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5 mins with... Shabnam Shiwan

Shabnam Shiwan
A quick five minutes with award winning creative director Shabnam Shiwan of Osborne Shiwan.


Shabnam is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated designers. As design director at Alt Group and Saatchi & Saatchi Design Worldwide, Shabnam has created many memorable projects such as the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery brand identity, Fisher and Paykel Social Kitchen and NZ Opera campaigns.

Shabnam has worked with a diverse range of clients including Delverde, ASB Bank, Black Grace, Auckland Theatre Company, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Her work has been recognised in New Zealand’s Best Awards and AGDA (Australia), for which she has also been a judge, as well as internationally, in the Red Dot Awards (Germany), Clio (USA), ADC (USA), TDC (USA), AIGA (USA) and One Show (USA). Her typographic design has been exhibited in Objectspace and published in both Graphis and I.D. magazines.

As partner at Osborne Shiwan, a design studio focused on strategically led creative, Shabnam’s projects include design for some of New Zealand’s most iconic creative brands including Deadly Ponies, Atamira Dance Company and Karen Walker.

Shabnam shares how she got started and passes on advice to work with the best creatives and clients.

Hello Shabnam, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got started in the industry?

I come from Fiji, where I spent most of my childhood, spending weekends at my grandparent’s farm. We didn’t have a lot back then, but what we did have, we treasured. For example, video cassette tapes were passed over the fence from neighbour to neighbour, often with ‘custom’ artwork. A mail order book titled Learn How to Paint and Draw is where I began to develop my skillset. Moving to New Zealand opened up new possibilities. I remember, vividly, visiting Auckland Art Gallery for the first time and being overwhelmed with a richness of creative beauty. Really, from seeing Billy Apple’s work at the Gallery to creating the recent campaign for ‘Billy Apple®: The Artist Has to Live Like Everybody Else”, New Zealand has provided so many opportunities for me. And, I met my partner, Lloyd Osborne, while studying at AUT.

Where do you go to seek inspiration?

I am mostly inspired by other creatives, especially people who actually make things, from architects, to writers to photographers, it’s not about the medium, it’s about the thought and craft behind it. At Osborne Shiwan, we are fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people. Our studio is based in a Marshall Cook building, that’s inspiring in itself.

Is there a singular project, personal or professional, that you’re most proud of? Can you tell us why?

I have been working for over two decades so I have a few standout projects. The Black Grace brand identity was revelatory at the time. Social Kitchen for Fisher and Paykel was rewarding. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery brand relaunch last year was a fantastic creative project. The recent Karen Walker rebrand is a favourite, working with New Zealand’s most iconic fashion brand made us better as designers. I think working with great clients is a huge influence overall.

Are you able to give our readers a sneak preview about what you will be talking about at Spark#16?

Karen Walker, Atamira Dance Company and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Also Delverde, or ‘how to get your type design on a mountain in an Italian national park’.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

‘Work with the best’. As part of a student project, I commissioned Neil Liversedge, THE studio photographer in the country at the time. He just loved my concept and his advice was invaluable. My winning submission for the iconic Panprint calendar was shot on large format film and I think it still stands up today. It won me my first New Zealand Best Design Award too. We aim to work with the best, clients and creatives, to this day.

Thanks for your time, Shabnam. 

Shabnam shares more about her design process at Spark International Festival of Music, Media, Arts & Design on Wednesday, 10 August – Day 3 of Spark, from 9.30–10.30am.

Written by

Design Assembly

4 Aug 2016

Interests Design Assembly serves the New Zealand Graphic Design community by enabling the sharing of relevant ideas, information and inspiration. We want to strengthen the graphic design community in New Zealand.