HPA Alcohol Journeys banner image


  • A whānau-focused web-app audio prototype that can be built on, featuring real stories from real people

  • Prototype concepts created in research sessions with Māori, on marae

  • Te ao Māori visual designs created in partnership with Indigenous Design & Innovation Aotearoa.

The goal: Encourage people to reflect on harmful drinking

Te Hiringa Hauora supports the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. They had an idea to create an online experience that could support mid-life New Zealanders to curb harmful drinking. We worked together with Te Hiringa Hauora, Māori participants on marae, and Māori to discover what the experience should be, and to base it in te ao Māori. We co-designed the experience with Indigenous Design & Innovation Aotearoa.

The final product is an easily accessible web app audio experience, where real people share stories of how alcohol has affected them, and how they’ve dealt with it.

Our approach: Collaborating to create the right tool

We didn’t want to come to the project with any preconceived ideas about what the tool could be. Instead, we wanted ideas to emerge from the co-research Discovery phase, where we worked closely with Te Hiringa Hauora subject matter experts, whānau and communities to identify key audiences.

HPA Alcohol Journeys mobile view

Running research sessions on marae

We visited marae and worked with Māori there, to understand their experiences with alcohol. 

Together with marae-based health service providers, we ran several research sessions with a diverse range of people in the community, and with Te Hiringa Hauora subject matter experts and cultural advisors. We tested and iterated the early ideas and assumptions to refine our thinking.

Once the early concepts had been identified, we co-designed a framework understanding of how alcohol harm occurs, and what is needed to overcome its effects, to ensure te ao Māori and Māori voices were incorporated into the early ideas. This framework guided the design of the self-help tool.

HPA Alcohol Journeys brainstorming

Hearing Maia and Dave’s stories

The concept for the tool is an audio experience allowing real people to tell their own stories about alcohol in their lives. To find people to share their stories, we worked with Te Hiringa Hauora and a local health service provider, ensuring anonymity and support for the storytellers and their whānau.

For the prototype, mother and son Maia and Dave (names changed to protect privacy) shared their experiences with alcohol. When editing the audio for time and privacy, we created ethical audio editing principles to ensure the integrity of the stories was maintained. Sharing the final edited audio with Maia and Dave was a big moment, as alcohol wasn’t something they talked about in their whānau, despite it having a big effect on their lives. They were happy with how their stories had come out.

HPA Alcohol Journeys prototype

Sharing the prototype and incorporating the learnings

We shared an early prototype of the audio experience with people from the target audience. Through this sharing and discussion, we were able to discover how to engage our specific audience more, in ways we didn’t expect. 

For example, we learnt that a mixed te reo Māori / English interface was more comfortable for users than a fully te reo site, as it reflected their daily, lived experience. They were of an age group that had experienced less access and support to learn te reo in their lifetimes, and some felt shame when, as Māori, they were then expected to be fluent in te reo. Instead, te reo was a journey many were currently on. We learnt that an interface that mixed the two languages in a friendly, familiar way was more welcoming.

Learnings through collaboration like this led us in creating an experience based in te ao Māori, that speaks to all New Zealanders.

HPA Alcohol Journeys card sort

Partnering with Indigenous Design & Innovation Aotearoa

In designing the tool, we partnered with IDIA to ensure an embedded te ao Māori in the strategy, design direction and craft of the interface. Working as one team allowed collaboration between design, UX, development and content, so we were able to test ideas such as illustration, animation and language in the interface quickly. We used Slack and Hangouts to workshop and share ideas rapidly.

HPA Alcohol Journeys whiteboard

The outcome: A whānau-focused experience that can be built on

The final prototype is an inspiring listening experience that puts whānau and their stories first. It is ready for more stories from people around Aotearoa to be added in the future, for all to listen and learn from.

Michelangelo said, “the sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” We followed this same principle in editing the stories. The final edited story was already there, within the original audio. Our job as editors was to help it appear by removing superfluous material.