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Master of Design

Key facts

  • Available at Wellington
  • 12-18 months full-time
  • Available for international students studying in NZ

Design that matters

In the Master of Design, you’ll produce innovative and responsive design work that is thoroughly grounded in design research methodologies and expertly realised. The programme facilitates thesis projects that make a significant contribution to society, industry, and the environment, and that support sustainable economic growth.

What is it like?

Find out more about entry requirements, fees and courses in the planning section.

The Master of Design (MDes) is an advanced research qualification in design.

If you have an Honours degree already, you’ll do the twelve-month, 120-credit MDes. If you don’t have a relevant Honours degree, you’ll be enrolled in the eighteen-month, 180-credit MDes.

In the 180-credit MDes you will first explore creative research practices, and develop the skills and approaches you may wish to use during your thesis project (e.g., digital fabrication).

We also offer an MDes in partnership with Weta Workshop, with a focus on Entertainment Design.

All MDes students complete a thesis project: a supervised programme of focused design research, taking a challenging real-world problem through to a well-resolved solution, like a product prototype.

The MDes gives you a lot of freedom, especially once you get into your thesis project. You have regular meetings with your supervisor(s), and crit sessions with your fellow MDes students, but you are in control of structuring your own time.

You will be supervised by one primary supervisor with expertise in your field of design. And, you will be guided by a secondary supervisor with expertise in an aligned field. It is the job of these experienced faculty researchers to challenge you to take the thesis project as far as you can. Check out our staff profiles and feel free to get in touch with anyone whose research interests you.

Benefits of a Massey Master of Design

  • an advanced design research qualification with a targeted outcome, often of direct application to industry or another external stakeholder
  • strong connections outside the University, whether in business, public or non-profit sector
  • supervision by staff who are leading design researchers and practitioners
  • individual studio space configured to suit your needs
  • comprehensive technical expertise and facilities, including an industry-scale green screen studio, Australasia’s first Fab Lab, industry-standard workshops, digital imaging facilities, darkrooms and high-end computer facilities.

Master of Design 120 - Weta Workshop School at Massey University

An exclusive one-year programme

Complete a Master of Design focusing on Entertainment Design in our programme in partnership with Weta Workshop. You’ll have the tools to create your own imaginary worlds for film, television, and game. The programme focuses on developing skills in the key areas of idea creation, storytelling, and concept design. As you progress through the one-year course you’ll expand your technical ability, develop your critical thinking skills, and take on leadership roles in real-world scenarios.

During the course of the programme, you will undertake and develop your own research and design project, exploring how Entertainment Design works as a tool for creating compelling characters, engaging worlds, and incredible stories. The programme culminates with a written research component presented alongside a body of concept design work.

International recognition

Massey’s College of Creative Arts is ranked in the top 100 by QS University rankings, and is ranked Number 1 in Asia–Pacific for design concept by Red Dot. The College of Creative Arts is also NASAD approved as Substantially Equivalent.

We have the most top-ranked researchers in design, visual arts and craft in New Zealand, based on the 2018 Performance Based Research Funding round.

International applications

We welcome applications from suitably qualified international students. It is recommended that international students apply at least three months before the start date to allow for processing.

Recent MDes projects

  • Ask Away online youth voter engagement tool - with Loomio and Code for New Zealand
  • Site-specific spatial designs for visitor experience in restored wetland - with Wither Hills Vineyards Marlborough
  • Sustainable dye processes for wool tufted carpets - with Carpets and Rugs of New Zealand
  • Applying open design principles through digital fabrication - with the international Fab Lab network
  • Walking frame for older people with disabilities - with a non-profit organisation
  • Website that makes environmental (water quality) data available to the general public in an understandable form - with every Regional Council, and Cawthorn Institute
  • Online interface for viewing the collaborative mobile documentary, 24 Frames 24 Hours
  • Electric fencing solution with enhanced usability for the European lifestyle farmer market—with Gallagher Animal Management

Application due dates

Application deadlines are: 15 November (for February start); 15 June (for July start); 15 August (for September start). Funded projects may start at other times of the year if necessary.


A good fit if you:

  • Love design and what it can do
  • Are constantly horizon-scanning
  • Want to fast-track your career
  • Enjoy the challenge of an externally-connected project, whether for commercial, governmental, cultural or community-based clients
  • Thrive on creative problem-solving
Student profile photo
Amy Blackmore, Annabelle Fitzgerald and Avara Moody
Bachelor of Design (Hons) 2014
Master of Design 2015

“While we brought different strengths and knowledge to the project, we worked collaboratively to create a range of deliverables…”

The LLANA bag was developed by a team that included three Masters of Design students, scientists, engineers and a Harvard MBA entrepreneur. Promoted as the bag for ‘women on the go’, it was been redefined through thoughtful design, textile innovation and artisan craftsmanship. LLANA is a bag with a New York sensibility, versatile enough to carry gym equipment, shoes, laptop, yoga mat, phone, and a wallet and still look professional at the office and chic at the wine bar. The journey for Amy Blackmore, Annabelle Fitzgerald and Avara Moody started when they were in the fourth year of their undergraduate degree.

“The three of us were selected to work on this project with an American business partner, Darrius Glover,” explains Amy. “A Masters done in collaboration wouldn’t be for everyone, but we were perfect together; Annabelle came from fashion so she brought excellent construction techniques; Avara, was doing industrial design and brought product knowledge to the project; and I was the spatial designer and focused on the marketing, communications and video.

“While we brought different strengths and knowledge to the project, we worked collaboratively to create a range of deliverables.”

“Our brief from Darrius was to amplify the natural properties of New Zealand’s strong wool; develop the Wool Fresh material alongside AgResearch and then design the first product application. What we wanted to do in the process was, through design, change the perception of wool and show how useful and contemporary it can be.”

A revolutionary new fabric, Wool Fresh, was developed with the help of scientists at AgResearch and Texus fibre engineers. Wool Fresh is odour absorbent, anti-bacterial, breathable, self-cleaning. Amy, Annabelle and Avara lined the LLANA bag with Wool Fresh. The advantage; the fabric acts as a filter to keep your kit dry and fresh inside the bag and its anti-microbial properties inhibits bacteria growth.

“We worked with Darrius to develop the business case and align our product with our chosen market. When that was right, Darrius founded the company, LLANA, and organised the crowdfunding to take the company and the bag to the first stage of commercialisation,” Amy said.

The crowdfunding campaign attracted 41 backers and raised US$38,966. The success of the crowdfunding enabled Amy, Avara and Annabelle to work with Texus Fibre and Leatherworks in Auckland, and to create the first 50 bags for the American customers. In December 2016 these handcrafted bags were delivered to buyers in America and New Zealand.

For Amy, the project was an insight into the value of collaboration. “If I was advising someone interested in studying design I would say to incorporate wider ideas as much as possible. Studying at Massey you learn a lot from your cohort so working openly to craft ideas collaboratively will benefit everyone.”


Many graduates start their own businesses and have gone on to win high profile awards and commissions. MDes graduates also work as:

  • web designers here and overseas
  • directors of a health care product manufacturing
  • creative directors in art agencies and museums
  • technical development consultants
  • design interns in fashion and industrial design companies
  • directors or account managers at publishing houses
  • secondary school art and design teachers


Callaghan Innovation scholarships

The College of Creative Arts frequently acts as a broker for industry projects, matching business needs with potential Master of Design students. The college has had considerable success to date in obtaining Callaghan Innovation and private business funding for industry-linked projects, notably in New Zealand wool and agriculture. The college aims to facilitate design projects that contribute to research-driven innovation and sustainable economic growth. We are actively seeking to expand the pool of business projects.

Massey helps match students and businesses for Callaghan Innovation R&D Fellowships and other assistance. Talk to us early:

Contact us Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey