Māori Brand Pattern

Waikato alumna crafts cultural tapestry for University of Waikato’s website identity.

An alumna of the University of Waikato is the creative mind behind the distinctive identity of the new website. 

Nikki Kennedy (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-A-Māhaki, Whakatōhea), completed her Master of Computer Graphic Design at Waikato in 2020, and is founder of TapuTapu Toi Design – a Gisborne-based company Nikki established in her second year of study.  

Supported by Waikato alumna Rosa Flood, they were asked to infuse the cultural significance of the University into the website design. This involved incorporating the University’s commitment to Te Tiriti, its values, the history of Te Kohinga Mārama Marae and Te Ao Hurihuri, (the University’s original marae and wharenui) and recognition of both the Tauranga and Hamilton campuses. 

As a student, I learnt the importance of my cultural heritage and how I showcase that in my design work, so being encouraged to use my Māori design flare in this project, meant everything to me.

Inspiration was drawn from tukutuku panels in Te Ao Hurihuri, including the Pātikitiki and Mumu panels, and the well-recognised Niho Taniwha pattern, widely used amongst iwi within Waikato. 

The niho taniwha is a well-known pattern in the Waikato region for representing strength and identity. We weaved our narrative around people coming together and the awa (river). 

A set of brand guidelines has also been developed to guide staff in using the new designs which have been clustered into elements for different uses as stacks or so they can be repeated to form patterns. 

We made the patterns versatile, so they could be used across various platforms and publications. The guidelines we provided help ensure that the patterns are used appropriately, like not covering people's faces or using them behind body text.

We want to encourage creative use of the patterns while respecting their cultural significance. They give a strong sense of space and connection to place to the University and its community.

Nikki, who has previously designed pieces for different groups of the University, including the University’s staff intranet, Te Hononga, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori office, says it’s good feeling to give back and contribute to the visual identity of Waikato. 

It was a seamless process for us as designers and being able to share our design process at Kīngitanga Day, was a huge opportunity for us in our growth and development - we don’t often get to share out processes or the meaning in a public space. 

Nikki completed a Bachelor of Media and Creative Technologies at Waikato in 2017, which led her to her master’s in Māori typography.