Phillip Kim Wai Horotiu Display

  • Tauira / Student
    Phillip Kim
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Valance Smith, Katie Kerr, Tatiana Tavares
Judge's comments:

A typeface that conveys the sense of place and richness of Maori culture in a very refined way.


Wai Horotiu Display is a stylised serif font that is designed to typographically emphasise Indigenous knowledge by conveying the sense of place and richness of Maori culture. The typeface recalls the legendary taniwha Horotiu, who roams the underground streams of Tāmaki Makaurau.

Wai Horotiu is one of many complex underground waterways that provide valuable drinking water to the Auckland CBD. These underground waterways helped settlements to flourish in Tāmaki Makaurau, and I wanted to capture these historical contexts, cultural significances, and the movement of the stream, within each letterform.

The kaupapa of the project is ‘communication’ and ‘connections’ in which ideas are translated and presented to a broader audience to better understand our world. I wanted to amplify the connection that is valued in Māori traditions; the connection of tupuna, taniwha, kaitiaki, and the balance of tāngata with its surrounding Whenua and Moana.

Guided by my kaiako, I began researching the spiritual realms of Tangata Whenua which informed both the macro and micro details of the letterforms.

Creating a successful typeface involves looking at how designed letterforms work coherently as a group. The fundamental construction of the typeface is based on the abstract form of Wai Horotiu stream. Successfully developing this has required many trials and errors, with each letter undergoing many refinements to develop rhythm and flow.

Wai Horotiu is a high-contrast serif typeface with a signature wave-flowing movement inspired by the way Te Wai Horotiu stream flows. The letterforms capture the natural movement, embodying a rhythmic cadence that mimics the water's course, while the pronounced strokes and the masculine constructions of the display typeface are evocative of the taniwha Horotiu.