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Theming the office environment

We recommend agencies adopt a neutral approach to theming their office environment. Creativity is encouraged and engaging with your agency is recommended, this provides people with the option to be involved in the design solution.

Agencies should avoid theming the office environment on their own specific agency brand theme, as this does not align with a New Zealand Government approach.

Consider adopting one or all of the following themes: cultural, locational, historical, or contemporary.

A reception area within the Treasury building. It contains good use of contemporary themes while also being accessible in its design. It has a strong focal point that acts as the center of reception with a range of kiosks at varying heights to account for different people.

The reception area at The Treasury, Wellington

Cultural theme

Māori culture forms a distinctive part of New Zealand culture; it is rich and varied with both traditional and contemporary elements. To promote and encourage te reo Māori, meeting rooms could be named after Māori flora and fauna, or colours with bilingual signage and an associated image as an example.

Areas for exhibiting artworks should be planned as part of the design process, with te reo Māori and English signage.

Be sure to consult with local Iwi and hapū before incorporating any cultural designs.

Find Iwi by local authority - Te Puni Kōkiri - Ministry of Māori Development

An example of culturally appropriate design, showcasing green Māori patterns wrapped around a rectangular column.
An example of culturally appropriate design, showcasing red traditional Māori designs on both the ceilings and walls.

Two examples of good cultural design from The Treasury, Wellington.

Locational theme

An agency could base their office theme on neutral New Zealand locations, including those related to the office location. For example, famous landmarks, whether they are natural or artificial, can be showcased throughout the office. An office located in Auckland could have the CBD skyline frosting on glass walls or printed on lockers, and the names of meeting rooms could be Auckland street names. Other locational themes could include:

Natural environment

  • Landscapes
  • Mountains
  • Lakes and rivers
  • Unique landmarks such as the Moeraki Boulders or the Pink and White Terraces
  • Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki and Wairarapa
  • Flora and fauna

Built environment

  • City skylines
  • Buildings such as the Beehive or Sky Tower
  • Famous statues and monuments

Using Māori tūpuna names, and names of significance to Māori, such as the tribal waka and names of iwi and hapū for rooms should always be cleared with the local iwi and hapū.

An example of locational design, showcasing a meeting room named after the Wairarapa region in New Zealand.

An example of locational theming, using the name of a New Zealand region as the name of a meeting room.

Historical theme

The look and feel of the office could be themed on neutral New Zealand historical significance connected to the building or location. For example, the Bolton Hotel, on Bolton Street in Wellington is named and also themed around a ship named the Bolton that arrived at Wellington Harbour in 1840. Another example is meeting rooms named after famous New Zealanders who have made major historical achievements. If you use people’s names, it is essential that you seek any relevant permissions from them or their whānau/iwi/hapū.

Images showing meeting rooms themed after inspirational New Zealanders.

The person in this photo is Elizabeth Grace Neill, the first woman to gain a position of seniority within the New Zealand Public Service.

An example of historical design, showing a nameplate for a room named after Elizabeth Grace Neil, as well as a description of her deeds.

A sign for a room showing historical theming from Te Kawa Mataaho, Wellington.

Contemporary theme

Alternatively, agencies can apply a very neutral theme with a contemporary office environment by applying no theme at all and using contemporary colours, materials and basic patterns. This can be the favoured approach when various, interchangeable agencies are using the same space such as kitchen areas, or collaboration and co-working spaces.

Plan your theme early in a project

Planning the theme at the beginning of the overall building refurbishment or new build process, means the final brand solution will set the scene for the entire look and feel of the office. For multi-level buildings, one example could be considering meeting rooms on one floor named after flora, and another floor named after fauna. When using Māori themes, ensure you engage with local Iwi and your agency cultural or Māori advisor as appropriate.

An example of contemporary design, showing a number of multi-coloured soft furnishings with a plant and a piece of abstract art on the wall.

An example of contemporary design, showing a row of seats and tables next to some green couches – backed with a simple planked wall.

An example of contemporary design, showing a number of coloured chairs gathered around small tables with plants in the background.

Examples of contemporary design for sitting areas.

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