Master of Design

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Design that matters

MDes students are expected to produce innovative and responsive design work that is thoroughly grounded in research methodologies and expertly realised. The programme facilitates design projects that make a significant contribution to research-driven innovation and support sustainable economic growth.

What is it like?

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

Unless you already have an honours degree, you will first explore creative research practices and develop the skills and approaches you may wish to use during your thesis (e.g., digital fabrication).

For your thesis, you will complete a supervised programme of focused design research taking a challenging real-world design problem through to a well-resolved solution, eg a product prototype.

The MDes 180 offers additional options for study at postgraduate level. If you have a Bachelor of Design (Honours) or Postgraduate Diploma in Design or equivalent with a grade average that indicates an adequate level of preparation, you do not have to do Part One of the Master of Design and may proceed direct to the 120-credit thesis project. To do this, you must submit a proposal of your intended research project. We are looking for proposals that are academically viable, industry-linked and able to be supported by Massey resources.

Your MDes project need not necessarily have industry funding and an orthodox design brief (although there are scholarships available for such research); you might be developing a design solution for a non-profit or working with a range of external people.

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

You generally have two supervisors who are experienced designers in fields related to your research. It is their job to challenge you to take the project as far as you can. Typically, the University will assign you a primary supervisor, and you will have input into who becomes your second supervisor. Check out our staff profiles and feel free to get in touch with anyone whose research interests you.

Benefits of a Massey MDes

  • 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

The MDes 120 is a one-year qualification with direct application to industry and external engagement and consists of 2 courses across one year.

Prerequisites: Honours degree, or equivalent (eg. US four-year Bachelor degree).

Duration: One year full-time; may be done part-time.

Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Research may be undertaken elsewhere.

Application deadline: 15 June (July start) 15 August (September start) 15 November (March start)

International applications: It is recommended that international students apply at least three months before the start date to allow for processing.

For more information about the Master of Design 120 check out the College of Creative Arts website.

Master of Design 120 - Weta Workshop School at Massey University

An exclusive one-year programme

The Master of Design, specialising in Entertainment Design, gives candidates the tools to create their own imaginary worlds for film, television, and game. The programme focuses on developing participants’ skills in the key areas of idea creation, storytelling, and concept design. As candidates progress through the one-year course they will expand their technical ability, develop their critical thinking skills, and take on leadership roles in real-world scenarios.

During the course of the programme, candidates will undertake and develop their 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.

Prerequisites: Honours degree, or equivalent (eg. US four-year Bachelor degree).

For more information go to

Master of Design 180

The 180-credit Master of Design (starting in September 2018) has two parts:

Part One: taught courses

60 credits. One Semester. Part One is for candidates with a BDes or equivalent non-Honours degree. You take a compulsory course in creative research practices (30 credits), Creative Research Practices I starts your MDes experience with a critical focus on creative research and ends with you developing your thesis project proposal. In Part One, you also take two courses of your choice (15 credits each). Options include a digital fabrication path through Fab Lab Wellington, which will set you up to use open design and digital fabrication approaches in your thesis. We have an Independent Study option, where you negotiate one-on-one or small group supervision with a lecturer on a research field of mutual interest. We also offer a range of Honours-level courses in textiles, fashion, visual communication, photography, industrial and spatial design.

Part Two: thesis

120 credits. One Year (12 months). Candidates with a BDes (Hons) or equivalent start here, and do not need to do Part One. For the thesis, you have a full 12 months to focus on a single design research project, so you get to ‘master’ your project brief and deliver a well worked out solution. That said, a year is not very long; those who are most successful generally start the year with a clear project brief and develop strong relationships with their external ‘client’ from early on. External connections are really important in MDes thesis projects. We expect you to keep in regular contact with your external partners or community of interest. Some projects even require you to be located in a business or factory for long periods.

Prerequisites: The entry requirements for Massey’s 180-credit Master of Design are:

  • Admission to Massey University;
  • Attainment of a Bachelor of Design or equivalent with a grade average of at least B;
  • Selection into the programme through an interview and the assessment of a portfolio of submitted design work;
  • An appropriate level of English language proficiency.

Duration: 12 -18 months.

Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Research may be undertaken elsewhere.

Application deadline:

Intake during 2018 will be 15 August (September start).

International recognition

Massey’s College of Creative Arts is ranked in the top 100 by QS University rankings, first in Asia Pacific for design concept. The College of Creative Arts is NASAD approved as Substantially Equivalent.

The College was also shortlisted for the 2015 international Reimagine Education Awards for curriculum innovation.

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

Courses for Part One of the 180-credit MDes will be offered from September 2017.

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:

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