The School of Design has a vibrant research community of academic staff, external and industry partners, and master’s and PhD students.

Our postgraduates work closely with staff and industry collaborators on research projects addressing a wide range of contemporary design challenges. Offering a number of study pathways, postgraduate students enrolling with a four-year bachelor’s qualification (or equivalent) may elect to follow a traditional thesis pathway through our Master of Design (Mdes)—a one-year self-defined thesis research project.

Alternatively, for those with a three-year undergraduate qualification, or those students desiring a more industry-focussed professional qualification, the new Master of Design Innovation (MDI) offers a structured, postgraduate curriculum delivered through collaborative research labs and culminating in a comprehensive research portfolio rather than a traditional thesis.

The MDI degree is comprised of two primary components: coursework and intensive, collaborative research within one of our newly created Design Research Innovation Labs (DRIL). These labs receive support from government, industry, and externally funded grants to produce a wide range of commercially viable and discipline-specific research outputs that contribute to the advancement of design research while engaging with a variety of social issues and needs. The links below provide further information about the research focus, methods, aims and objectives of each lab, as well as scholarship opportunities and a list of current research projects.

For more info see the Master of Design Innovation programme page

DRIL research streams and contacts:

Smart interactions

This research cluster represents a synergy of existing expertise in the School of Design along with strategic research partners: combining Media Design (MDDN), Industrial Design (IDDN), Software Engineering (SWEN) and Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering (ECSE). For more see Smart Interactions


    MADE (Multi-property Additive-manufacturing Design Experiments) focusses on innovative design applications of 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing materials, technologies and processes. It aspires to establish a globally recognised design research expertise in the currently undersubscribed niche of multi-material printing. For more see MADE

      Design & Culture


      Design is a rapidly evolving discipline that requires constant re-evaluation in response to shifts in cultural, social, political, economic, technological, and environmental paradigms. While design has historically privileged a primarily Western, affluent, and masculine perspective, today’s designers must broaden their scope of inquiry and consider innovative and inclusive approaches to design that respond to issues rather than to individual clients. For more see Design & Culture


        Data.Mine is a research cluster that deals with innovation in data generation, retrieval, analysis and presentation. The goal of the lab is to further understanding of the cultural contexts, analytical techniques and design requirements to extract meaning and insight from data. For more see Data.Mine

          Virtual World Lab

          Virtual Worlds

          New developments with Virtual Reality technology highlight a vast territory for immersive storytelling, gaming, and many other forms of interactive experiences such as simulated education, medical therapy, and scientific visualization. While Sony, Samsung and Oculus Rift (Facebook) have delivered the hardware, start-ups and research labs are playing catch-up with the development of content. Local Wellington company 8i for example, has received over 20 million dollars in seed funding, and Weta Digital is also investing in this new domain.

          At the lab, Design staff and students will research new methods for storytelling, interaction, and immersive experience, presented via emerging technologies like head mounted displays. For more see Virtual World Lab