New Zealander Luke Hoban designs websites that not only have form and function, but flair


Despite initially thinking he was going to forge a career in the fine arts, Luke Hoban quickly fell for the form and function that graphic design embodies. He was born, and studied in, New Zealand and is now based in Sydney, but it doesn’t actually matter where in the world Luke lives; it’s the digital counterpart of design where he’s fully at home.

Finding indefinite creative freedom in designing websites, Luke’s portfolio — all housed on his own impressive website — displays how web design can display personable flair. His websites move in unexpected ways but they fully make sense from a user’s perspective too. Each plays with shape, typography, wayfinding and information from a perspective that understands how people actually interact with the web, and in turn, design too. It’s no wonder he was tasked with designing his graduate show’s website.

With collaboration being a key inspiration of the designer’s, the future for Luke is full of people, projects and personality. And probably a lot of coding too.

It’s Nice That: Why did you decide to study graphic design?

Luke Hoban: Leaving high school, I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in the creative arts. Originally, I applied to study fine art, but after a year I decided it wasn’t particularly for me as the stuff I was creating didn’t seem tangible outside the context of a gallery space. That’s what prompted me to transfer to design school. From there, I just fell in love with the craft of graphic design. 

INT: The digital side to design appears to be a key part of your portfolio, how did you get into this?

LH: I think I slowly stumbled into it out of a sense of necessity. I was designing these websites at university, but it felt pointless because nothing was getting produced. As I didn’t have the budget to get them developed I just forced myself to learn. 

There’s something oddly satisfying about following a project from conception of the idea to production rollout, being able to influence each stage of a project is incredibly beneficial I find and I think that’s why I got into front-end development. There’s much more of a sense of ownership when you are able to Influence each part of the design process.

I really like the affordance of the medium too. There’s a huge benefit for designers who work on digital projects as they inherently have the opportunity to reach much larger audiences in comparison to printed matter. The benefits, I assume, is that it makes my portfolio far more accessible to a wider audience, which is always good when attracting new clients.

INT: Is there a particular person who has shaped your university experience or creative outlook?

LH: Influence can be found anywhere and from anyone. I am lucky because New Zealand has such a vibrant design scene and this is especially true when it comes to digital design. It’s crazy the quality of websites that are being produced at the moment. But I think most importantly, the people working around me on a daily basis shaped my creative outlook the most. It’s always refreshing looking over at 11pm to see you aren’t the only one still in the studio.

INT: What was the best bit about your time at university? And the worst?

LH: Looking back, I think the best thing about my time at university was the creative environment. Being around so many creative people is always inspiring and I think that’s when university is at its best. It brings together lots of like-minded people to just experiment and have fun, without any preconceived notions what design should and shouldn’t be.

I did find that academia is very much a bubble. Since being in the industry I’ve started to realise how the university’s systems of teaching are disconnected to what is expected of you in a business environment. But saying that, I do look back and appreciate the freedom that university allowed me. I was essentially acting as my own client in the process of making pieces for my portfolio.

INT: Can you describe a project you’re most proud of and why?

LH: The visual identity that myself, Jeremy Hooper and Raphael Roake produced for our graduate exhibition was the most rewarding, while at the same time the most stressful, project that I’ve worked on.

In the past, the exhibition has lacked any sort of presence outside of Wellington. There wasn’t much of an online push and the website used in previous years was buried within the existing Massey University’s College of Creative Arts site. We saw an opportunity to reimagine what the exhibition could be, especially if it was truly representative of the student cohort. We approached Massey University with the proposition of creating the identity for the exhibition. We thought we should be representing ourselves in all aspects of the exhibition, including the external communication, wayfinding, signage and, most importantly, the online communications.

In terms of the design system we used a fluoro orange which worked excellently for the external communications of the physical exhibition space, and so, I decided to run with the same concept for the website. Having the top level pages in bright orange created the most impact and brand awareness. For the internal student pages, the orange was dropped in favour of white, letting the students work become the hero.

The treatment of typography became an essential part of the design too. It felt fitting for an exhibition at one of New Zealand’s leading design educators to embrace this heritage and use a New Zealand designed typeface. We decided on Klim’s Untitled Sans, for its plain stripped back characteristics after it became apparent that we needed a more neutral face to contrast between the intense colours and graphics.

Through the affordance of the digital medium, I was able to push the visual identity into a more engaging and dynamic space. By implementing SVG animations for the main graphical elements I was able to trigger them through simple CSS hover states. The same technique was used for the wayfinding page with the isometric buildings; these aesthetic flourishes complimented the overall visual and contextual narrative that we’re trying to convey with the visual identity. This all came together to create a website that is considered of content, form and function.

INT: Why did you decide to apply to The Graduates? 

LH: You see all this amazing graphic design coming out of Europe and think to yourself would my work even compare? So, I guess the main reason for applying was to test the waters to see if I would get picked out of curiosity, which happened so yay!

Supported by Polaroid

Polaroid Originals is the new brand from Polaroid, dedicated to original format Polaroid analog instant photography. Find out more about their new and vintage cameras, plus film and accessories, on

The It’s Nice That Graduates 2018 is supported by Lecture in Progress and Polaroid Originals.

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.

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