We love the opportunity to get to know our DA friends better. Today we spoke to our friends Warren and Mahoney to learn more about how their brand design team fits within their wider architectural practice, their approach to collaboration, the culture they foster, and their ambitions for the future.
Where are you based and what shape does the Warren and Mahoney team take?
We’re a team of creatives who call Australasia home, with project reach that extends right across the Pacific Rim. Our brand design team sits within a diverse practice of spatial and experiential designers and strategists – including Te Matakīrea (Advanced Indigenous Design Unit), sustainability and technology.
It’s the unique overlap of this talent that sets us apart. Our most ambitious work is the result of many different perspectives, backgrounds and skillsets coming together with a shared vision. We place a particular emphasis on collaboration and open dialogue to challenge, provoke and push each other through a highly tuned creative process.
What is the role of the brand design team within Warren and Mahoney?
Our brand design team can integrate into any project that comes through the practice. We collaborate to uncover and realise the ambition of our clients, partners, and communities by elevating cultural and commercial outcomes through the foundations of experience, brand, design, and strategy.
Our team’s outputs include brand identities and activations, signage and wayfinding, environmental graphics, marketing and business strategies, print collateral and digital design, content creation and campaigns, artwork installations and design guidelines for a range of clients including our own practice. However, the real magic happens when we partner with architectural and interior design teams at the project initiation phase to bring client-centric and humanistic views to the design.
In this space, we are often tasked with discovering the reputational and experiential goals of each opportunity, to build strong narratives and strategies that express identity, embody culture, and are intertwined within the surrounding context. This allows us to craft solutions that create influence – for clients, for people, for community, and for planet.
What projects have you been working on recently?
It is an exciting period for our brand design team – at present we are delivering the identity and marketing suite for HB Central, a new commercial and mixed-use development in Auckland’s CBD with over 130 years of history; A wayfinding and signage package for a 24-storey tower on Auckland’s waterfront, the new University of Otago campus in Christchurch, a community sports facility in Western Sydney, and a new international gateway hotel in Aotearoa.
We’re producing experiential design strategies and concepts for the future of retail in partnership with some of our country’s largest brands and contributing to the localisation of global technology brands touching ground in Australasia.
One of our responsibilities is continuing to shape the Warren and Mahoney brand identity to better reflect who we are and where we’re heading. Working with a brand that has 65+ years heritage, while embodying the culture of 400+ people, and curating an inspiring portfolio of work has taught us to put a particular emphasis on process and engagement.
Your website talks about how physical touchpoints can be powerful expressions in brand identity … Do the spatial design teams and brand design teams cross-pollinate between disciplines in the studio?
At any point in time Warren and Mahoney has hundreds of projects on the go. The exposure and collaboration between teams, disciplines, sectors, creative and technical expertise is fundamental to our design ethos. We believe that the cross pollination of ideas and thinking results in more profound, long-lasting design solutions that go far beyond any individual effort.
You can see this in all our work, where both built form and brand identities are established through the same core ideas, leading to better and more cohesive outcomes. As our practice continues to evolve, the expression of this will be through the delivery of more full-service packages – from business case and upstream consultancy, architecture and interior design, sustainability and cultural strategy, Building Information Technology, brand identities and marketing tools, experiential activations, and artwork integrations. All under one roof.
What does the Warren and Mahoney design process and philosophy look like?
Design encompasses everything that we do – conceptual ideas, technical execution, strategy, and communication. Design is a broad and inclusive belief rather than a narrow concept. Implicit in this is acknowledging our role in improving our environment through more socially equitable and sustainable outcomes.
At Warren and Mahoney, process beats ideology. We don’t have fixed stylistic beliefs that determine outcomes. We have a process that we believe in, and invest in. Before we start drawing and jumping on the tools, we listen and write to unpack the major challenges and opportunities of each project. Through a series of interactive workshops and stakeholder/community engagements, we co-author and define an agreed creative and strategic foundation that will inform every component of a design. Opening the platform for a series of design reviews and creative scrums at every phase ensures we keep ourselves and our clients accountable. This reflection allows us to make sure the vision remains true regardless of budget cuts or feasibility issues.
We care about the small details just as much as broad concepts. True innovation is generated in getting the vision and direction right, however an idea is only as good as its execution. And to nail it we must celebrate failure, embrace creative risk, test and experiment until the proof is in the pudding. Our ambition as a team can only be achieved by pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
Since covid there’s been a shift in the way many of us work. Can you tell us about the workplace culture at Warren and Mahoney, how you’ve adapted since covid, and any tips on maintaining connectivity and wellbeing when your team is spread across two countries?
The collaborative culture of Warren and Mahoney has only continued to mature through the pandemic. We’ve continued to maintain our connectivity across studios, and households, between countries, and through challenging times. All-studio updates, weekly studio presentations, and a supportive people leadership structure ensure no one individual is left isolated from the collective. This was integral to keeping morale high in trying times and inspiring our teams to keep their eyes on the horizon
Is there a project your team undertook in the last 12 months that was memorable because of its challenge? If so, what did you learn from it?
Every project has its challenges, but one that stood out for our brand design team was Te Iwa o Matariki – a multi-faceted project that explores togetherness, a mahitahi across five studios, between disciplines and industries to showcase the strength of a united team.
With Matariki now recognised as a national holiday in Aotearoa, our kaupapa was to explore and share the meaning of Matariki within our close and extended whānau. The project sought to highlight what Matariki means, how we can celebrate, where to participate in the traditions, and how we can embed the beauty of this celebration into our everyday lives.
We set out with a tikanga process that would enable us to bring the story of Matariki to our industry and community, crafted by our people. This was realised through a Matariki handbook; maramataka (moon phase dials); a series of illustrations, posters and a light installation displayed in our event spaces. These tangible outputs coincided with several experiences and events hosted across our five studios including weaving workshops, taonga pūoro wānanga, guest presentations and sharing traditional kai.
This project collectively reminded us to connect to each other and our world, offering seminal lessons as we search for ways to creatively solve the problems of our time.
As such a large team spread across Aotearoa NZ and Australia, which tools has your team been using to help manage the day-to-day?
Instead of jumping in a room together to interrogate, challenge and provoke like we normally would, we leveraged a software called Miro. This digital whiteboard tool allows collaborative workshops, design charettes, reviews and wireframes to occur live and without restraint. It has been fundamental in maintaining our creative and strategic workflows across projects and teams.
What recent achievements or projects is the Warren and Mahoney studio most proud of?
Our work on HB Central is due to be released soon and has been in the works for the better part of a year. We’re excited to see it go live, highlighting the character of a building that is embedded in the fabric of the city’s heritage.
Recognition of our brand design team’s first debut in the recent AGDA and Best Awards programmes is only the beginning for us. We were particularly proud to have received a Judge’s Choice from AGDA Juror Leslie Tergas, who described Te Iwa o Matariki, as “the elegant use of black and white, texture and typography in print brings to life both the meaning, the feeling and spiritual significance of Matariki, in a way that is both specific to Māori culture, and universal. This is echoed in the installation, through sculpture and light, which is absolutely captivating. In addition, the work is infused with the collective process of creation and innovation, carrying and giving form to the voices of whanau. Te Iwa o Matariki is a striking and moving expression of content and process, of form and meaning, and ultimately an elegant and multi-layered work of design that I found informative and inspiring.”
Further reflecting on our reach across Australasia, at the end of 2021 we were invited and shortlisted to design the environmental graphics and brand activation of the new Google Headquarters in Sydney. A huge recognition of our team’s capability and ambition on an international level.
And finally, where to next for Warren and Mahoney, what is your team working towards for 2022/23?
Warren and Mahoney’s purpose is to design a brave future in partnership with people, community and the planet. To do this requires great influence and ambition.
Our brand design team’s journey is only just beginning. While this service offering is relatively new, we have gained significant experience in this space and are focused on shifting the dial within adjacent industries. We’re interested in partnering with local collaborators and suppliers to innovate new solutions that integrate the latest in sustainable thinking, incorporate indigenous world views and encourage a more welcoming environment for all.
The vision for our team is to become a creative hub who dive headfirst into a range of project typologies and bring together diverse expertise and specialisations. You’ll see more from our brand design team as live projects are delivered and we continue to take on new opportunities.
With the ongoing growth of our team, we are excited to share our capability and contribute to the future of Aotearoa, Australia and beyond.
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