Like any sensitive place branding work, this project had many considerations and a far-reaching impact. To ensure the process remained highly consultative, we assembled a group of over 25 stakeholders including airport management, the business park development team, local iwi, council representatives, Hamilton and Waikato Tourism, and local businesspeople. Iwi cultural advisor Norm Hill played a key role providing a hands-on, tikanga-led perspective and in-depth knowledge of the local iwi history and land. This critical partnership helped us define the central brand idea – ‘Where your story starts.’ The project’s discovery stage began during lockdown, making online collaboration even more complex.
A co-created design was essential, so we worked with cultural design lead and respected Māori artist Eugene Kara. Regular check-ins with the client, stakeholders and board ensured a smooth process. Initial brainstorming sessions were led alongside Eugene and Norm Hill, referencing a unique indigenous bat (pekapeka) and its cultural symbolism, physical aspects of the airport (the runway) and its role as a waharoa (gateway). We led implementation across all main brand outputs, developing the final design system with Eugene providing oversight and feedback. All creative agencies collaborated, from architects to brand, art, landscape, and signage, creating a unified brand experience.
The overall process delivered a powerful and cohesive brand for Hamilton Airport. The co-creation team, incorporating two cultural leads, resulted in a master brand with a genuine connection to history, land and local culture. Having the client team closely involved throughout meant we were able to achieve the best possible outcome. “…The fact we have a brand system that can be implemented seamlessly across every medium, and is a pleasure to work with, is an absolute testament to the [Principals] team and their ability to create a beautiful, timeless and culturally symbolic brand…” – Mark Morgan, Group Chief Executive Waikato Regional Airport
For the Hamilton Airport tohu (logo), we modernised and simplified a traditional pekapeka carving (culturally symbolic of the gateway between worlds). The vertical arms of the tohu symbolise not only the pekapeka and gateway, but also the runway, the place of physical transition between earth and sky. The notched sides, the hahae, are a traditional Māori method used to show passing of time, lineage and location, and are one of our key brand codes. You’ll see the hahae throughout the brand, highlighting key points on the customer journey or pointing towards important information. Expanding the visual story, three brand patterns were created, each with a meaning aligned to the airport’s values. Pekapeka — our symbol of care and respect is an integral part of our brand, speaking to our internal culture of kindness and our value of ‘Kia Ora’. Kakapo Manawa — the visual pulse of cultural and economic life, of our community and land. Reminiscent of ripples of the Waikato awa, and the echolocation of the pekapeka, it aligns with our value of ‘Kia Maia’. Poutama — a skyward pathway. Our stepped pattern to ever greater experiences, knowledge and growth. Always striving upwards and exemplifying our value of ‘Kia Mana’.