Under the Hood with Emme Jacob, Maynard

8 months ago by

Ahead of our upcoming online event tomorrow, Under the Hood – Placemaking, we sat down for a quick q&a with one of our featured speakers; Emme Jacob, Senior Wayfinding Designer at Maynard.

All folks are welcome to virtually attend this event by registering here ( free for DA Friends, pay-what-you-can for the public)

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What project will you be presenting at Under the Hood?

Te Mātāwai Wayfinding

What was the most challenging part of the project and what lessons did you draw from it?

Kāinga Ora with Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei had the overarching vision of honouring waihorotiu, the stream that once ran through the 139 Greys Avenue site. Rivers were essential to Māori life and are deeply significant to identity and connection to place.

This guiding narrative allowed the different design teams involved to have their own unique approach to spatial storytelling, creating a rich and inviting environment for those that will call Te Mātāwai ‘home’. Between architecture (MODE), interior design (MODE) and landscape design (Isthmus), wayfinding is present throughout, connecting place and guiding the community. 

Our challenge was to have a wayfinding approach that responds to the design narrative gifted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei, whilst also complimenting the other approaches across Te Mātāwai. Our question for ourselves was, do we lean-in and adopt materials and elements from the architecture and landscape, or, do we contribute to the spatial storytelling with our own understanding of what waihorotiu and wayfinding may share? 

A large site consisting of three adjoining buildings, community spaces and outdoor areas warrants architectural variety. To coordinate wayfinding with all the materials, colours and elements used would have been a tough undertaking. Instead, our wayfinding response stands apart and remains consistent throughout the experience. The success of this came from coordinating with supportive design partners in MODE and collaborating with Kāinga Ora who deeply cared for a meaningful outcome for this kāinga.

Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment in the project when things clicked and fell into place?

We approached waihorotiu as the stream as a source of life – not only inspired by the stream’s flow of water, but the flora and fauna it serves above where Te Mātāwai now stands. We aspired to connect this approach with what this kāinga may mean for those that live here, and what the wayfinding hopes to achieve. Our wayfinding objectives were to instil a sense of ‘home’, guide residents around their precinct and connect people to their community.

Artworks in Te Mātāwai are a key element to storytelling across the site. By working with Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei artist Katz Maihi, we were able to incorporate art into wayfinding by milling illustrations into the Tōtora signs themselves. We didn’t want to attribute one artwork to each building, as it seemed a shame for a resident of one building to only experience one piece of the story. Instead, we commissioned artworks that reflect wayfinding journeys:

Manu: applied to Level Identification signage to represent ‘home’ across the upper levels of the three buildings.

Wai: applied to Directional and Lift Directory signage to represent ‘movement’ – where you can go.

Harekeke: applied to Community Room Identification to represent ‘connection’ – with flax weaving representing community-connection.

What insights to your methodological approach or philosophy can you give us?  

Empathy is at the core of my approach. Understanding the needs, challenges, and aspirations of the end-users is fundamental. I avoid restricting the craft and care of outcomes based on who I assume I’m designing for.

Instead, I seek to understand the people who will inhabit a space, their stories, and their diverse backgrounds. This can be achieved either directly engaging with the end-users themselves or by collaborating with stakeholders who champion their best interests. 

One way we approached ‘empathy’ for Te Mātāwai was by developing a pictogram-led wayfinding system as a way of visualising services for those who may have English and Te Reo Māori as their second and third languages. Pictograms help alleviate language barriers, ensuring that information is accessible to everyone and promotes inclusivity.

And finally, where to next for you? What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?

I’m interested in challenging the expected wayfinding outcomes for places that at their heart, serve people, such as further social housing, community spaces, healthcare, and education. 

I hope to grow my skillset in customer engagement – having spent the last part of my career specialising in wayfinding, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to participate more in user-focused strategy and realise those learnings with graphic outcomes. 

I’d also love to marry-up my brand background and wayfinding skillset with large-scale event wayfinding and environmental branding projects. Events are catalysts for bringing people together for experience, and I believe that sentiment can be imbued into wayfinding outcomes that promote engagement, joy, safety and inclusivity. It’d be a lot of fun!

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