Homegrown | Think & Shift

Homegrown is a series highlighting some of our local and loved creative businesses in the community who have been designing and crafting on the local and international stage.

We hear from James McNab, Director at Think + Shift an innovative Auckland design studio whose scope of work crosses the fields of product, furniture, interior and architecture design. Working with a range of craftsman and contractors, this agile team of innovators produce thought-provoking design to enrich the way we live.


Tell us how your business came about?



We started the business in 2014 with the core idea of founding an innovative design service studio that works across product, furniture and interior design. 

Since then, we have added architectural services into the mix, allowing us to work across a wide range of scales, such as the design of door handles, car park wayfinding systems, through to multi-unit apartments.

All of these things have aligned with our ever-growing curiosities and furthermore in our belief that creativity is scalable.


You work across several design fields – how do you approach each project?


We are fortunate to work with great clients on really interesting projects that require unique solutions and problem solving. 

Our role in each project can be very diverse, but our objective has always been to produce high quality work imbued with a sense of place, permanence and significance. We find the exploration of craft, manufacturing processes and materials to be deeply gratifying, and seek to investigate this with each new project whether that be architecture, interiors or product design.


Tell us about how your design process?


Our design process is likely typical of many design companies - analysing contexts, producing concepts, investigating technical processes and so on. We, like many, move from analog sketching through to digital modelling, and back again. 

Every project is carefully considered from concept to completion, to reflect the unique needs of each brief. Our inspiration stems from the way we live today, and our growing demands for tomorrow. Our craftsmanship continues to influence and impress, and has earned us an award-winning reputation.


You have a distinctive business strategy, how is this reflected in your work?


Our unique quality is due to our respective backgrounds - Jack in architecture and myself in industrial design. This mix of skill set enables a very broad design approach that encapsulates both big and small scale projects and allows us to provide our clients with design and technical direction across all aspects of their project.


How do you source the most innovative materials?


We have an extensive material library at our office, which is kept stocked with the latest and greatest from the companies we work with.  However the really interesting materials have been uncovered through visits to factories, meetings with manufacturers, and discussions with suppliers. 

Material technology is something that is of critical importance to our studio, and our most enjoyable and successful projects have tended to emphasise a singular material or product, really highlighting its capabilities. Partnering with innovative manufacturers early is a key part of the process.


Mokum Fabrics appear in one of your projects, tell us more?


We converted an existing single office space into two retail tenancies for the GoodFor Wholefoods pop-up in Wellington, dividing them down the middle and creating street shopfront facades. The pop up was a temporary solution to get GoodFor up and running as soon as possible, while allowing Nature Baby to be worked on in the adjacent space.

We used Obi Stonewash by Mokum as it has a great natural feel and texture to it and sits perfectly in a raw space by itself. 

The Obi Stonewash was used as a division to cover the openings between the two newly created spaces. This fabric needed to feel natural to reflect both brands, and be somewhat opaque enough to block out the building site in behind. The way that the curtains were sewn also meant that once the pop-up was complete, the fabric can be used for other GoodFor locations to become a further material element for their brand.


What excites you about the Australasian design community?


The community! There are some really friendly and talented designers within Australasia and it's been a blast getting to know them. At last year's Denfair in particular, it was great to be heading over to Melbourne with the likes of Nathan Goldsworthy, Tim Webber and Alex Buckman as a cohort of NZ designers mixing with the Aussies. For me, I find that inspiring and would like to do more of these types of collaborations in the future.


What inspires you?


When it comes to inspiration, I find it gratifying to find sources outside the world of ‘physical design’, whether it be in a film, through a conversation, walking the streets or learning more about a manufacturing process.

See more from Think + Shift here and check out our article on wool here.

ADULT hideaway chair


James Dunlop

Grey Marl


Children's hideaway chair


James Dunlop Indent

“We use all our senses as we walk through life and they have a direct influence on our interpretation of the world around us. Our challenge is to add elements that makes the product unique, with their own hand writing.”


Pantone Colour of the year - Classic Blue

Trend & Inspiration

In December 2019, Pantone released their 2020 ‘Color of the Year’, Classic Blue. The victor of this highly anticipated annual announcement is described by Pantone as a “reassuring presence instilling calm, confidence and connection”. We believe (now more than ever) this relevant offering brings comfort to the strange new world we’ve all recently been introduced to, and our willingness to evoke these very emotions in our most intimate and personal of spaces reflects this.