New Zealand Historic Places Trust
Waikato, New Zealand
Design & Build
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The concept for the driving tour was developed from a brief by New Zealand Historic Places Trust for an audio tour through the major sites of the Waikato War of 1863 – when government soldiers marched through the Waikato against the Kīngitanga movement.
The concept for the driving tour was developed from a brief by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust for an audio tour through the major sites of the Waikato War of 1863 – when government soldiers marched through the Waikato against the Kīngitanga movement.
We developed this into a much wider concept that included signage, web, brochures, an education kit and mobile audio tours. The original idea also included museum installations placed at strategic locations along the battle route.
The approach involved extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders including local hapū, representatives of the Māori King, historians and archaeologists.
The work needed to be accurate, but also acknowledging differing perspectives on the war and its cause and effects. It also had to be engaging for the general public. We held multiple workshops in marae and meeting places in the Waikato to ensure we were getting the story right.
Prototype and Test
As this was our first battle site experience, we wanted to test a few options with potential visitors first. Conveying a series of battles that took place over large areas of land and covering several months, was an interactive design and storytelling challenge.
We developed a few versions of a tablet and phone based tour – to look at some technical possibilities and also to use as props in our initial user research. It helped us make some key decisions around depth of content, and we were able to gauge what a visitor would consider a ‘comprehensive’ product.
One of the major challenges with a transmedia project is to sync up web, mobile, print, signage and educational content. This isn’t just a content management issue, as the concept and design forms of the project develop over time, so each small change can have impacts across all media.
The other challenge was authenticity and accuracy, coming from multiple perspectives. Not everyone agrees on what happened during the war, so managing content tone and nuanced accuracy was a challenge. The text, illustrations, information design, design hierarchies and other assets all needed to be aligned so multiple perspectives of history are offered to the visitor, not just a standard version of events with an alternative view tacked-on.
Illustrating a battle
On the battle sites the signage strategy is view-shaft based. Each sign creates a viewing angle on the battlefield. This forced perspective allows us to illustrate what it may have looked like on the day. The scenes were carefully worked through in 3D and then details added with advice from historians before illustrating the final work.
We also used remote control chopper images to obtain oblique and birds-eye shots, so that we could illustrate historic perspectives over modern day landscapes. This is a technique that we now use regularly to get great perspectives, as New Zealand’s landforms are truly amazing to view from just 100 meters in the air.
Marketing the product
We realised early on that the best way to reach the intended audience was to partner with the regional tourism body. Hamilton Waikato Tourism have a great marketing site, so we worked with them to integrate the website component of the product, framing it as a new product in the region that was easily accessible and a great way to journey through the Waikato.
The results have been impressive, as a high percentage of visitors to the Hamilton Waikato website are also visiting the Waikato War experience.