Kiwi design innovation shines as Lexus New Zealand Design Award winners revealed


2023 Lexus New Zealand Design Award Winners Tom Saran and Antoine Helean' s ‘Fire Aid’ and Fiona Yoon's ‘ARctive’.
2023 Lexus New Zealand Design Award Winners Tom Saran and Antoine Helean' s ‘Fire Aid’ and Fiona Yoon's ‘ARctive’.
The future of New Zealand design is well in hand, based on the brilliant ideas taking out the top prizes in this year's Lexus New Zealand Design Awards.

The two winners of the local arm of the internationally recognised awards were announced at a ceremony in Mount Eden, Auckland, hosted by Lexus ambassador Simon James.

Auckland University of Technology students Tom Saran and Antoine Helean took out top marks for their entry ‘Fire Aid’, and Fiona Yoon from University of Auckland also clinched the top spot with her entry ‘ARctive’.

Both designs executed creative use of augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology in their award-winning creations.

Fiona Yoon from University of Auckland accepts her first prize award.

Hitting a new record of 53 local entries this year, the local judging panel had a rich and diverse scope to choose from. 2023 marks the second year the competition driven by Lexus has been open to entry to students at the University of Auckland and the fourth year students from Auckland University of Technology have been involved.

The annual awards encourages young Kiwi designers in four New Zealand tertiary design courses to develop new solutions to existing and emerging challenges. The idea is to spark imaginative thinking, inspiring unique, captivating designs that intersect with thoughtful solutions, that lead to a brighter future for all.

University of Technology students Tom Saran and Antoine Helean accept their first prize award.

This year entrants were tasked with creating written submissions supported by imagery and prototypes to present concepts that address 2023’s competition theme: ‘Design for a Better Tomorrow’.

During the awards period entrants receive invaluable mentoring from Lexus brand ambassadors and founders of Resident, the globally focused design company, Simon James, Scott Bridgens and Tim Rundle, to develop their ideas to excel in the competitive playing field that is the annual awards.

Judges were looking for brilliant, creative, and useful solutions that clearly articulate anticipation, innovation and captivation, elements that personify the essence of the Lexus brand. The two first place winners were awarded $4,000, and two runners up received $2,000.

First prize winner Fiona Yoon, second prize winner Yeaseo Im, first prize winners Antoine Helean and Tom Saran and second prize winner MacKenzie Carkeek.

“It’s been rewarding to experience the growth of our local Lexus Design Award competition year on year,” says Lexus New Zealand Vice President Andrew Davis.

“Choosing a shortlisted top eight this year proved extremely difficult for our judging panel, let alone winners from each university. Our winners truly exemplify the perfect synergy between advanced technology and a focus on human needs, keeping in line with our own philosophy for design here at Lexus.”

First prize winners

Tom Saran and Antoine Helean – ‘Fire Aid’
Auckland University of Technology

Tom Saran and Antoine Helean’s winning entry ‘Fire Aid’

Tom and Antoine paired up to design and build prototype AR glasses designed to assist firefighters through thermal imaging, hazard detection and situational data. Powered by a battery pack, ‘Fire Aid’ components are attached to a pair of flame-retardant frames that reflect a microcomputer screen onto tinted glass. The computer provides the user with crucial information about temperature gradients, gas levels, building blueprints, location of civilians and other firefighters, all in real time.

Fiona Yoon – ‘ARctive’
University of Auckland

Lexus New Zealand Design Awards Fiona Yoon - ‘ARctive’ (1)

Fiona’s entry ‘ARctive’, was completed in partnership with AUT and a capstone partner, the Empathic Computing Laboratory. The remote exercise therapy program was specifically designed for seniors, aiming to promote holistic well-being and combat depression. With a focus on physical, social, and emotional well-being, Fiona’s software offers an augmented reality exercise space and a community support system.

Second prize winners

Yeaseo Im – ‘Cocoon’
Auckland University of Technology

Lexus New Zealand Design Awards Entry Yeaseo Im - ‘Cocoon’ (1)
Yeaseo Im’s entry ‘Cocoon’

Yaseo’s entry ‘Cocoon’ devises a partition, or room divider, that can transform into a tent for toddlers who experience sensory overload. Made from organic materials including wool, cotton, and bamboo, the collapsible, origami-inspired structure has a portable design that allows it to be effortlessly relocated to create a calming space wherever needed.

MacKenzie Carkeek – ‘Haptic Patch’
University of Auckland

Lexus New Zealand Design Awards Entry MacKenzie Carkeek - ‘Haptic Patch’ (1)
MacKenzie Carkeek’s entry ‘Haptic Patch’

MacKenzie’s entry uses haptic technology and virtual reality to alleviate the physical and emotional distress experienced by amputees with phantom limb sensations. When activated, the Haptic Patch attaches to the residual limb, sending pulses that stimulate nerves to reduce or increase sensations of a phantom limb.

Entrants work on show at the Lexus New Zealand Design Awards ceremony.


Soohyun Han – Triton
Auckland University of Technology

Amy Leong – S ORB
Auckland University of Technology

Elouise Kidd & Siena Thompson – Scape
University of Auckland

Uttam Raju – City Sprouts
University of Auckland

To learn more about the Lexus Design Award, visit


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