Mahora School

In 2015 the Principal of Mahora School, Rohan Pearse, approached us to rebrand the historic Hastings based primary school. We would like to share this story with you.


Mahora School is a State Contributing Primary School established in 1903. It was the second primary school to open in Hastings and has a long and successful history.

Their school motto is ‘Piki Haere’ which stands for ‘Keep on Climbing’. This was given to them by Bishop Bennett of Waiapu and fits well with enhancing the children’s learning and further developing the school.

Mahora School is symbolised by the Pipiwharauroa — the Shining Cuckoo. To Māori the Pipiwharauroa is the ‘Harbinger of Spring’ heralding renewal and a new life force amongst us, which Mahora School see as the development of the children.

The Pipiwharauroa — the Shining Cuckoo. Image © Duncan Watson by Duncan Watson. Image source

Why Rebrand?

The aim of rebranding Mahora School was to:

  • Reinforce the relevance of Mahora School in the community and increase recognition and awareness of Mahora School’s identity and values
  • Convey a contemporary feel while including historic elements
  • Celebrate Mahora School’s long history; respecting the past but setting the scene for the future
  • Provide brand consistency.

The Old Branding

The lack of clear guidelines had seen the previous Mahora School brand applied over the years in multiple fonts and colours, as well as variations of the Pipiwharauroa and motto ‘Piki Haere — Keep on Climbing’.

Examples of inconsistent use of the previous Mahora School brand.

The Brief

The pupils of Mahora School had a good connection to ‘Piki Haere’, but the Pipiwharauroa had lost significance with the children. The brief was to create a visual link between the Pipiwharauroa, the motto, and the five school values introduced in 2015 — Self, Connected, Attitude, Respect, Responsibility.


The first step of reviewing Mahora Primary School’s brand was to compare the logo styles of other Hastings based primary schools. This research revealed there were two distinct categories, ‘crest/coat of arms’ and ‘stylised’.

Some Hastings based primary school logos.

Crest/Coat of Arms

A traditional approach. Local schools we identified as using a crest/coat of arms were Parkvale, St Mary’s, St Matthews, Frimley and to an extent, Mayfair.


A modern approach, where images or stylised icons have been used. Schools we identified as using this approach were Flaxmere, Frimley, Ebbett Park, Raureka, Mayfair and Irongate.

The Concepts

Concept One

Concept One (above) in both centered and horizontal variations.

Concept One depicts a traditional yet simplified shape of the Pipiwharauroa. The five horizontal lines found on the bird’s chest emulate the visual characteristics of the Pipiwharauroa, while also representing the five values of Mahora School. A strong and bold serif font has been used to produce a classic and established feeling, which alludes to the long successful history of Mahora School. This also creates a visual connection to the serif font used in the current logo. The use of capital letters in ‘Mahora School’ creates a hierarchy of text that has strong impact, and from a practical perspective is highly legible — even at a minimum size.

The original motif of the Pipiwharauroa used in the old logo is shown above (far left). From this, a simplified motif was created. Colour was added and the motif was flipped to face in towards the logotype to create a greater visual connection. Five horizontal lines representing the five values of Mahora School were then incorporated.

Concept Two

Concept Two (above) in both centered and horizontal variations.

A modern, iconic approach was taken towards the creation of the motif in Concept Two, with the incorporation of the ‘steps’ or five values being a greater focus. An abstract and symmetrical outline of the bird was used as the base element and then combined with five lines/steps. A serif font was also used in this concept, however its weight and subtle curves introduced a lighter, softer feel.

The original motif from the old logo is shown above (far left). It was then stripped back further to form a unique ‘icon’ representative of the bird. Five curved horizontal lines representing the five values of Mahora School were incorporated and colour was added.

Concept Development

Concept One was chosen to develop further. Variations of the motif were explored, the lines on the bird were removed and replaced with a koru, the beak, legs and body were tweaked slightly and the motto font changed.

Concept One development.

Mahora School stakeholders (board members, past students and the local community) were consulted and provided valuable feedback on the concept, which was worked to a stage where all involved agreed on a final logo.

The final logo design (above) in both centered and horizontal variations.

Incorporating the Values

To tie in the five values of Mahora School (Self, Connected, Attitude, Respect, Responsibility), each value was assigned its own colour. The colour palette created uses the yellow from the final logo as its base colour.

Mahora School’s colour palette for their five values.

Once assigned a colour, each value was made into a sub-logo. These logos use the koru found in the final logo and along with the ‘steps’ of colour, signify growth and learning within the children.

The five values of Mahora Schools as sub-brands.

Bringing it all together

We applied the branding to some of Mahora School’s collateral with the aim of keeping the designs clean, clear and simple, and using the yellow as a feature colour because of its positive associations.

“Yellow is the color of sunshine. It’s associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy. Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy.”

Colour Wheel Pro

Stationery with branding applied — letterhead, business card and newsletter template.

A3 Posters (below) and certificates (further below) were then created which have been used to introduce the five values to the pupils. These certificates are awarded to students when they demonstrate any of the five values in their behavior or conduct.

Value posters and certificates with the new branding applied.

Final notes

The new brand respects Mahora School’s past, renews its presence and educates the community of its motto and values. It provides a visual identity that Mahora School’s pupils can feel inspired by and form a strong relationship with. We’re thankful that we’ve had the opportunity to be involved in helping establish the future of such an historic brand. The Mahora School rebrand project has been a great experience for us.

“We approached several providers and settled on №9 as the successful company. №9 engaged with our school in very professional manner and supported us throughout the entire process. We found them to be very flexible and accommodating to meet our needs right through and even beyond the project. №9 were prepared to listen to our suggestions and re-crafted the design several times until the successful outcome was achieved. At all times during this process they were professional in their approach and provided sound guidance. Of particular note was their patience given the large number of people with a vested interest in the design of a school brand and the need to have all opinions heard. The outcome of the project was launched this year and I am proud to say our students can now talk about our school brand and make strong links to their learning. This is a fantastic result for our school and community.”

– Rohan Pearse, Principal of
Mahora School.
Scope of work

Logo Design

Values Set Design

Stationery Design



A3 Posters

Matt Laminated Spot Gloss Business Cards

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