Master of Design – MDes

In the Master of Design, you’ll produce innovative and responsive design work that is thoroughly grounded in design research methodologies and expertly realised.

Type of qualification

Master's degree

Level of study

Postgraduate study

Once you’ve graduated with a bachelor’s degree – or have equal experience – you can study at the postgraduate level. Doctoral qualifications require additional entry requirements.

More about study levels

NZQF level 9

Our courses follow the New Zealand Qualification Framework (NZQF) levels.

Find out more about NZQF levels

Time to complete

1 year 6 months full-time (180 credits)
Up to 5 years part-time
Part-time available

Where you can study

Wellington campus

International students

International students are not New Zealand citizens or residents.

Definition of New Zealand citizens and residents

Open to international students on campus in New Zealand
Note: Selected entry qualification.

Study a Master of Design – MDes

Go in depth with an advanced design research qualification. You’ll have a targeted outcome, often of direct application to industry. We will help you make strong connections with the business, public or non-profit sector.

You’ll have access to individual studio space and our comprehensive technical expertise and facilities. These include:

  • an industry-scale green screen studio
  • Australasia’s first Fab Lab
  • industry-standard workshops
  • digital imaging facilities
  • darkrooms.

Real-world projects

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.

Find out more about the Wellington School of Design

Our staff are leading design researchers and practitioners. You will be supervised by one primary supervisor with expertise in your field of design. You will be guided by a secondary supervisor with expertise in an aligned field.

Further study

After completing your Master of Design project you may be able to develop your work and produce new knowledge with a PhD.

A MDes is a good fit if you:

  • love design and what it can do
  • are constantly horizon-scanning
  • enjoy the challenge of an externally-connected project, whether for commercial, government, cultural or community-based clients.

Entry requirements

Admission to Massey

All students must meet university entrance requirements to be admitted to the University.

Specific requirements

This is a selected entry qualification. This means there are a number of extra requirements you must meet.   

Master of Design 180 credits

You will have been awarded or qualified for a Bachelor of Design or equivalent, having achieved at least a B grade average.

You will also need to:

  • take part in an interview
  • submit a portfolio of design work for assessment.

Master of Design 120 credits

You will have been awarded or qualified for a relevant honours degree with a B grade average in Part 4 or Postgraduate Diploma in Design or equivalent with a B grade average.

You must also submit:

  • a research proposal for your intended thesis project
  • a portfolio of your creative work.

Portfolio requirements

For more information about portfolio requirements, see the College of Creative Arts' postgraduate applications page.

Application closing date

This qualification has two intakes:

  • Semester 1 (February start). Applications close 30 November 2023.
  • Semester 2 (July start). Applications close 15 May 2024. 

English language requirements

To study this qualification you must meet Massey University's English language standards.

Time limits for Honours, Distinction and Merit

Where your qualification is completed within the stated time limit and to a high standard, you may be able to graduate with Distinction or Merit. 

Prior learning, credit and exemptions

For information on prior learning, exemptions and transfer of credit or other questions:

English language skills

If you need help with your English language skills before you start university, see our English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses.

Maximum time limits for completion

There are maximum time limits to complete postgraduate qualifications.  If you do not complete within the maximum time, you may be required to re-apply for the qualification if you wish to continue your studies.

Official regulations

To understand what you need to study and must complete to graduate read the official rules and regulations for this qualification.

You should read these together with all other relevant Statutes and Regulations of the University including the General Regulations for Postgraduate Degrees, Postgraduate Diplomas, and Postgraduate Certificates.

Returning students

For returning students, there may be changes to the majors and minors available and the courses you need to take. Go to the section called ‘Transitional Provisions’ in the Regulations to find out more.

In some cases the qualification or specialisation you enrolled in may no longer be taking new enrolments, so may not appear on these web pages. To find information on the regulations for these qualifications go to the Massey University Calendar.

Please contact us through the Get advice button on this page if you have any questions.

Structure of the Master of Design

If you don’t have a relevant honours degree, you’ll do the eighteen-month, 180-credit MDes, completing Parts One and Two. You must complete the first part before moving on to the second.

If you have a relevant honours degree already, you’ll do the twelve-month, 120-credit MDes, starting at Part Two.

Part One: taught courses

The first part of this qualification will build your research and technical skill through our creative research practices course. You will end by developing your thesis project proposal.

Other taught courses include a digital fabrication path through Fab Lab Wellington. This will set you up to use open design and digital fabrication approaches in your thesis project.

We also have an Independent Study option and other electives.

Part Two: thesis

For progression to Part Two, you must have a grade average of at least B in Part One.

Join the MDes 120 credit students for 12 months, to focus on mastering your research proposal and thesis project. Those who are most successful generally start the year with a clearly identified problem, or project brief, and develop strong relationships with their external ‘client’ from early on.

External connections are important in MDes thesis projects. We expect you to keep in regular contact with your external partners or community of interest.

Get the full picture 

Courses and specialisations

Key terms

Each qualification has its own specific set of courses. Some universities call these papers. You enrol in courses after you get accepted into Massey.
Course code
Each course is numbered using 6 digits. The fourth number shows the level of the course. For example, in course 219206, the fourth number is a 2, so it is a 200-level course (usually studied in the second year of full-time study).
Each course is worth a number of credits. You combine courses (credits) to meet the total number of credits needed for your qualification.
Some qualifications let you choose what subject you'd like to specialise in. Your major or endorsement is what you will take the majority of your courses in.

Credit summary

180 credits

  • Part One compulsory course – 30 credits
  • Part One subject course – 30 credits
  • Part Two thesis – 120 credits

Advanced entry: Those who have already completed specified qualifications in advance of the minimum entry requirements may be able to complete this degree in 120 credits.

This is a parts-based qualification. This means there are regulations around your completion of Part One before progressing to Part Two, etc.

Course planning key

Courses that need to be completed before moving onto a course at the next level. For example, a lot of 200-level courses have 100-level prerequisite courses.
Courses that must be completed at the same time as another course are known as corequisite courses.
Some courses are restricted against each other because their content is similar. This means you can only choose one of the offered courses to study and credit to your qualification.

Part One (Choose 60 credits from)

Compulsory course (Choose 30 credits from)

Choose 30 credits from
Course code: 197701 Creative Research Practices I 30 credits

Introduction to creative research as a critical practice through advanced methods, processes, technologies and skills.

View full course details

Subject courses (Choose 30 credits from)

Choose 30 credits from
Course code: 197702 Creative Research Practices II 30 credits

Development of a creative research topic area through application of advanced research methods, processes, technologies and skills.

Prerequisites: 197701

View full course details
Course code: 197703 Creative Research Special Topic A 30 credits
Course code: 197704 Creative Research Special Topic B 15 credits
Course code: 197705 Independent Study 15 credits
Course code: 197706 Advanced Digital Fabrication for Creative Res 1 15 credits

In this studio course in Fab Lab Wellington, students will develop software, systems, and related technical infrastructure for digital fabrication technologies, and thereby develop an advanced understanding of open design principles and practices.

Prerequisites: Appraisal Required

View full course details
Course code: 197707 Advanced Digital Fabrication for Creative Res 2 15 credits

In this studio course, students will use the latest digital fabrication technologies in Fab Lab Wellington to prototype and manufacture creative outputs, and thereby gain an advanced understanding of open design principles and practices.

Prerequisites: Appraisal Required

View full course details

Any 400-level or 700-level elective course listed in Schedule C for the Degree of Bachelor of Design with Honours

Part Two (Choose 120 credits from)

Choose 120 credits from
Course code: 197800 Design Thesis 120 credits

Preparation of a thesis consisting of an advanced design-led research project and an exegesis to satisfy the requirements of the Master of Design qualification.

View full course details
Course code: 197802 Design Thesis 120 Credit Part 1 60 credits

Preparation of a thesis consisting of an advanced design-led research project and an exegesis to satisfy the requirements of the Master of Design qualification.

View full course details
Course code: 197803 Design Thesis 120 Credit Part 2 60 credits

Preparation of a thesis consisting of an advanced design-led research project and an exegesis to satisfy the requirements of the Master of Design qualification.

Corequisites: 197802

View full course details

Fees and scholarships

Fees, student loans and free fees scheme

Your tuition fees may be different depending on the courses you choose. Your exact fees will show once you have chosen your courses.

There will also be some compulsory non-tuition fees and for some courses, there may also be charges for things such as study resources, software, trips and contact workshops.

Already know which courses you're going to choose?

You can view fees for the courses that make up your qualification on the course details pages.

Student loans (StudyLink) and Fees Free scheme

You may be eligible for a student loan to help towards paying your fees.

The New Zealand Government offers fees-free tertiary study for eligible domestic students. Find out more about the scheme and your eligibility on the Fees Free website. To use the site's eligibility checking tool, you will need your National Student Number.

Current and returning Massey students can find their National Student Number in the student portal.

Fees disclaimer

This information is for estimation purposes only. Actual fees payable will be finalised on confirmation of enrolment. Unless otherwise stated, all fees shown are quoted in New Zealand dollars and include Goods and Services Tax, if any. Before relying on any information on these pages you should also read the University's Disclaimer Notice.

Careers and job opportunities

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 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.

Accreditations and rankings

QS Ranking - Art & Design

College of Creative Arts – Toi Rauwhārangi ranks in the global top 150 for art and design by QS World University Rankings.

Learn more

Red Dot Design ranking

Ranked 3rd in Asia-Pacific by International Red Dot Design Awards, the only design school to be ranked in New Zealand and Australia. This significant achievement recognises the high calibre of our teaching staff and the exceptional quality of our students' design concept work.

Learn more

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