The Graphic Design Project site presents information and research about the history of graphic design in New Zealand. Based at the School of Art and Design at the Auckland University of Technology our collection is virtual, presented through the web site and associated image database. A number of specialist genre and thematic projects within the area graphic design are presented here. This research process involves the identification and documentation of material in private and public collections and in locations as diverse as flea markets, garages and company archives. Interviews, bibliographic and contextual research are utilized to build up information about each object and is presented as detailed indexing in association with the images included in the database. These projects are on going, the research process is cumulative and the site is dynamic. Given these technical and academic parameters, we are committed to an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach.

The past fifty years have seen a remarkable growth in the establishment and development of the graphic design profession in New Zealand, as an industry, and as a record of cultural change. However, unlike areas such as architecture or product design, graphic design has not been the subject of major academic or curatorial research.

The products of graphic design are often ephemeral and important historical material is frequently lost. Many of the key figures involved in establishing the Graphic Design industry in New Zealand hold a wealth of knowledge, experience and original material that needs to be recorded and documented.

The geographical, cultural and historical circumstances that have influenced and effected the development of NZ design are of particular interest to us. The existence of severe import restriction policies (until 1984) greatly influenced the work produced; the need to 'do it yourself' and the difficulties of easily obtaining new technologies give much 'kiwi' design of the 50's and 60's a distinctive, resourceful and endearing 'home grown' feeling.

The vast geographical distance between NZ and the rest of the world produced both a yearning for and reinterpretation of 'overseas' design and at times an irreverent colonial disregard. The impact of Maori and Polynesian design; its appropriation by, and influence on Pakeha artists and designers; changes brought through technical development and the growing multicultural aspect of contemporary NZ society are important areas of focus. The changes in immigration policy that accompanied the freeing up of import restrictions in the mid 80's and related technological and economic globalization have been important contexts for change. Our project breaks new ground, expanding the knowledge of a neglected but important area of cultural, social and economic significance.

The graphic design project is a centralized information base where design professionals, educators, curators, students or interested members of the public can locate material, information and resources and contribute to this knowlege base.

We are building upon documented material with further critical, contextual and analytical researchand hope to increase understanding and appreciation of New Zealand's graphic design history. By building upon the School of Art and Design's established record as a leader in the field of graphic design education, the project consolidates an important theoretical base that will enhance the teaching and practice of design in New Zealand.

Project Aims

The aims of the project are:
  1. To document, analyze and present the history of New Zealand Graphic Design, including the areas of trademarks, press advertisements, labeling, catalogues, signage, packaging, posters, record and CD covers, magazines, book covers, promotional material and illustration.

  2. To expand the knowledge base of an important and neglected area of cultural and economic significance through identifying and retaining the cultural history of contemporary Graphic Design.

  3. To record and document the knowledge and experience of key figures in the establishment of the New Zealand Graphic Design Industry over the last 50 years.

  4. To locate, document, and archive original material, electronically and/or physically as circumstances permit, and to build digital links with other established collections, developing a research resource that builds on one of the other traditional areas of strength and excellence within the School of Art and Design.

  5. To explore the development of indigenous New Zealand Design as it moved from the colonial constructs of its roots in British design language into more culturally specific or internationalized realms.

  6. To make this information and resource available as a teaching and creative tool for generations to come.

  7. To foster critical and analytical research into the history of Graphic Design in New Zealand.

  8. To establish partnerships and associations with Industry and Institutions interested in New Zealand Graphic Design research and history.


The Graphic Design research project group currently includes Peter Gilderdale, Welby Ings, Abigail Fox, Katy Yiakmis, Chris Mousdale, Warren Smith, Wenxin Lu, Amy McKinnon, Donesse Devon and Frances Joseph.

We would also like to acknowledge the work of people who have contributed to the earlier development of this project including David Merritt, Atu Huck, Virginia McKinnon, Rakai Karitiana.

We are most grateful to all the people and companies who have contributed material, information and support including Flying Nunn, Real Groovy Records, Moa Hunter Books, Crawlspace Records, Pan Print, Apple New Zealand, Chris Knox, Neil Duncan, Nobby and Margaret Clarke, Mike Chunn, Neil Finn, Phil Warren, Dylan Horrocks, Tim Bollinger, The DINZ, Steve Bohling and Prodesign Magazine, Richard Wolfe, Desiree Keown and John Archbold from the LTSA and Donald Kerr.


This project is being developed in association with The Design History Research Centre, University of Brighton, UK, The Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland City Library, The Hocken Library, Dunedin, and Analog Media.

The NZGDA encourages partnerships with organisations and individuals in developing research in New Zealand Graphic Design History, and with other organisations and projects involved with the digitisation and research of cultural heritage.

Contact Information

The New Zealand Design Archive (email:
Tel 64-9-917-9999 +8043

School of Art and Design
Auckland University of Technology
Private Bag 92006
Auckland 1020
New Zealand