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Salted Herring's quest to promote human-centric design

While an increasing number of companies are pushing design to the forefront, many clever companies are still missing out on the opportunities afforded by the benefits of creative design-led thinking. But as Wellington-based digital agency Salted Herring has found out, pushing web apps that provide rich human experiences and highly crafted design is proving to be the best way forward.

When it comes to design-led thinking, few can match the expertise on hand at Salted Herring who are on a mission to bring fresh and creative interface design to some of the exciting digital products pouring out of New Zealand businesses. Rather than a standardised style or templated interface, the boutique Wellington agency understands that in order to engage a specific audience with a specific product, a unique approach is needed for each project to create a distinct point of difference for each client.

But it's not just about highly creative design for the 'Herrings' either, who believe good design must also be strategic and functional, particularly when it comes to the tech and start-up sector. For many New Zealand companies, design-led thinking just isn't as commonplace as it should be, so whether it's a new business just getting off the ground or an established one re-evaluating its brand, Salted Herring believes that organisations need to make sure that their ideas come to life in a well-considered, exciting and intuitive way. 

But you don't just have to take their word for it, because not only has the agency been working with brands such as the Auckland Arts Festival, Whittaker’s and Umbrellar Cloud Hosting for the last few years, it's also got the awards and praise to prove it. Last year, the agency took home the Purple Pin in the Interactive category at the Best Design Awards for its work on Kōkako, an online language tracking app. Providing daily and monthly data analysis and reporting on the use of te reo Māori on Iwi radio stations, Kōkako makes language use visible (in almost real time) through a striking and rich visual display. Live infographics show just how much te reo Māori is being broadcast, at what times they’re being broadcast and what proportion te reo Māori to English is being spoken.

The project came about when client Te Māngai Pāho, a government agency responsible for the promotion of Māori language and culture, learnt of a new bird-call recognition software a New Zealand company called Dragonfly Data Science had developed. It commissioned Dragonfly Data Science and Salted Herring to collaborate on an application that could track the use of te reo Māori, both spoken and sung, to help automatically monitor usage.

The app has now become a pivotal tool for Iwi station managers, with the app combining innovative technology with interactivity, usability and clever brand and UI design. 

“We know that being able to speak te reo Māori on air naturally alongside English encourages increased use of Māori language," says Te Māngai Pāho Board chair Professor Piri Sciascia. "Kōkako provides a way of measuring segments of Māori content as it appears,” adding that the technology has played an important role in helping to promote modern and natural Māori language use and increased accessibility to Māori programmes and music.

But like every good agency, Salted Herring is no one trick pony, gliding back into the Best Design finalists this year in both the Interactive and Public Good categories for its work with Wild Eyes. Using a distinctive and user-centred approach to app design, the Wild Eyes platform aims to address children's 'nature connection crisis'. With Kiwi kids increasingly spending less time in the natural environment and more time in front of a screen, Wild Eyes sought to create a fun and unexpected contemporary nature game relevant to Generation Z. The game provides players with digital incentives to complete fun, backyard nature missions, integrating language, entertainment, social media and gaming principles to motivate kids. 

Adhering to its belief in human-centric design, Salted Herring used real life Kiwi kids to help develop the user experience along the way. As a result, the design language developed by the agency is mad, loud, interactive and community (kid) focused, blasting those 'wild eyes' across a wide range of exciting missions. Two months after launching the project earlier this year, there are already 1700 subscribers, with one Canterbury student telling the agency that "Wild Eyes makes me want to come to school".'

"This has to be one of the coolest ideas for getting our children outside and engaged with their world," remarked one Gisborne Central School Facebook post, while another teacher credited Wild Eyes for "setting lightbulbs" off in childrens' heads and reawakening a sense of play and experimentation. 

Form and function can and should work together, and whether it’s helping keep te reo Māori alive or getting Kiwi kids back into nature, Salted Herring’s recent cultural projects are taking both awards judges and everyday users by storm, one design-led application at a time.


This story is part of a content partnership with Salted Herring. For more information, visit: http://www.saltedherring.com/