It all started in 2012 when Massey University initiated the Value of Design Project. They realised that design had shifted from being mainly about good-looking products and graphics, to being a process that could be applied to any problem or opportunity to create innovative solutions. Moreover, design thinking was rapidly becoming a core management capability.    

However, to fully realise the potential value of design in New Zealand, two key elements were needed – firstly, the development of New Zealand-based models of design education and practice, and secondly, facilitation and support for organisations collaborating on design-led research and projects.

To address these issues, AUT, Massey and Victoria Universities came together with Otago Polytechnic, the Designers Institute and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, to bid for government funding to establish a Design Centre of Research Excellence.

While the bid was unsuccessful, the partnership was united, and the six organisations were determined to keep the collaborative agenda alive and pursue the original aims of knowledge creation, transfer, and advocacy.  

And so, DesignCo was established.