Jenerating steam: the founding of Auckland Design Week

Written by: Reuben Wickstead

The inaugural Auckland Design Week showcase has officially begun, a collaborative platform offering a chance to integrate some of the city’s most creative thinkers, design practitioners, showrooms and retailers in a celebration of all things design. ADW promises ticketholders a fantastic variety of opportunities, boasting an extensive array of exhibitions, activations and immersive experiences aimed at fostering excitement and collaboration within the industry. Festivities will be hosted across three Design Districts in Grey Lynn, Parnell and Mt Eden/Uptown; helping to ensure that visitors are never more than a short walk away from one of its 30 amazing activities.

Undertaking the creation and management of an event this ambitious is no mean feat, as I am sure ADW Director Jen Jones would tell you. Having worked in the design and project management industry for over 10 years, Jones has a unique appreciation of Auckland’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the space, “despite being a city who loves design – and our tendency to punch above our weight on the global stage, the events that champion local and international design are few and far between.”

Seeing room for improvement, Jen’s project management instincts kicked in and she decided to take her first steps towards putting this long-pondered plan into action. Her initial port of call was a contact from Forte Flooring, with whom she had discussed the idea a few years prior, the securing of whose backing gave Jen the huge boost of both confidence and momentum she needed to officially pull the trigger. The safety was now officially off and not long after, the likes of Resene and Cosentino soon followed Forte Flooring’s suit; Jen says it was at this point  “I knew I was onto something good.”

Jones would then spend months completing all of the research and due diligence necessary to help conceptualise a more concrete picture of the event; a process that’s length she drastically underestimated initially. By the time she had finished, it was already halfway through a noticeably slow financial year, making the challenge of finding new event partners even more difficult. But Jen persevered. Looking back on it now she emphasises that “there’s never a perfectly ‘right’ time to start a business so I’m glad I didn’t let this slow me down”

Now less than a week out from the event’s opening Jen acknowledges that for her, just getting to this point has been a massive achievement. “It still feels so surreal and I don’t think I will fully appreciate what my team and I have accomplished until after the event when I can climb out of the trenches and look back at this 11 month journey.” Jen, a mother of two, is also really looking forward to spending more time with her children post-event. She describes her daughter (four years old) and son (two years old) as her “biggest drivers in life – everything I do is for them.” Between the massive commitment of ADW and managing her other business, Jen admits she has not had as much time for her kids as she would like but is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to reconnect with them when the dust finally settles.

When asked about the aspect of ADW she was most excited to see come to fruition, Jen was quick to pick out the Design Day circuits; set to take place on the final two days of the event. Although a great deal of effort has been put into even the smallest details of ADW, these circuits have occupied the bulk of the event’s planning and logistics; a strategy Jen hopes will pay off in a fantastic crescendo to an action packed week of activities.

For more information or to book tickets visit

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