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Source: Ara Institute of Canterbury

One of the few male graduands of Ara’s 2020 Diploma in Interior Design (Residential) ended up the surprise big winner of the ‘Vizualize’ awards night.
Daniel Smith took home three of 13 awards, including The Harrison Bloy Aware for Excellence in Bathroom Design, the Artisan Stone Award for Innovation in Design and the Drawing Room Award for Excellence in Artistic Skills.
Says Dan of his multiple wins “It’s a bit of surprise. I’d like to say thanks to the providers and industry people for coming to the party and to the tutors for all their help and learning this year.”
The awards evening itself featured many heart-felt tributes to the students’ and the tutors’ tenacity and willingness to overcome adversity during what many speakers described as a “challenging year”.
The exhibition itself, comprised of a large coloured print-outs displayed within the building’s central foyer area, celebrates the talent and dedication of this years’ students by showcasing their designs for both a large Italian family-style kitchen re-model and a model bathroom design that had to accommodate differently-abled people with ease – and style.
The array of posters ably demonstrated the breadth of skills that the students have acquired over their year of study, but also allowed them to make their own personal aesthetic known to family, friends and industry professionals. Diploma students tackle theoretical and
practical aspects of interior design, including light and lighting, colour, design and ergonomic principles, materials and finishes, soft furnishings, window treatments and cultural-historical influences in interior design, including those indigenous to New Zealand.
Dan’s display was particularly eye-catching due to the inclusion of bold pencil concept drawings. He says “With my past as a graphic designer, it may have been my inclusion of free-hand sketches that helped to make my presentation stand out. I just wanted to show the whole process, from the onset through to fully-developed designs. I think it’s about how you get there, not just the final products and my drawings can show that process.”
One of the unusual aspects of Dan’s past is that he is in fact working as a chef, which may help to explain his sympathetic grasp of the ergonomics factors involved in kitchen design. “I have been working as a chef for a while. I always had an interest in food and during my final year of study in graphic design, I got a cooking job out of necessity. I haven’t formally studied that, but I was learning on the job, which was a good challenge, and I learnt a lot about time management – and stress!”
Dan did however come to the realization that he was open to yet more learning, experiencing what he described as “a lightbulb moment”. He claims that it was a conversation with another chef about the idea of becoming a kitchen designer that resonated with him. “I thought – I could give that a shot! It definitely aligns with my design background, and I was looking for an exit, because I kind of got to a point where the next thing would be to maybe open up a restaurant, but that wasn’t really for me, so interior design really piqued my interest.”
Belfiore Bologna, Programme Leader, addressed the collective students with a movingly heart-felt speech that spanned COVD-19 through to Simon Bolivar. In conclusion, he said “I’m so very proud to welcome you to our industry. I’d like to share another quote from Richard Buckminster-Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome, about structures. He always stated ‘There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it will become a butterfly.’ We saw these caterpillars come to us a year ago, and now, these students are caterpillars no more; let us all enjoy their colours. And let us all enjoy their first flight.”
The flight path ahead for Dan includes continuing to work for his present employer in the kitchen, but a stupendous new showcase for his design talents is due to open to the public in coming weeks. “The company that I work for has this whole catalogue of great venues, and the owner got approached to put in two venues within the Muse hotel, one of them being a new ‘skybar’. So within that space, I helped out with ideas for the orientations of the kitchens, and the commercial spec and some of fit-out appointments. It’s very exciting to see the designs come alive.”
Dan adds that “My dream job would be working for a kitchen designer, maybe with a joinery attached to that as well, so I can learn and understand the whole process from design through to fabrication and installation.”

MIL OSI New Zealand News