Otago Polytechnic

Bachelor of Design (Communication)



Three years full-time; six years part-time

On campus

Apply by
now for 2018
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Dunedin
    19 February 2018
    2 July 2018 - 20 July 2018
    16 April 2018 - 27 April 2018
    24 September 2018 - 5 October 2018
Want to learn how to present concepts and information creatively and effectively? Keen to gain the skills to craft ideas and tell stories through image, text, sound, moving image and interactive media?

Communication Design encompasses a wide range of media and processes and in a rapidly expanding global media environment a design qualification will open the doors to an endless array of opportunities. Work in a broad range of creative areas and for a variety of companies, use your vision to challenge the status quo and communicate original and exciting ideas to others. With your passion for design, you could consider a career as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator, Character Designer, Art Director, Design Project Manager, Design Researcher, Film-Maker, Web Designer or Animator, to name but a few.

Study at one of New Zealand's most innovative and progressive communication and graphic design schools and learn about key areas of Communication Design including storytelling, graphic design, photography, branding and advertising, moving image, illustration, web design, interactive media and interaction design. Develop a sound knowledge and understanding of the design process, both individually and in groups, while gaining valuable practical experience with a variety of hands-on and community-based projects. Gain over 100 weeks in a design studio environment and benefit from the individual guidance and support offered by highly skilled tutors in our boutique Design School environment.

Awards and collaborations

Otago Polytechnic's School of Design is frequently invited to collaborate on projects with industry. Students have the opportunity to gain practice in real industry settings and network with potential employers.

In 2016, Bachelor of Design (Product) student, Jeremy Metherell, designed a hammock in his final year. After 12 prototypes, Jeremy perfected the design – his hammock is now being manufactured and sold by Cactus Outdoor equipment company.

Otago Polytechnic students and graduates are often mentioned in the press for winning national and international awards and competitions.

Bachelor of Design (Product) graduate, Adam Gorrie, combined his love of mountain biking with product design to create a car-mounted bike-rack / maintenance stand.  He gained distinction for his degree, and won Gold in the Designers Institute of New Zealand Best Design Awards.

Design Communications students Charlotte Boyce, Gabrielle Devereux and Craig Quested won Silver in the Student Graphics section of the Best Design Awards for their ‘International Food Conference Newspaper’.  George Chalmers, also a Design Communications student, won Silver for his “Sugar Coated” newspaper in the same category.  While lecturer, Matt Galloway, won Silver for his “Blue Oyster Poster Series” in the Design Craft Category of the awards.

2016 was also a successful year for our Design Fashion students.  Ivy Jackson-May was chosen for the inaugural paid internship at WORLD fashion brand.

Fashion graduate, Anna Ross has seen great success with her skincare and nail polish line, Kester Black.  She was named the 2016 Young Australian Businesswoman of the Year.

Skills required
  • Creativity and vision.
  • The ability to see an idea through from concept to reality.
  • Practical ability and good communication skills.
  • An interest in people and the world around you.
  • An enjoyment of working with others.
Entry requirements
  • NCEA Level 3
    • Three subjects - at Level 3 or above, made up of:
      • 14 credits each, in three approved subjects, and
    • Literacy - 10 credits at Level 2 or above, made up of:
      • 5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing, and
    • Numeracy - 10 credits at Level 1 or above, made up of:
      • specified achievement standards available through a range of subjects OR
      • package of three numeracy unit standards (26623, 26626, 26627- all three required).
  • If you do not hold the above qualifications, you must demonstrate equivalent qualifications/experience. Mature applicants with work and life experience are encouraged to apply.
  • You must submit a portfolio and may have to undertake an interview.
  • International students will be individually assessed to ensure they meet degree-level entry requirements.
  • If English is not your first language, you must also demonstrate English language skills equivalent to an IELTS overall band score (academic) of 6.0, with no less than 6.0 in writing and speaking, and no less than 5.5 in reading and listening.    
Portfolio note

Your portfolio should:

Be a comprehensive review of your current design achievements, potential and commitment. We are looking for evidence that you are able to be original, versatile and enterprising and that you are committed to creative study in your chosen design field.

Within the portfolio:

Your portfolio should include work that you feel best represents your creativity and demonstrates your knowledge of and passion for your chosen field of study. It may contain photographs, small original works, sketches, and whatever you feel is visually informative about you and your abilities as a potential fashion/communication/interiors/product designer.

Please include process work for some pieces (2-3 approximately). This could include drawings, sources of inspiration, comments etc which demonstrate the development of an idea, i.e. that you are able to develop and research an idea through to a finished design. e.g. painting, graphic work, garment, photograph, a creative textile work or 3-dimensional design, appropriate to your chosen field of study.

For secondary school students this work can be anything completed over the last year and may be work that you are developing for NCEA Level 3 portfolios. We do not require finished NCEA boards but you may wish to include development work for these. We would like to see work that has been done as part of class or group projects, but also work which has been self-initiated, and demonstrates interest in your chosen field of study.

Portfolio format

The portfolio should be in a format appropriate to the work you are showing, i.e. digital (CD) or physical. As a guide, we expect at least 10 X A4 or A3 sheets – a clear binder is a good way to protect your work unless, of course, your portfolio is on CD or being sent by email. If you wish to include garments/samples in your portfolio, please consider providing photographs of your work instead. We have limited storage space and do not wish to risk damage to your work.

Please note there is a file size limit of 15MB for the portfolio if you are applying online.

Cover letter

Explain why you have chosen to apply for the selected programme. This letter should communicate your interest in the discipline and discuss what steps you have already taken to increase your chances of being accepted onto the programme. Please include Curriculum Vitae and your career goals in this letter and any other relevant information.

Delivery of your portfolio

Please courier or hand-deliver your portfolio to the address below (enclosing a self-addressed, postage-paid courier package in order for your work to be returned after consideration):

Customer Services
Otago Polytechnic
F Block, Forth Street
Dunedin 9016
Attn: Student Administrator for Design 

We look forward to receiving your application as soon as possible. Applications are preferred by 30 November (late applications are accepted based on the availability of places in the programme).

Additional documentation

You must supply certified copies of proof of identify, academic records, proof of residency (where appropriate) and curriculum vitae. You must also include a short letter, explaining your motivations and why you think you would be a good candidate for this degree.

Selection procedure

Selected applicants may be asked to attend an interview, where they will be invited to discuss their portfolio. Eligible applicants will be selected using a range of identified criteria. Should the number of applicants who meet the selection process requirements exceed the available places, the professional judgement of staff will be used to determine those given immediate entry and those placed on a waiting list. Applicants who do not meet the acceptance criteria will be directed to a path of study to prepare them for application the following year.

Provisional Entry: A school leaver or an adult applicant who does not meet all of the entry criteria may be given provisional entry to year 1 at the discretion of the Head of School. Those who successfully complete and pass year 1 will be deemed to have met entry requirements and provisional status will be removed. The interview panel will consist of lecturers who teach on the course, along with an academic leader from the department. Applicants will be selected on merit using professional judgement on the basis of their portfolio of work, evidence of creativity and ability to take a concept through to a model stage and demonstration of the ability to undertake design study at degree level.

Successful applicants are all informed before the end of the year and are sent detailed information on enrolment procedures, loans, starting dates for the following year and any information that might be required to facilitate a smooth introduction to the programme.

Additional costs

A list of equipment, textbooks and resources which must be purchased for this programme are available from the School of Design.

Further study options

Advance your design skills with our graduate or postgraduate qualifications in Design or Art, or expand your career prospects with a graduate teacher training programme.

Programme specific risks

Prior to enrolment, you are advised of the programme specific risks in workshops and CAD rooms. This information is provided by way of discussion at interview and written notification with acceptance and you will be required to undertake training before independent use of many types of equipment in workshops and studios. Risks include wood, metal, plastics, textiles, painting plant and equipment.

Studying at the school of design

Offering small class sizes in immersive studio environments, the School of Design provides you with numerous opportunities to develop and showcase your creative talent. You will be frequently involved in professional presentations, talks, exhibitions, and events, with the year culminating in the 'Excite' exhibition, a highlight on the OP calendar.

The School of Design also enjoys strong and frequent links to the local, national and international design community. You will benefit from ongoing networks and opportunities through these associations which will allow you to form contacts within the industry, while at the same time earning credits towards your degree. No matter what your discipline, we offer you the chance to work with 'real' clients, creating design-based solutions and services. 


EPICentre is a dedicated resource to deliver practical research that solves real world problems. Our staff and student researchers cover diverse disciplines including art, design, information technology and engineering. 

Your workload

There is an emphasis throughout the three year programme on the development of independent learning skills. This is reflected in the decrease of directed hours over the three years with an expectation that by the end of year three, you will be an independent learner.

Hours are allocated as follows, based on a 32 week academic year: 


Directed (Class Contact Hours)

Approximate Hours Per Week

Self-Directed Hours (Non- Class Contact)

Approximate Hours Per Week

YEAR 1      





YEAR 2      





YEAR 3       






You will study

You will complete core courses common to all Design specialties (including Fashion, Interiors, Product), in addition to courses specific to Communication Design and a range of elected studio workshops and interdisciplinary projects.


Design Culture and Context 1 - Year 1

Develop an understanding of design as a discipline, and as an enabler in society, and receive an introduction to design elements, principles and processes. Historical, socio-cultural and ethical frameworks for design are explored. Develop investigation, inquiry and critical thinking skills as well as basic research skills in written, verbal and visual communication.

Design Culture and Context 2 - Year 2

Extend your understanding of design as a discipline and an enabler in society. Develop a broad understanding of New Zealand and international design constructs and practices, including development of cultural perspectives, development of valid approaches and responses to sustainable design practice. Further develop investigation, inquiry, critical thinking and research skills in written, verbal and visual communication.

Strategic Design - Year 3

Develop an understanding of the professional and strategic requirements of the design industry. Extend your professional research techniques and critical reflection skills to define your personal design philosophy and potential career pathways upon graduation. Communicate these through a portfolio that utilise a range of visual, verbal and on-line formats and a written report.


Interdisciplinary Studio - Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3

Explore design perspectives and approaches which will enhance your discipline-specific learning through either an individual or team-based integrated project.

Studio Workshops - Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 

All interdisciplinary courses are intended to broaden knowledge and provide opportunities for collaboration. They are available to all three years of all four programme streams simultaneously, enabling you to work with, and learn from, other students in your own and allied specialties. Interdisciplinary studios also provide the opportunity for you to work with students from different design disciplines on a shared brief, drawing on your own discipline-specific approaches and learning from other approaches at the same time.

Studio workshops vary each year and may include:

Metals/Jewellery, Photography, Production Ceramics, Furniture Design, Digital Film, Digital Animation, Packaging and Retail, Sculptural Design, Storyboarding and Illustration, Textiles, Environmental Design, Printmaking, Rapid Prototyping, Exhibition Design, Storyboarding and Illustration, Small Business, Digital Photography, 2D Prototyping, and Stained Glass and Leadlight.


Communication Fundamentals 1

Receive fundamental communication design tools that allow you to communicate ideas through storytelling and presentation. These tools include digital design software, digital photography, sound, contemporary production techniques and an understanding of composition and narrative to provide a basis for further research into diverse areas of presentation.

Graphic Design 1

Study graphic design skills and advance your knowledge through an introductory exploration of typography, form and colour and use of computer graphic packages to develop familiarity with the current industry standard software.

Design for Screen 1

Develop skills and knowledge of screen-based design including web and animation projects. Actively use computer graphic packages to develop a familiarity with the current industry standard software used in screen-based design projects.

Graphic Design 2

Develop advanced graphic design skills and knowledge through exploration of typography, image and their integration. Actively use computer graphic packages to develop a familiarity with the current industry standard software and hardware.

Design for Screen 2

Gain an understanding of the visual language of film-making, including basic principles and techniques, narrative techniques for both factual and dramatic forms and management production skills.


Communication Fundamentals 2

Further develop skills and knowledge by practising a range of communication techniques, including text and image, sound and time, and enhance your ability to communicate ideas through storytelling and presentation. These tools include further digital design software, studio photography, still lighting and digital sound recording techniques.

Graphic Design 3

Further develop your understanding of contemporary illustration practices and design skills for application to a variety of graphic outcomes character development to packaging designs and prepress skils.

Design for Screen 3

Develop an understanding of screen-based graphics and an appreciation of how film and video sequences may be modified by cutting and editing. Gain proficiency in software and hardware used for film and video editing.

Graphic Design 4

Further develop an understanding and appropriate use of typography and image in a range of scales, formats and environments. Gain an understanding of context-driven design, visual language tools and experiences. You will also be introduced to market research, positioning and branding.

Communication Design Studio 1

Design a targeted integrated communication event with outcomes in a variety of print, web and film-based media.


Communication Design Studio 2

Become familiar with interaction design techniques and develop an appreciation of user needs in the computer-human interaction paradigm.

Communication Design Studio 3

Develop professional practice expectations and experiences through applied learning in a design studio environment. Gain insight into client-designer relationships and develop applied project management skills

Professional Presentation

To develop professional skills for presentation of studio work in a range of externally-facing outcomes by way of a professional visual portfolio, web portfolio and verbal presentation

Communication Design Studio 4

Develop a unique and complex communication. Students will design, plan and produce a specific communication project in response to a brief.

Student loans and allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification.

Links to useful websites

While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative ONLY. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.

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