Allblacks Experience
Experience Design

SkyCity, Auckland, NZ

The Background

The All Blacks Experience (ABEx) is a world-class Auckland-based visitor attraction providing an engaging, entertaining, inspiring and unique insight into New Zealand told through the stories of New Zealand’s national game and the world-famous All Blacks. Through the use of innovation and technology visitors will engage in a full sensory, interactive, and immersive experience, complemented by a café and retail outlet, to make this a compelling attraction for international and domestic visitors.

The All Blacks Experience uses the All Blacks legacy and the many stories across communities, school, and club rugby to connect the experience to the rest of NZ, through the concept of Heartland. The All Blacks Experience is a partnership between New Zealand Rugby and Ngāi Tahu Tourism (a subsidiary of Ngāi Tahu Holdings which is governed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu). It is designed to showcase the All Blacks players, the team, and all of our national teams in black. Through the use of innovation and technology it will provide a full sensory, interactive, and immersive experience; the only rugby attraction of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand and the only All Blacks attraction in the world.

My role as 'team lead' was to discover what the project needed, rally a team around a product roadmap, identify the problems, and prioritising what to design next.


Allblacks, New Zealand


Experience Design: 2 months (2017)

My Role

Team Lead


Illustrator, Photoshop, Powerpoint, Conceptual Design, User Centred Design (UCD)

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The UX Challenge

My team was briefed with recent events involving several years of feasibility, market testing, and internal NZR process where the All Blacks Experience project (ABEx) commenced at the end of 2014, with the initial experience concepts developed by UK-based design firm StartJG and signed off by NZR’s CEO in September 2015.

  • Between this time and April 2016, the concepts were reworked and refined based on budget requirements (the initial Quantity Surveyor costing’s on the original designs were significantly over budget).
  • In April 2016 the project was paused.
  • February 2017 will see ABEx fully re-started.
  • The concept of the attraction is immersive, interactive, technology, and storytelling focused. i.e. it is not a static traditional museum-style approach.
  • With the design conceived in mid-2015, the project paused for 8 months in 2016, and the actual building to house the experience is a new development by Infratil (conservatively estimated to take 18 months) ABEx will likely not be open to the public until around spring/summer 2018.
  • The project delay coupled with the pace of technology change means that the elapsed time from design conception to opening significantly increases the risk of the experience being outdated, under-whelming, and cost-inefficient, most specifically from a technology perspective.
  • While the reality of constrained budgets has meant that ABEx was never going to be bleeding-edge technology, it was intended that the quality and impact of the experience, the inspiration, and the storytelling would be enabled by (close to) state of the art technology. Ideally, it also showcased some NZ innovation in the design and visitor attraction technology arena.
  • From a visitor attraction perspective, it is relatively important to both ‘future-proof’ the technology aspects of the design as well as construct it in a manner that enables regular refreshment of experience aspects in the most cost-effective manner possible.

  • The UX Approach

    Growing up in New Zealand, I understood the needs and expectations of the project was culturally sensitive to unify brand identity with Maori Iwi. So we created a proof of concept that allowed integration to be ambulant and cost-efficient with future-proof technology.

  • Our primary goal was to embrace the ‘user-centred design’ approach, where the redesign will respectively recognise ‘flooring’ as ‘Tapu’ and should not be considered for design. This was not observed by previous designers that consequently, offended iwi.
  • Our additional objective was to enhance public awareness through the design conception demonstrating what it takes to make, shape, and be an Allblack from a domestic standpoint.
  • By adopting the above points, my team was tasked with redesigning the Manakitanga entrance area to welcome visitors with warmth and generosity. It created a lasting sense of hospitality. Manakitanga is about welcoming and recognising visitors. We believed it was of high value to occupy an atmospheric space devoid of the ‘wow’ factor to represent its namesake.

    Visitors can see, feel and hear New Zealand’s hospitality and culture where they are welcomed to:
  • Ambience, physical environment and hosts
  • A soundscape sets the tone
  • A hongi exchanged between the tour guide and the visitors in this area is an important part of setting up the cultural values of the experience.
  • Exceptional warm service
  • The Haka (big screen)
  • A list of names of Allblack players from the last 100 years
  • State of the art encounters through innovation and technology

  • Market Research

    The entrance for existing cultural institutions in New Zealand has a pattern of appropriately setting up their experiences as soon as the visitors arrive. The Auckland and Wellington International Airports have Manakitanga spaces that celebrate local culture.

    The Design Process

    In summary, we Empathised with how the Allblacks approached iwi culture, so that we could DEFINE the public and site requirements, providing solutions in the form of branding. Subsequently, TEST the solution based on Stakeholders' (Iwi) feedback in preparations for product roadmap requiring a high-level summary of the future direction of the product's offering and features.

    The Proof Of Concept

    The manaakitanga area will have a carved wooden panel with the names of Allblacks from the last 100 years. One side of the panel is intentionally left blank, uncarved to provide a sense of expectancy to continue the legacy of the All Blacks. It will serve to galvanise future generations who aspire to have their names etched onto the monument. Whenever new Allblacks are selected, a woodcarver would engrave their names during an observance - a living monument to the All Blacks. This event may be turned into a red carpet ceremony, similar to the Hollywood ‘walk of fame’.

    The UX Impact

    After two months of research we had put forward a concept that stakeholders fell in love with, that after years of detailed research, planning, design and construction is now open to the public to experience. Set to become one of New Zealand’s must-do tourist attractions, it is incredibly exciting to see the All Blacks Experience taking shape at SkyCity

    Aim for the moon shoot for the stars