McCarthy’s modular identity for Te Ūaka is charming, concept-driven and fundamentally striking
Currently without a location to exist in following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010, Te Ūaka (The Lyttelton Museum) – a historical museum dedicated to preserving the stories of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour) – has undergone fundraising efforts to construct a new site. Cementing their new name as part of their rebuilding, the museum reached out to Christchurch-based design studio McCarthy to bring a fresh identity to the forefront of the project.
Achieving as much and more, McCarthy have developed a charming, concept-driven and fundamentally striking display typeface; utilised in their logomark and across the physical and digital spaces it inhabits. Using the simple contrasting forms of circles and squares, McCarthy designed a modular system for the shapes to fill, in doing so constructing the letterforms themselves as well as exploring the notion of duality. This is most harmoniously detailed in the ‘T’ and ‘U’ that make up the logomark – simultaneously referencing the traditional Māori waka in the former, and the port’s ‘U’ shape in the latter.
Supporting the typeface is an intelligent combination of colours; the mixture of which has resulted in a refreshingly grounded, thoughtful and slick identity that harbours a total understanding of the museum’s past, as well as holding a firm grip on what the future may hold. Referencing natural flags and patterns in its application, the identity’s colours are that of a burnt orange and brown – a choice made due to the prominence of the colour combination in the rusty boats, ships, buildings and houses of Lyttelton itself. “The use of brown specifically came about from consultations with a representative from the local Māori hāpu – Ngāti Wheke (Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand while hapu is the people group or specific community),” Matt Kitto of McCarthy explains. “This colour pigment is found commonly around the area from natural sources,” he adds, “and has been used extensively on buildings and structures,” as well as the use in the pre-colonial art of the area.
Working alongside the colours and display type is Nizar Kazan’s Lausanne, a powerful workhorse of Swiss neo-grotesque calibre that perfectly complements the eccentricity of the logomark – tying together the constructive identity into something eye-catching and memorable, as well as crucially functional.