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Earth Guardian design competition seeks student talent


Character design by Josh Walker, a Bachelor of Design with Honours student. Entrants are asked to design a character to protect the earth.



Raunip, a character designed by Josh Walker.

While the nation is hunkered down at home, Massey University’s College of Creative Arts and Weta Workshop are calling on talented high school students to get creative.

The college has partnered with Weta Workshop and other industry sponsors to launch a new concept design competition called Earth Guardians, to celebrate the launch of the University’s new Concept Design Major. The competition has two age categories - one for senior students aged 15 to 19, and another for junior students aged 12 to 14.

The Earth Guardians Character Design competition calls for entrants to create a character to defend the earth, using nature and the elements to inspire their designs. It asks them to supply details about where the character lives, its special powers and links to specific places, myths, legends, customary Māori narratives and deities.

Concept design is critical to the visual development of ideas and worlds, found in the film, television, gaming, performance, products and interactive industries. It uses traditional art and digital forms such as drawing, painting and sculpting to create concepts for new objects, characters or environments. It can involve anything from designing characters, creatures, props, vehicles and machines, to building entire worlds that form the foundations of feature films, theme parks, events, toys or exhibits.

The Earth Guardians competition is the brainchild of Astrid Visser, a multimedia artist, designer and former high school art, design and digital technology teacher. Visser now works for the Wellington School of Design at the University as the Design Kaihāpai [advocate] and is one of the judges. She says the time spent at home in isolation is the perfect time for students to get creative, and that the activity also supports high school teachers by creating and resourcing an engaging creative competition for junior students.

“We want to connect with all kinds of students for this competition, from those who are interested in hand-drawing characters to others who are able to create digital art by downloading the free software they can use.”

Visser will judge the top school prize and the highly commended schools prizes, sponsored by the Gordon Harris The Art Supplies Store.

Senior concept artist and Weta Workshop School co-supervisor Paul Tobin says the competition aims to raise awareness of the creative career opportunities in New Zealand.

“There are tremendous possibilities out there for students wanting to head into a career in concept design in the film, gaming and entertainment industries. I’m hoping this competition will help young New Zealanders unleash their creativity from home and realise their potential. So many Weta Workshop concept designers started at home as kids, creating cool stuff out of everyday materials.”

Massey University launched Concept Design as a specialist Major in its Bachelor of Design with Honours programme in September 2019, a first for any Australasian university. It wanted to help meet the growing demand for qualified concept designers and set students up for a career in the film and entertainment industries.

The competition’s nine categories include an industry-selected Ultimate Concept Artist Award, the Massey University Te Ao Māori Award and 10 Weta Workshop Rising Stars Highly Commended Awards. Winners will be chosen by a panel of industry judges including Weta Workshop Design Studio concept artist Paul Tobin, Pik Pok studio art director Sarah Dixey, A44 concept artist Hamish Fraser (Ngāti Tūwharetoa), Wellington School of Design at Massey University programme leader for concept design Tanya Marriott and concept design lecturer Claire Hackett, and more.  

Prizes range from a Wacom 16" Cintiq Pen Display to $1000 to go towards studying a Bachelor of Design at the University. There is also a day’s experience at Weta Workshop and Pik Pok, Weta Workshop designers visiting your school and art supply packs for your school.

Visser says each judge is looking for something different. “We are looking for interesting ideas, not just the best design. We want great thinkers who are thinking outside the box, it’s not just about slick computer or art skills.”

For more information, visit creative.massey.ac.nz/earthguardians and creative.massey.ac.nz/earthguardiansjunior

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