Insects aren’t standard fare for design collaborations but the Designday trio of Zambesi, ECC Lighting and Auckland Museum are putting them front and centre.

The team won’t reveal how the insects will appear ahead of this Saturday’s event but they are promising a “stunning level of detail”.

Zambesi’s Liz Findlay says working with the museum has given Zambesi an opportunity to “express ourselves in a different way and introduce ourselves in a different light”.

Zambesi had paired with ECC in previous years but welcomed the chance to team up with Auckland Museum and look through its vast natural history collections.

“It was quite an eye-opener to see the quantity and variety of artefacts and items of substance which cannot be displayed permanently,” says Findlay. 

ECC managing director Mike Thorburn says in many ways the museum’s collections are a tribute to lasting design because the items they preserve are the best example of what they represent, or they are one of only a few in the world or they are exquisitely beautiful.

Auckland Museum research manager Tom Trnski says the curatorial staff are keen to see the collections used in as many ways as possible to bring them to a wider audience.

“Natural science collections are usually used for research but they are also used by artists for inspiration or to capture accurate details of an animal of plant.”

“Insects and design are actually a great match. There is a design discipline – biomimicry – that looks to nature for insights into sustainable, elegant design. Basically insects and plants have been perfecting their design for millions of years so it makes sense to follow their lead.”

“The ECC/Zambesi collaboration is a new way to bring our collections to an audience that may not be familiar with the incredible specimens we hold here and we can promise they can see more detail than ever before, appreciating the design qualities of these animals,” says Trnski.

Findlay describes Zambesi’s definition of good design as “an instinctive resonance between inspiration and emotion”, while Thorburn says for ECC good design needs to look effortlessly simple, well-crafted and beautiful while the reality is about a huge amount of thought, refinement, care and skill.

Each of the collaborators has their own definition of good design but the project came together very fluidly around a central premise – and the insects.

Thorburn says anyone dying to know more about what the trio has created is invited to come and see it on Saturday.

Tickets to Urbis Designday can be purchased from

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