A group of Massey design students has won an international award for a way-finding project at Wellington’s Makara Peak mountain bike park.

Bachelor of Design honours students, Josie Schultz, Steph Tidey, Rachael Jupp, Rhianna Field and Oliver Ward were tasked with helping to make the park more inclusive for new mountain bikers and walkers, while maintaining the area’s strong conservation values. Last week, Ms Field and Mr Ward collected a Merit Award from the Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) in Seattle. The project also won a Designers Institute of New Zealand Best Award in 2015.

Course lecturer Karl Kane from the College of Creative Arts says the project was a practical example of what can be achieved when a community’s vision is combined with designers’ ability. “The project was completed within the Creative Enterprise paper, where a client comes to us with a strategic problem or opportunity, and students decide how to address it through what we call ‘design leadership’,”  Mr Kane says.

“The client for this project was the Makara Peak Supporters group. The students went and rode the park, and got lost, so they responded to a clear need by developing a way-showing system which draws from the visual language of ski fields and the universalism of, for example, airports. Now no prior knowledge is required to navigate the park.”

Makara Peak has more than 40 kilometres of track and gets more than 100,000 visitors per year. The Massey students developed a system of colour-coded signage to inform users where they are, the direction they are heading, distance, grade and level of difficulty.   Helpful biking tips are placed on beginner and easy grade tracks and the students adjusted the signs depending on whether a user would be seeing it while riding uphill or speeding downhill. A new map was also developed.

The project has resulted in a consistent visual language, which could form the basis of a nationally recognised way-finding system. The Wainuiomata and Colonial Knob mountain bike parks have both been inspired by the Massey students’ design.

Supporters group committee member Karl Yager says: “The committee was “blown away” by what the student designers achieved.  The previous way-finding was not so good for mountain bikers who need something visible when riding and visitors were struggling to find their way around. “It’s made a huge difference in the park. If you go there now, there is no way you could get lost.  We’ve had a lot of very positive feedback.”

The Wellington City Council was the main funder of the project. “The Council is over the moon.  They have come back to the School of Design with many other live projects, ” Mr Kane says.

The Creative Enterprise paper, which was developed by Mr Kane and senior lecturer, Anna Brown is designed to introduce students to real world problems such as meeting the needs of diverse stakeholders, site assessment and budgets. “Our students have been exposed to these real life situations, which allows them to understand design needs and produce compelling offerings when they enter the workforce.”

The judges of the Seattle awards agreed: “It’s hard for me to accept that this is a student project. The visual identity and way-finding system is beautiful, in harmony with the park and designed with visitor needs at its centre, noted one of the judges. 

“Give these design students jobs, immediately!” wrote another.  

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