Pure Pākati tells rich New Zealand story

Tourism New Zealand’s globally successful 100% Pure brand has emerged with a new look and a rich backstory.

Tourism New Zealand’s globally successful 100% Pure brand has emerged with a new look and a rich backstory that carries an authentic New Zealand message. 

The brand has been re-crafted with an original font hand carved in native timber by a Māori artist as part of an evolution that celebrates New Zealand people and place. Designed, crafted and infused with deep meaning and stories, the unique Pure Pākati typeface will help launch a new era in destination storytelling.

True to the values behind the enduring 100% Pure New Zealand marketing campaign – 16 years old and still inspiring international travellers – the Pure Pākati typeface is an expression of the people, land and stories of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The artistic inspiration behind the typeface draws deeply on New Zealand's cultural and natural heritage. While it will be used to help tell the enriching destination stories that are the role of the national tourism marketing organisation, the development of the font is also a story in itself.

This is a story with all the key elements that should shape a great New Zealand holiday story - a beautiful diverse landscape, an embracing people with a unique culture, and a place that's like no other place.

The distinctive font or typeface, which takes its inspiration from Māori culture, originated as a single block of native New Zealand timber that was carved into individual pieces of wooden type. The blocks were then hand printed, copied and developed using modern digital artistry into a typeface with an original New Zealand style.

Kiwi designers

Commissioned by and created for Tourism New Zealand, Pure Pākati was designed by Kiwi typographer Kris Sowersby and carved by contemporary Māori artist Rangi Kipa.

Sowersby's brief was "to design a font that reflected where we had come from but also injected a real sense of place into the look and feel.”

The design team worked through a range of traditional icons and motifs and eventually selected a simple notch as their inspiration and distinguishing mark. This notch or niho is a pattern that is used in a wide range of Māori designs. 

In the old tradition of wood cut printing, Kipa worked with small blocks of wood to individually create the letters of the alphabet using a mix of traditional and modern carving tools to carve each piece. The wooden letters were then inked and used to stamp the prototype font.

The font reflects the uneven grain of the kauri timber used to create the original type, and another thread to the story. The kauri is a giant of the ancient northern New Zealand forests that undisturbed can grow for thousands of years. Large specimens once provided the raw material for producing traditional Māori  waka / ocean-going canoes and later European sailing ships but these forests are now protected for posterity.

By creating the logo and letters from native timber, the grain of the kauri has become part of the visual identity that Tourism New Zealand will use in all its work, explains Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler.

“This font has been designed by our people and created from this place. It is truly, authentic New Zealand and we are confident that no one else in the world has created their graphic design for their destination campaign like this.”

"We’ve got something that is unique, and it’s one-off and once you print it, it’s different every time," says Sowersby. "Nobody does it like this anymore."

Nihoniho design

Pākati refers to the key feature of the one-off design. The pakati or nihoniho teeth notches are carved into the wooden letters and symbolise the New Zealand custom of ‘embracing visitors as whanau' or family.

Māori legend reaches back to a story of an ancestor Toi Kai Rakau who was searching for his grandson lost at sea in his canoe.

Toi bound a rakau (wooden stick) with three lashings and set it adrift hoping the same currents would take it to his grandson. The lashings represented three questions ‘Where are you, how are you and when will you be back?’ 

The notches and the questions here symbolise the love, care and concern for voyaging whanau / family that is part of an authentic New Zealand experience. 

New Zealand Māori Tourism Chief Executive Pania Tyson-Nathan says "the concept of treating our manuhiri or visitors as family is very consistent with what the New Zealand brand is all about. You're no longer strangers – you’re whanau. There is a depth to the narrative that is unmistakeably Aotearoa New Zealand."

Kevin Bowler says the new typeface goes "back to what is at the heart of New Zealand’s unique offer – and that is our place and our people. When you put the landscapes, activities and people together you have a place that is unique in the world, a place where there is a wide range of things to see and do, all within easy reach.”

About Kris Sowersby

Kris Sowersby graduated from the Whanganui School of Design in 2003. After brief employment as a graphic designer, in 2005 he started the Klim Type Foundry, which is based in Wellington. Kris’ typefaces combine historical knowledge with rigorous contemporary workmanship and finish. 


About Rangi Kipa

Rangi Kipa is an artist whose sculpture, carvings and tā moko are at the forefront of contemporary Māori art that challenges boundaries, creates dialogue, traverses the art/object divide and confronts the modern world that we live in as Māori and non-Māori .