Design for
cultural representation

Diadem’s wayfinding strategy for Rotorua showcases the rich culture of the New Zealand city and its people. Using an extensive co-design process, the new signage aims to enhance local pride in ​​Māori heritage as well as civic navigation, activation and safety.

Diadem created a wayfinding strategy to improve Rotorua’s environment for residents and visitors through authentic local storytelling and carbon modelling to measure and endorse timber as the material of choice.


Rotorua Lakes Council

community connection

Rotorua is a city in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand’s North Island, known for its hot springs and bubbling mud pools.

In 2021, the Rotorua Destination Management Plan identified the need to enhance pride in Māori (indigenous people of New Zealand) heritage and Te Arawa (tribe) culture through increased visibility.

With this in mind, Diadem was approached to create a wayfinding strategy that would help foster community connection and enrich visitor experiences, aligning with the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

New cityscape signage throughout the CBD and around the lakefront would also improve navigation, leading to a greater sense of safety for pedestrians and cyclists through improved mapping.

people and place

Elevating the living culture of Te Arawa drove the strategy’s focus on the rich history of arts and crafts synonymous with the city. For example, as weaving and carving are unique to Rotorua, these elements were incorporated into the signage designs.

A co-design process with local artists also enabled the signs to feature carvings representing the city. The signs also reflect the cultural narratives outlined by the local iwi (tribe) with the shape drawn from the ceremonial robe or Korowai (traditional cloak) worn and woven by Māori.

Featured space was given on the sign faces for specific iwi motifs relevant to each land area. Throughout the process, great care was taken to ensure cultural elements were intrinsic to the total design – form, language, colour, pattern, and material – and not tokenistic or an afterthought.

sourced timber

Another local connection was timber as the choice of material. This aligned with the local council’s Wood First Policy and the forestry industry being one of Rotorua’s largest employers.

The design draws on locally sourced exterior-grade structural posts wrapped in marine ply. The timber is painted in Kōkōwai (red ochre used to decorate wood or other materials) or an ochre colour found throughout the Maraes (meeting grounds) and local carved features.

A sustainable

Diadem ensured the signage panels would use standardised sheet sizes as much as possible. This minimises offcut waste and allows for easy maintenance and repair.

Diadem’s carbon modelling showed wood was superior to standard aluminium, with a 45% reduction in embodied carbon.


Get in touch to start
a conversation.

Multistep Form