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  • Writer's pictureCharisma Rangipunga

Tēnei mea te tohu? What is in a brand colour?

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

I would guess that many of us have not witnessed true daybreak in a long time. Now when I say witness, I mean being outside and staying still long enough to truly watch the phasing from night to day, without phone in hand, our eyeballs fixed on the changes happening in the heavens above us, our bodies feeling the atmospheric shifts occurring around us, our ears hearing the response to these shifts from those other citizens of this planet, the birds and insects.

Globally this time of day is linked to new beginnings, to fresh starts, to energy. It is a time for giving thanks, a time of cycles, of coming through hardship, of resetting.

Our tīpuna knew this time well. The transition between night and day was considered an important time when meaningful stuff got done. Like the reading of the stars to determine if the year ahead was going to be rough or prosperous, like the opening of new houses, like the lighting of the hāngī fire, a time for setting off to fish. All very important.

In English, this phase between te pō and te ao is called the dawn. There are other words for it too, but all of them are lacking when explaining how Māori see this time. For us, the dawn has many phases, each with its own characteristics and signals. There are many waiata and karakia that name each of these phases, and whilst tribally, the names may differ, essentially, the whakaaro or concept is the same. There are the stars on the horizon that signal when dawn is due, ngā kawainga; there is the time before the light shifts, te atapō; there is the time that the darkness lightens, just ever so. There is the time when the whole sky shifts colour, and then there is the time when the sun’s head hits the horizon.

For whakaritenga or rituals like the reading of the stars or the opening of new whare, the changing phases of the dawn would signal the time to do different things and help guide us on what is appropriate to do and when.

NAIA has adopted the colours of the dawn for our brand. The gradient from dark to light was not easily come by, and it took a lot of toing and froing with our designer. I was being offered limited colour options to nod to the dawn, but I didn’t want a nod. I wanted the dawn in all its fullness. In the end, it came down to a photograph taken of the sunrise (pre-sun popping above the horizon) and drawing a box around the colour gradient in the image and saying to the design team, this is it.

I am positive that using a gradient as the primary colouring for a brand is not recommended by most responsible for brand management. A gradient is hard to use, hard to establish as a thing. Single-colour brands like Warewhare’s red, or the All Blacks’ pango, can easily be applied to a lot of things to help increase the reach and presence of that brand. Even two or three colours in a brand are okay to work with. But a gradient of a range of colours requires a lot more thinking and mindfulness to ensure that the integrity of the brand isn’t diluted by spewing a lot of colours out and about in the world and hoping that they stick.

The dawn and all its phases says fresh, says new beginnings, says preparedness, it talks about transition and speaks of movement guided by the old to lead us into the new. It is anchored in whakaaro Māori – one of our values and something we aim to share and stand proudly in. This was a deliberate choice to declare to the world that we can come through adversity and challenge, and like the sunrise and in all our glory, we can help spread warmth and comfort to others by doing good work, being good humans and standing proudly as a Māori business.

For me, the challenge of adopting this dawn-coloured gradient aligns with who we are and who we aim to be at NAIA. It helps tell our story and speaks directly to what we value.

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