MDS legend Kate Humphries first ever winner of Comms Council Outstanding Achievement Award

MDS legend Kate Humphries first ever winner of Comms Council Outstanding Achievement Award

The New Zealand ad industry’s Axis Awards, which celebrates the most creative and innovative advertising in Aotearoa has recognised Kate Humphries, programme director for creative advertising at Media Design School (MDS) for her 15+ years of work inspiring future generations to be creative superpowers.


Simon Lendrum, CEO, Comms Council said the Comms Council is delighted to recognise Humphries’ massive contribution at the Axis Awards.

Says Lendrum: “Kate has had an incalculable impact on so many creative careers and outcomes in Aotearoa. She epitomises the passion, drive and tenacity that is required to achieve amazing outcomes. The creative industry owes Kate a great debt, as her fingerprints are on award-winning work, year in year out.”

Industry testimonials have called out Humphries for being a ‘grower of minds who sows seeds of inspiration and sends those seedlings out into the ad world to grow strong, healthy, creative minds.’

Darryn Melrose, chief marketing officer and industry partnerships, Torrens Global Education congratulated Humphries for being a creative spark that powerfully inspires graduates to make their own mark in Aotearoa and the world: “MDS is renowned for the way our lecturers open doors for students with their global experience. An industry professional did a head count the other day and it turns out that their creative department is made up of more than 61% of the people who have had their careers impacted because of Kate’s contribution to the industry.”

Andy Blood, industry fellow and senior lecturer, post graduate design, said Humphries transforms students from Adschool graduates to Ad stars: “There are many things about Kate that remind me of Anthony Bourdain. The hours worked, the dedication to the task at hand, the refusal to bow down to any demands that don’t serve the purpose of the work. The colourful language, and ‘no reservations’ aspect of her approach coupled with her fervent desire to explore ‘parts unknown’ in every creative execution.

“You don’t do Kate’s course, you live it. And Kate lives and breathes it too. You’ll always find her in the trenches, knee-deep in problem solving, side by side her students and carrying the scars. She’s your toughest critic and most fervent supporter. And whether students arrive great, or are made great, they certainly have greatness thrust upon them. And they don’t know how lucky they are. But they’ll have a full career ahead of them to reflect upon how fortunate they were to choose her course.”

Thom Darlow, a former student of Humphries’ who graduated from MDS in 2010 is a testament to her impact. Darlow has won over 160 international awards across advertising, film, and music. His work has been quoted by Obama, nominated for an Emmy, and twice been named the most effective campaign on earth.  He has  performed at Coachella, toured with The Strokes and Kaiser Chiefs, written music for Rihanna, developed films for the NZ Film Commission, and orchestrated the most successful sneaker launch in history for Kobe Bryant’s retirement.

Says Darlow: “The reason, I believe, that NZ so consistently punches above its weight creatively, is the firehose of incredible, insightful talent coming out of our ad schools. And the person with their hand on the faucet of that talent is Kate. She turned my life around. She ground me down and rebuilt me stronger. I owe her everything.”