Faculty of Architecture and Design


Culture+Context Design

Please note: Information on this page relates to the 2016 academic year unless otherwise specified.

This subject is taught by the School of Design. 


Culture+Context Design combines design research, thinking and critical practice in the pursuit of creative solutions to today's complex challenges. A unique degree in New Zealand, the specialisation gives students the opportunity to design objects, systems and environments (both real and virtual) within a critical, analytical and conceptual framework.

Culture+Context Design is conceived around an understanding that cultures shape design, and in turn, design shapes cultures.The programme has three areas of focus: Social Design Innovation, Design in the Cultural Sector and Design Research Strategy. Topics explored in Culture+Context Design courses include:

  • Conceptual and experimental design practices
  • Design research methods including ethnographic and psychological approaches
  • Social design for/and with communities
  • Sustainable design theory and practice
  • DIY design and maker cultures
  • Design for the cultural sector including exhibition design and curation
  • Photography, digital imaging and computer culture.

Culture+Context Design is a cross-disciplinary subject providing an insightful approach to critical understandings and contemporary interpretations of design. Students will acquire thorough knowledge of key historical and theoretical approaches in design, and will examine their impact on visual culture. Culture+Context Design explores the relationship between design and related disciplines by requiring students to select a minor subject outside the Design disciplines from a diverse range including Psychology, Cultural Anthropology, Marketing, Maori Studies, Pacific Studies, Film and Media Studies.

Working in a stimulating environment at Victoria’s School of Design, you will have the opportunity to design objects within a critical and theoretical framework. In our rapidly changing society, employers value the innovation and experience of our graduates from the Culture+Context Design major.

Culture+Context Design is a major in the Bachelor of Design Innovation (BDI) degree. Specialisations within the BDI degree include Cultures of Making, Service Design, and Speculative Design. The undergraduate programme leads into the 180 point Master of Design Innovation (MDI) for those seeking a postgraduate qualification in areas wider than traditional design disciplines.

For more detailed information on the School of Design and its programmes, see the School of Design website.

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Undergraduate information

Secondary school subjects you will need

Useful background subjects are creative subjects such as Graphics, Technology, Art or Design and essay-based subjects, such as English, History, Art History, Classics, Geography or Economics. 

Credit assessment of prior tertiary study

If you have completed any study previously at another tertiary institute you may be eligible for some transferred credit towards your Victoria University qualification. Check with the Faculty Office if you think this applies to you.

Degree requirements

The BDI in Culture+Context Design is a three-year undergraduate degree consisting of 360 points and is structured in two parts. Culture+Context Design students must include a minor in a non-design subject.

Part 1

Part 1 is the first year of the Design Innovation programme (120 points). This year you take the courses alongside students in Industrial Design and Media Design programmes, as well as courses taught in other facilities.

In Part 1 you will investigate a broad range of essential design ideas, principles, histories, theories, practices and strategies. You will use the vocabularies of three- and four-dimensional design to explore concepts and challenge traditional and presumptive definitions of design. You will also engage with your minor subject by doing the 100-level courses required to progress in that discipline.

Part 1 comprises 4 core courses and 4 elective courses as follows:

Core courses:

*We recommend including DSDN 144 Photographics. DSDN 144 is a prerequisite for CCDN 244. Students not intending to include CCDN 244 in their second year may replace DSDN 144 with another 100-level DSDN course.

**If you have achieved 14 or more NCEA Level 3 credits in English, History, Art History, Classics, Geography or Economics you may substitute WRIT 101 or WRIT 151 with an additional elective course.

Part 2

Part 2 comprises the second and third years of the BDI degree, and requires 240 points—120 points each year.

Part 2 involves a range of Culture+Context Design courses as well as additional courses from the BDI programme and courses for your non-design minor, enabling you to personalise your programme to suit your needs and interests.

In 2nd year you will need to include:

  • Two courses from CCDN 200-299
  • and 80 points of electives including courses for your minor.

In 3rd year you need to include:

and 60 points of electives including courses for your minor.

*You should have completed most of your non-design minor before doing CCDN 332.

Culture+Context Design elective course requirements

The breadth and flexibility provided by the elective courses is a key feature of the Culture+Context Design specialisation. The electives provide opportunity to place design concepts and understandings in a broader context, and to engage with issues of how design affects, and is affected by, those contexts.

It is important that you plan your electives carefully to get the best out of your programme of study. In selecting electives you need to ensure that your overall BDI programme contains at least 360 points, and that your electives include:

  • at least one non-design minor subject (see below)
  • any 100-level prerequisite courses necessary for your minor subject
  • at least 60 points from the BDI schedule*
  • at least 80 points at 200- or 300-level, including at least 15 points at 300-level.

*The BDI schedule includes all CCDN, DSDN, INDN or MDDN courses.

  • If you plan to do 200-level courses in Industrial Design you should include DSDN 104 and 141 in your first year; if you plan to do 200-level Media Design courses you should include DSDN 112 and 142 in your first-year.
  • If you want to include studio-based Industrial Design or Media Design courses in your Part 2 programme, you must apply as numbers are limited.

Culture+Context minors

Culture+Context students must do at least one minor, from the recommended list below, outside the School of Design. With careful planning, it is possible to include a second minor, although not required. Students are advised to combine their minor(s) with electives offered by the School of Design.

A minor requires 60 points at 200- and 300-level including at least 15 points at 300-level. Recommended minors include:

List of minors
Art History Management
Asian Studies Media Studies
Cultural Anthropology Music
English Studies Pacific Studies
Film Philosophy
Geography Psychology
Marketing Sociology
Maori Studies  

Contact the relevant Faculty or School for course information relating to your choice of minor.

Culture+Context Design Specialisations

A student completing a major in Culture+Context Design may obtain a specialisation by including the following courses:

Cultures of Making: CCDN 231, CCDN 233, CCDN 344
Service Design: DSDN 251, CCDN 233, CCDN 344
Speculative Design: CCDN 233, CCDN 242, CCDN 342

Postgraduate information

Please visit our postgraduate study pages on the School of Design website for information about postgraduate qualifications in Culture+Context Design.

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How to find out more

Want to find out more about studying at Victoria? Register now to find out more about your study options and keep updated on application and enrolment information, open days and events.

If you need help deciding what degree might be right for you, or what courses to take, talk with a liaison officer or book a course planning session with us, call 0800 VICTORIA (842 867) or email course-advice@vuw.ac.nz.

If you’re a returning or transferring student, contact the Faculty Student and Academic Services Office, for help with degree planning and for information on admission requirements and transfer credit from other institutions.

Related subjects and careers

The following list gives examples of how various minors can lead to a range of careers:

Minor Career
Cultural Anthropology Design Researcher or Consultant, Design Anthropologist
Art History Museum or Gallery Critic and Curator
Management Design Management Consultant, Marketing Consultant, Design Analyst
Māori Studies Promotional Māori Design Advocate or Consultant
Philosophy Design Theory Researcher 
Psychology Interaction Designer, User Experience Designer, Usability Consultant
Sociology Design Researcher, Consultant or Manager

Those who choose a double minor have a wider range of options:

Double Minor Careers
Industrial Design Asian Studies Offshore Design Promotion and Facilitator
Media Design Marketing In-house Media Design Promoter
Industrial Design Marketing Design Retail Store Manager and Owner

List of courses