Postgraduate Design Research — Jaime Kapa, Unitec

10 months ago by

Welcome to Postgraduate Design Research – an opportunity to profile a selection of current design postgraduate students and their projects across our tertiary institutions. Today, we speak with Jaime Kapa from Unitec.

What is your background and how did you get into design?

I moved to London after graduating at AUT. I never used my Graphic Design degree. Living in London widen my perspective and made me appreciate all art forms. My best friend from high school lived in Berlin, it was my frequent trips to the Bauhaus Museum of Design where my Typography passion was heightened.


Tell us about your MCP research exploring the space between oral history and typographic form… what were the catalysts and inspirations for this project?

The motivation behind my project was discovering the layers of my whanau knowledge. Being able to understand my Grandmother’s voice and being able to use that as my main tool to communicate her whakapapa through a typographic form.

You recently won the Bold Innovators scholarship to further your research and start a type foundry, what does this scholarship enable for you professionally and mean to you personally?

Winning the Bold Innovators Scholarship is a big accomplishment for me. It means not only opening up conversations about whakapapa, it invites people to understand the importance of an oral tradition being represented through a visual typographic form. Starting a Type Foundry in Aotearoa will not only bring opportunities to create and design typefaces that represent a visual and narrative voice. This new journey will be challenging and rewarding at the same time.


Based on your research at present are there any discoveries about Aotearoa design and what makes our visual “voice” distinct that you can share with us? 

The essence behind te ao Māori is having your whakapapa and those recollected memories and narrative passed down to you. I strongly believe as a Māori female practitioner, we as Māori are representing and acknowledging the interconnectedness and interrelationship of all who have gone before us. My whakapapa defines my unconditional spiritual connection to my Tūpuna. For me my Tūpuna is my forever visual voice.

How has your research and new understanding of typographic form impacted upon your own design practice?

It has given me a really extensive insight on the different art periods and movements of when each typeface was used. It has let me understand the procedure and the making of each typeface and also the approach each Typeface Designer has had to face. The type knowledge has immensely helped me shape and guide my own design process.


Have there been any breakthrough moments – when it all clicked – or you found something unexpected along the way? 

Yes, absolutely. As a Typographer you have your bias type styles you tend to be drawn to. The narrative of my Grandmother opened up another design layer and perspective, that I would not necessarily would have used. The outcome of this design process was not looking so much at the letterforms itself but the movement and the shape of the objects that were discovered. Looking beyond the letterform allowed my work to authentically evolve.

What has been the most challenging part about your research thus far?

Definitely moving my letterforms to digital form. Letting go of that first initial design process and then allowing my work to develop again digitally. My typeface was drawn by hand up until a year out of completing my project. For me learning a new font program and having to step away from having a pencil in my hand was the most difficult. Progressively this taught me to stick it out and to keep going whatever the challenge might be.

Why did you choose Unitec’s MCA program?

Creative Industries at Unitec offers the best supervisors. Hands down the environment and knowledge in the art department is something else.

And, finally, where can we see more of your own work?

Very simply Instagram for now –


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