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Conference to get the VR treatment from design trio

College of Creative Arts director of partnerships and projects Anna Brown with students (to her left) Oscar Keys, and James Weeks and Mitch Kirk.

Three design students from Massey University’s College of Creative Arts have responded to the idea that virtual reality is emerging as a key medium of learning with a thought-provoking installation for the Creative Realities Conference  – an event within the nationwide Techweek ‘18 programme.

The design students, Oscar Keys, James Weeks and Mitch Kirk have used creative technologies to showcase a project that the College of Creative Arts, based on the Wellington campus, took a lead role in – identifying and quantifying the value of design to the New Zealand economy.

With the use of two case studies of companies from the report, they have used Virtual Reality to provide attendees with a fully playful, interactive and informative immersive experience that illustrates the value of design, better than any amount of numbers or words could possibly do.

Director of Partnerships and Projects at the College of Creative Arts, Anna Brown, observed the way we learn and digest information is changing.

“For many of us digesting and interpreting data is challenging. Studies show that virtual reality can assist us in learning faster, and the idea of bringing data to life using clever design and story-telling in education is compelling.”

For the past three months Oscar and James, concept and experience designers from the School of Design, and Mitch a sound designer from the School of Music and Creative Media Production have transformed the Value of Design report into a comprehensive virtual reality experience.

Oscar, a  third year design student majoring in spatial design, valued the opportunity to be involved in a project from inception to completion: “It is hugely exciting to be able to work with a medium that enables the impossible, like VR.”

With the help of College faculty, Wellington-based design companies Designworks and Mixt, and the use of Microsoft Mixed Reality Headsets, the students have set about designing an experience where Ms Brown says participants will walk away with an understanding of some of the data and the impact that design has on our economy.

“By using the case studies of Allbirds, the people who brought the world merino shoes, and Goodnature, the company that designed a humane, toxin-free, easy-to-use and labour-saving pest trapping system, they have made the statistics and percentages come alive. Together we have been able, through a design-led approach, to show how design has dramatically contributed to the economic success of both these companies,” she says.

“With only a few weeks to build the experience from the initial meeting of our team of collaborators, our student development team were under pressure.”

The trio have made full use of the key features of the Microsoft Mixed Reality Headsets, including the ability to interact with the content to find out more. The project has been a learning process for all parties involved, where established research has been visualised in virtual reality using clever experience design.

Producer and CEO of Mixt, Jessica Manins hoped that the success of the experience will encourage further investment in virtual and augmented reality educational programmes in New Zealand.

“The great thing about using the Techweek event to showcase the technology is that we can generate high engagement and feedback from motivated audience members at the Creative Realities Conference.”

Designwork’s designer, Tamsin Fraser, says the stories provided through the case studies within the experience “will in themselves be prompts for businesses to see the value of investing in design, as well as the power of edutainment.”


The Value of Design research was commissioned in 2016 by DesignCo, a national design collaboration led by Massey University. The research confirmed, what designers have always instinctively known, the significant and growing impact design has on New Zealand’s economy: Design contributes $10.1 billion to our GDP, that’s 4.2% of our total GDP; and 4.4% of New Zealand’s total employment.

The Creative Realities conference takes place on May 24 and is an opportunity to meet and hear from innovators. The event is a response to the way technology is rapidly changing the way we live and work. Wellington’s creative industries are filled with innovative thinkers and makers who are searching for ways to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges using artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and the internet of things as creative tools.



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