The Blunt + Idealog + Generator Umbrella Experiment unveils its winner: Bonnie Brown’s Blooming ‘Brella

Back in February, Idealog decided it wanted to showcase the talents of its design community.

Seeing as Blunt has a long history of using design to create beautiful, functional umbrellas, we reached out to the company – and to our friends at Generator – to see if they’d want to get involved with an experiment of sorts.

Both parties were keen, so we put out a call to our audience to submit a design that defined modern New Zealand, with the winning effort going on to become a limited-edition Blunt umbrella.

When submissions closed, we knew the voting was going to be tough. A total of 239 designs had been entered, while a whopping 3734 votes had also been made in the People’s Choice category.

Founder and design director of Blunt Umbrellas Greig Brebner was one of the judges in the process and says seeing how many Kiwis put their designs forward to be featured on the Blunt umbrella canvas was “extraordinary”.

“And not only the number of entrants, but the calibre and the creativity was just fantastic,” Brebner says.

To narrow it down to the very best, the judges from Idealog, Blunt and Generator asked a few questions about the designs: 1) did it fit the brief and show us a clever interpretation of modern New Zealand identity? 2) Was it aesthetically pleasing? 3) Would it work on an umbrella? And 4) Was it commercially viable?

And while there were many worthy designs, it was decided that Bonnie Brown’s beautiful and clever Blooming ‘Brella design was the winner.

As described in Brown’s words in her submission: “At first glance this might just look like a fun floral print, but there are elements woven into the piece that reference the history of Aotearoa. Much like New Zealand’s design identity the flowers in this print are growing, changing and being influenced by both the past and the present. That and it looks like your grandma’s retro wallpaper, so that’s cool too.”

“I loved following along on the competition journey and seeing all the diverse entries,” Brown says.

“There were some real standouts in my mind, and so to be a finalist and then the winner was incredible. Considering I’ve only started illustrating and sharing my work recently, it’s a huge motivator to be told that what I am designing is interesting and also commercially viable.”

Brown’s win was announced at Idealog’s pop-up Design Magazine event held on Friday night at Generator in Auckland CBD, with the 23-year-old flying up from Wellington to accept the award.

Bonnie Brown 

For her efforts, Brown will not only get the warm glow of satisfaction when she sees her design hit the shelves – and the streets – but she also wins a six-month co-working tenancy at Generator for up to four people valued at $28,000, an iPad Pro, a commission from each umbrella sold, a credit on the packaging and a profile in Idealog’s upcoming magazine.

Blunt’s Brebner says one of the highlights of the process was the “brilliant” event held on Friday where all the finalists saw their designs had been made into real-life Blunt umbrellas, and a fascinating discussion about design and identity with Sam Ramlu, Carin Wilson and Andy Florkowski took place.

“It was a world-class event, and a huge congratulations to all who were involved – and most importantly to our winner, Bonnie Brown, who we will be working with to produce a limited edition run of her design!”

Behind the design

Brown says she worked at her design on and off for about a week, initially drawing all the different elements by hand before scanning them onto her computer.

From there, she played with the scales of the illustrations in Photoshop and worked out a colour palette that wasn’t overtly feminine or masculine before turning them into vectors.

“Which might seem like a bit of a backwards process, but I still love having some hand drawing, even if it all ends up being on the computer in the end,” she explains.

Brown says the inspiration for the Blooming ‘Brella was her usual style of illustrating, but with a twist.

“I wanted to create a design that at first glance just looked like a bright floral print in my typical botanically incorrect style, but once you got a chance to look at it closely, then you could see there are different elements woven into the flowers.”

On closer inspection, the umbrella design includes references to important moments from Aotearoa’s history, from the first waka arriving to New Zealand’s shores, to Māori mythology via Māui taming the sun, as well as a suffragette holding a protest sign and a same-sex couple holding hands.

A closer look at the details on Brown’s design

She says this isn’t to say New Zealand’s history is all sunshine and roses, but the country’s cultural, social and political history all contributes to New Zealand’s identity and how it is seen on a world stage.

“I feel like we’re still in the process of figuring out what our modern identity is, and that you must acknowledge that this modern identity is directly influenced by past moments in our history and culture,” Brown says.

“Having the flowers as symbols of growth and change was important to the design, if perhaps a tad metaphorical, to show that our modern identity will continue to evolve as other moments shape our country.”

Watch this space for details on how to buy one of these limited-edition umbrellas, which will retail for $109.

If you’re eager to pre-order one, get in touch with Idealog at [email protected] and we’ll pop your name on the list. There will only be 300 of them available, so get in quick.

This story originally appeared on Idealog.

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