Ngā Aho finalists shine in this year's Best Design Awards

We are so happy that the Ngā Aho Award exists. 

The award is a partnership between the Designers Institute of New Zealand and Ngā Aho Inc, the national society of Maori designers,  and is in its fourth year – and the finalist list continues to be a portfolio of stunning and stimulating works. It recognises excellence in two areas: design which reflects that New Zealand is a unique corner of Moana nui a Kiwi, the Pacific Ocean, and secondly, design which is collaborative

Here's a look at what this year's list has to offer.

Mana Tamariki, Tennent + Brown Architects

This total immersion Maori school in Palmerston North is the one of the first of its kind to house a kohanga reo (early childhood),  Te Kura Kaupapa and Whare Kura (primary and secondary schools) all under one roof.

The design is meant to remind us of the korowai, a sheltering cloak – formed from the roof to the patterned of layered panels to the building's open teaching spaces. 

Te Oro Tukutuku Panel, Alt Group and Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Whatua, Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki

Te Oro is a newly opened music and arts centre, aimed for the community of Auckland's Glen Innes. The tukutuku panel that hangs in Te Oro shows the beautiful results of a leading design studio and local iwi working together. 

The panel was created over two months by a collective of local artists and weavers, Te Roopa Raranga o Tamaki Makauru. It features a repeated triangular pattern to reference the local Maungarei-Mount Wellington vista and is a striking graphic, indeed, for visitors to the centre to admire.

Lisa Reihana: In Pursuit of Venus, Philip Kelly Studio and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

In Pursuit of Venus (Infected) is a contemporary exhibition by multi-disciplinary artist Lisa Reihanna, which reinterprets the period of early nineteenth century French design and how it captured colonialism.

This publication was designed to accompany the exhibition; the result is a 128-page cloth-bound book, its basis of design influenced by the works of Pierre-Simon Fournier, an eighteenth century French punch cutter and typefounder.

Pure Pākati, Whybin/TBWA and KLIM Type Foundry, ARAHIA Pathfinders, Rangi Kipa

Tourism New Zealand was happy with its successful push of the PURE brand, but felt that there was something missing – a culture narrative and image that gave insight to Aotearoa's indigenous heritage.

The PURE Pakati bespoke font was realised, merging with the practice of whaikairo rakau (wood carving) to produce a hand crafted and embellished font. The pakati was carved in kauri in blocks in a recurring pattern of three notches, or Taki Toru (of Dog’s Tooth), often seen in the painted rafters of carved whare tupuna (ancestral houses).

The PURE Pakati typeface and brand system is a collaboration between Tourism New Zealand, the Māori Tourism Society, and some of New Zealand's top pakeha and Māori carvers. Leading creative directors, a leading font designer, a Maori strategist and Maori artist and designer were also hired to co-design hui and wananga to identify the brand image.


Armed Offenders Squad Identity Design, Open Lab

For the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Police Armed Offenders Squad (AOS), Massey University enterprise design studio Open Lab was commissioned to create a visual identity for the occasion.

The designers say they "walked a creative journey" alongside serving AOS members, veterans, artists, geologists, and Maori and pakeha scholars, which culminated in a symbol for the identity: the wahaika, a traditonal Māori hand weapon. 

The symbol resonates with AOS, in that it's unique to New Zealand, and was only used by the most proficient and proven warriors. It was also used as a negotiating tool; the symbol is part of the division's official insignia, and features on business cards, badges, and official documents.

See our slideshow above for more images of the designs. 

The Best Awards celebrates the best in New Zealand design. See all the 2015 finalists at

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