, museum exhibitions and DVDs which have won several international awards.

Wellington-based Sidhe Interactive, the largest games studio in New Zealand, developed its first Playstation game, Championship Surfer, in 2000. It has since developed a Playstation game based on NRL rugby league.

Educational publisher Wendy Pye Group in Auckland is a world leader in providing digital animation through the internet to teach basic reading and maths. The company exports its early childhood education resources to schools around the world.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Mark Derby, 'Knowledge-based industries - Design and digital content', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/knowledge-based-industries/page-3 (accessed 16 July 2024)

He kōrero nā Mark Derby, i tāngia i te 11 Mar 2010, reviewed & revised 5 Dec 2017