5 minutes with… Nikki Kennedy of TapuTapu Designs

4 months ago by

Design has the potential to affect change, and Waikato-based Nikki Kennedy of TapuTapu Designs (www.taputapu.co.nz) is using her design practice as a tool to revitalise te reo Māori, craft beautiful items for our homes and contribute positively to our national language, culture and taiao (environment). 


Kia ora Nikki tell us about your creative background:

Since I was a kid I’ve always been interested in creativity. At high school, I flourished in the music, art and fabric rooms. Throughout my upbringing music and performing were a big part of my life. Graphic design was introduced in my last year of high school at Lytton High. I fell in love with the idea of creating art on a computer and back then we had the old egg-shaped mac desktops and they were the coolest things ever. Over the years as a creative I go through seasons, music, design, art and my current obsession is pottery.

I’m very lucky now that I’ve turned my creativity into a business and a job for myself and one other.

Taputapu combines graphic design, homewares and Te Reo Māori. What were the catalysts behind founding this multifaceted business?

The catalyst was knowing that I could contribute to our culture and the perseverance of Te Reo Māori through my creative lens. Also, I saw that people were hungry for Te Reo Māori homeware and products for their whare.

What insight can you give us to the Taputapu design process and the implementation of Tikanga Māori?

This is a cool question. Sometimes I don’t realise that we operate in tikanga Māori, it becomes a natural process for me in my lifestyle. Firstly as a team we start our day with karakia (prayer) as a way to help us settle in for the day. When I look at our design process with our clients especially, whakawhanaungatanga is very important. For us what that means is spending time with the client and understanding their needs. Through the design process we are mindful of what Māori design patterns, symbols etc are suited for the job. For myself I steer away from using the typical koru for everything. I’ve noticed this a lot in ‘kiwiana’ designs. It starts to cross this line of being tacky.

What I love about our Māori culture is the depth, knowledge and stories attached to our Māori motifs, designs, patterns etc. There are many gems within Māori design. As a Māori designer it is an awesome space to be in to provide quality, authentic Māori designed logos, branding, publications etc. I see a need for more Māori designers to help navigate our country through an authentic Māori indigenous visual identity.

What have been the biggest challenges since starting your business and what did you learn from them?

The biggest challenge has been inconsistency in not providing products in a timely effective manner. We go through a roller coaster of peaks and troughs. One of the reasons why I introduced our graphic design services was to help bring some financial consistency and mahi into the business. Also, I thought to myself, at the end of the day I’m a designer and so I should exhaust my time and energy into graphic design. Products are fun after the buzz, they take up space, time and energy.

What are your ambitions for Taputapu?

My mission for Taputapu is to get Te Reo Māori into every whare in Aotearoa. For our products, my aspiration is to produce some beautiful Māori products for the home that are all handmade by us.

My other ambitions for our graphic design services is to produce quality Māori designs that represent our culture and people well. I want to have a studio that supports up and coming young Māori designers too. Overall create some tight, solid, stunning Māori design for all ages and organisations. I’m really keen to illustrate books for tamariki too.

What I love about design is that we can take it anywhere, website, apps, publications, signage, product, packaging design, advertisements etc. There are many options.

In 20years from now I want to be happy that Taputapu will be contributing positively to our language, culture and taiao (environment).

You are currently re-branding Taputapu… what insight can you give to this process?

Our rebrand has been in the works for the last few months. It’s been a process that I’ve had to come to grips with. I’ve had my logo since day one (five years ago) and I have become attached to it. At times I had to tell myself that a rebrand will give the whole business a facelift and will communicate the new direction for Taputapu. It’s scary to let go of something that has helped grow the business and is something that people recognise.

For me I see “Taputapu” as the ‘māmā’ and under her are two children ‘toa’ and ‘toi’. Toa represents our ‘store’ which are our products and ‘toi’ represents our design mahi.

The new logo and brand will introduce colour, colours of the whenua (land), uku (clay), homeware and design. I’m now excited to release our new brand.

We aim to launch the rebrand on Monday 5th of July which will be our 5th birthday for Taputapu and is also in the Matariki celebration period. It’s a huge milestone for us because we will transition into a company on that day too.

And, finally, where can we see more of your work or buy TapuTapu designs?


Insta: @taputapu_toi


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