Master of Design

The Master of Design (MDes) is about design that matters. Master of Design students are focused, high-level problem-solvers. They conduct purposeful advanced design research that connects with people well beyond the university.

The Massey MDes is particularly suited to externally-connected projects, whether commercial, governmental, cultural or community based. Your 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. 

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

How will I benefit?

The Massey MDes offers:

  • 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.


The Master of Design consists of the design thesis. You will complete a supervised programme of focused design research and present your results (for example product prototype) with an accompanying written component. 

Scholarships are available for some projects.

Schedule and application deadlines

The MDes runs for 12 months from whenever you start.  There are three intakes: February; June; September.  Application deadlines are: November 15 (for February); June 15 (for July); August 15 (for September). Funded projects may start at other times of the year if necessary.

It is recommended that international students apply at least three months before their start date. Late applications will be considered on a case by case basis.


Screen Shot 2015-08-26 At 12.23.05 Pm        Your Guide To Creative Arts 2019

  • Where can I go from here?

    Massey MDes students rapidly develop excellent analytical skills. You must identify what the problem is, where the opportunities lie, and develop practical - even elegant - solutions, within tight timeframes. The real-world pragmatism, critical thinking and strong technical skills you develop will set you up for diverse careers. 

  • MDes graduate career destinations

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

    • web designer for a large overseas institution
    • director of a major NZ health care product manufacturer
    • creative director for art agencies and museums
    • technical development consultant
    • design intern in fashion and industrial design companies
    • publishing
    • secondary school art and design teacher. 
  • Key facts

    Application deadline: 15th November (for February); 15th June (for mid-July); 15th August (for mid-September). Late applications are being accepted subject to available spaces.
    Fees: $6,770.70 - $8,793.70 (indicative full-time), domestic students (further fees information here).
    Location: Wellington; with opportunities elsewhere.
    Part-time option: yes

  • Master of Design 120

    The MDes 120 is a one-year qualification with direct application to industry and external engagement.

    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 May (July Start), July 15 (September Start), November 15 (February Start)

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

    The College aims to support 
the student with their industry-engaged project, supervising design projects that contribute
 to research-driven innovation 
and sustainable economic growth. The College is actively expanding its pool of business relationships to facilitate continuing and future opportunities for Master of Design candidates.

    The MDes 120 involves a focused design research project that takes a challenging real-world design problem through to an innovative and well-resolved solution. Candidates are working on a wide range of projects with diverse industry clients, from wineries 
to regional councils to carpet manufacturers. Scholarships are available for some projects.

    The MDes 120 is a busy, concentrated programme. Students are expected to produce innovative and responsive design work that
is thoroughly grounded in research methodologies and expertly realised. For optimum results it is beneficial to enter the year with a clear project brief and to develop strong relationships with the external ‘client’ from the outset. Students with industry-linked projects may spend extended periods located within their client organisation.

    The programme is largely driven by individual conversations with supervisors and clients. Students are required to make progress presentations to staff, fellow students and clients at key milestones.

    Examples of recent MDes projects

    • Site-sensitive spatial design for a visitor experience in a restored wetland – for Wither Hills Vineyards, Marlborough
    • Techniques for using waste
wool in textiles – with Wool Yarns Ltd, Summit Wool Spinner and Radford Yarn Technologies Ltd
    • Applying open-source
design principles through digital fabrication – with the international Fab Lab network
    • Electric fencing solution
with enhanced usability
for the European lifestyle farmer market – with Gallagher Animal Management
    • Ask Away online youth voter engagement tool – with Loomio and Code for New Zealand

    Structure of the MDes 120
    The MDes 120 consists of 2 papers across one year

    • Design Thesis Part 1 (60 credits)
    • Design Thesis Part 2 (60 credits)

    Dr Caroline Campbell Postgraduate Coordinator – MDes



  • Master of Design 120 - Weta Workshop School at Massey University

    Create your own imaginary worlds for film, TV and game by studying a Master of Design.

    The Weta Workshop School at Massey University is a new way to study Entertainment Design. The School offers a unique educational experience in the exciting and ever-expanding world of design research and practice.

    This course will give students a dynamic range of skills to start their career in concept design and visual storytelling in the entertainment industry.

    An exclusive one-year programme – starts September 2018

    Programme structure

    • Duration of course: 12 months full time
    • Start date: 17 September 2018
    • Master of Design 120 credit programme
    • Students will have access to Massey University workshop, studio, teaching, and library facilities
    • Location: Massey University and Weta Workshop, Wellington, New Zealand

    Find out more

    Weta Workshop art director Paul Tobin with Weta Workshop concept artist Logan Preshaw.

  • Master of Design 180

    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.

    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: In 2017, the first intake for the full 180-credit programme will be September 2017. Intakes during 2018 will be 15 May (July Start), July 15 (September Start), November 15 (February Start).

    Structure of the MDes 180
    The MDes 120 consists of 2 papers across one year

    Massey’s 180-credit Master of Design 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 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.

    Dr Caroline Campbell Postgraduate Coordinator – MDes