World-leading design guide for Auckland Council enables creativity

The Auckland Design Manual (ADM) is the ‘go-to-guide’ for everyone designing, building or developing in Auckland. The goal is to inspire, inform and share great design stories, highlighting past projects and why they work so well.


The idea for a city design manual was first set out in Auckland Council’s Auckland Plan (2012) which presents the region’s vision for the next 30 years to ensure “its urban environment is as beautiful as its natural environment”. Clearly, quality and co-ordinated design is key to an evolution of Auckland’s unique sense of place. 

The Challenge

In late 2010, eight councils in the Auckland region combined into one Auckland Council. There were 15 different design guides for building and development. The Design Manual streamlines these documents into a single system and disseminates it to keen builders – professionals and backyard DIY fans alike.

But many people didn’t know that this design guidance existed – and if they did know, they often didn’t know where to find it. The council set out to create a website that presented the varied and complex documentation in a clear, beautiful way.

The ADM team had conducted considerable research into design governance around the world, and discovered that most online design manuals from other local government entities were not much more than a series of downloadable PDFs. The kind of website they wanted to create was unique and needed to be custom-built. It also needed to be completed within an extremely tight timeframe.

The Datacom Difference

We looked at the suggested deadline and quickly assessed it was going to be impossible to achieve the quality and functionality the ADM team were looking for. Instead, we proposed splitting the project into two phases – a minimum viable site to be delivered within the short timeframe, and a more complex site to be delivered in phase two. Both sites would use Microsoft SharePoint for content management. The process took longer, but this allowed for extra user testing between phase one and two and time to iron out any issues.

The full website went live in December 2014 and is the first integrated design manual for a local government published anywhere in the world. It won Runner Up for Project of the Year at the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) Web and Digital Symposium this year and at the time of writing was a finalist in the Designers Institute’s Best Awards. 

“Datacom really threw everything at it to meet those tight timeframes, and they’ve really pushed the boat out in terms of what SharePoint can do.”

Simon Harrison, Programme Leader, Auckland Design Manual