There's a possibility Peter Haythornthwaite will examine his Queen's Birthday Honours medal to see how well it's designed but nothing would detract from how chuffed he is to receive it.

The Waimate North resident has been recognised with a New Zealand Order of Merit (OMNZ) for his services to design. Mr Haythornthwaite and wife, Carol, have lived in Northland for six months, after living in Queenstown for several years. He was drawn North to a place where he holidayed as a child.

As he was then, and his father was before him, he is still moved by the beauty of the landscape, for instance, stands of puriri trees near the couple's home.

Mr Haythornthwaite has worked in several countries, as one of the best minds in the business on projects ranging from industrial machinery to office interiors to kitchen utensils.

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Design touches every part of life, whether it is in medical, scientific, art, manufacturing or domestic fields, he said. It is about making things better to use as well as looking good.

"Design is a continuum," he said. "You have to be brave enough to go to a place where design is a purpose in itself as well as has benefits."

He is still deeply involved with design faculties and industry boards and is pleased design has been recognised by his award, for the industry as well as himself.

"I wasn't expecting it, I'm absolutely delighted it's occurred," he said. "It's an accolade not just for me but for Carol who has always supported me in my work and taken a strong interest in every achievement." Mr Haythornthwaite played a key role in setting up the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's Better by Design programme, and establishing the Best Awards for New Zealand design.

He started Haythornthwaite Design in 1979, which he sold to his staff in 2000, including to one of his four sons who followed him into the design industry.

He created the internationally competitive design company arti-fakt-s in 1981 and more recently Creativelab. In 2007, Creativelab helped design LOMAK (Light Operated Mouse and Keyboard), which enables physically impaired people to use computers more easily.