Otago Polytechnic

Bachelor of Design (Communication)



Three years full-time; six years part-time

On campus

February 2020
By 30 November
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • CapableNZ
    1 January 2021
  • Dunedin
    22 February 2021
    28 June 2021 - 16 July 2021
    19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021
    4 October 2021 - 15 October 2021
  • Dunedin
    22 February 2021
    28 June 2021 - 16 July 2021
    19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021
    4 October 2021 - 15 October 2021
  • Dunedin
    22 February 2021
    28 June 2021 - 16 July 2021
    19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021
    4 October 2021 - 15 October 2021
  • Dunedin
    21 February 2022
    27 June 2022 - 22 July 2022
    18 April 2022 - 29 April 2022
    3 October 2022 - 14 October 2022



Use your creativity and vision to communicate original and exciting ideas.

Communication Designers communicate information visually.

You'll learn to tell stories through still and moving image, text and interactive media. You'll develop industry-ready skills and apply them to community- and client-driven projects that have a focus on positive social and environmental change.

Specialise in:
  • graphic design and typography
  • illustration, animation and character design
  • UX for game design
  • 3D modelling and world building
  • game narratives and interactive fiction
  • web design and mobile app design
  • project-based learning
  • film and photography or
  • social media content design and strategy. 
Why study Communication Design?

We want you to have a broad skill set, so in year one you’ll study everything. You’ll see where your strengths lie before you choose your specialty for years two and three.

Benefits of studying with us
  • You'll gain valuable practical experience from projects
  • You'll spend 100 weeks in a design studio environment
  • You'll work with our highly skilled tutors
  • You'll be prepared for a broad range of creative careers

Read more about the great resources we offer when you study with us.

Entry requirements
  • NCEA Level 3
  • 14* credits at Level 3 in each of three NZQA approved university entrance subjects, and
  • 10 Literacy credits at Level 2 or above, made up of: 
    • 5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing, and 
  • 10 Numeracy 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).

*Due to Covid-19 disruption, if you studied and achieved NCEA Level 3 during 2020 you only need 12 credits per Level 3 subject (i.e. a total of 36 credits). 

  • 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 have an acceptable level of secondary school achievement. 
  • If English is not your first language, you must provide:

If you need to improve your English Language skills, we offer a wide range of English programmes.

Your portfolio

You need to submit a portfolio when you apply for the Bachelor of Design.

Find out what you need to include in your portfolio, what we're looking for, and how to submit it to us. 

Selection procedure

We select people according to a range of criteria. If we have more eligible applicants than places available, we might put you on a waiting list and we may ask you to come in for an interview to discuss your portfolio.

If you don't yet meet the acceptance criteria, we will recommend a study programme to prepare you to apply the next year.

Provisional entry

A school leaver or an adult applicant who does not meet all 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 on the basis of their portfolio, 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 will be informed before the end of the year and be 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

Contact the School of Design for a list of equipment, textbooks and resources you must purchase for this programme.

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

You might work with wood, metal, plastics, textiles, painting plant and equipment. There are risks and potential hazards in the work spaces and studios. We will let you know about them before you start the programme and we will train you to use the workshop and studio equipment safely on your own. 

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

Core courses (all specialties)

Design Culture and Context 1 (Year One)

Develop an understanding of design as a discipline and as an enabler in society, and receive an introduction to design elements, principles and processes. Explore historical, socio-cultural and ethical frameworks for design. 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 Two)

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 Three)

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.

Elective courses

Interdisciplinary Studio (Year One, Two and Three)

All interdisciplinary courses are intended to broaden knowledge and provide opportunities for collaboration. They are available to all three years of our three design programme streams, 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 (Year One, Two and Three)

To provide students with the opportunity to explore or further experience techniques, skills, knowledge and competence in areas that may differ from their specific discipline. Options vary each year and may: include:

Digital Photography, Production Ceramics, Furniture Design, Digital Film, Digital Animation, Game Design, Accessories, Web Design, Textiles, Printmaking, Rapid Prototyping, Exhibition Design, Story-boarding and Illustration, Small Business, Digital Photography and 2D and 3D technologies and a Negotiated Research Project for year three students.

Communication Design courses (Year One)

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.

Text and Image 1

Develop skills and knowledge of visual communication through an introductory exploration of image, 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 and screen-based graphic design issues including motion and narrative. Students will use computer graphic packages to develop a familiarity with the current industry standard software used in screen-based design projects.

Text and Image 2

Develop skills and knowledge of graphic design through an exploration of typography and image and their integration, and to introduce technical affordances of small and large-run production techniques suitable for communication design events.

Design for Screen 2

Gain skills and knowledge of screen-based design suitable for storytelling through the visual language of the moving image and web-based interactive screens.

Communication Design courses (Year Two)

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.

Advanced Design Techniques 1

To advance understanding of additional contemporary specialist design techniques and employ these through original design outcomes with a compatible disciplinary focus.

Options available from Web Design, Photography, Illustration or Typography

Advanced Design Techniques 2

To advance understanding of additional contemporary specialist design techniques and employ these through original design outcomes with a compatible disciplinary focus.

Options available from App design, World Building, Digital Illustration and Film.

Communication Design Methods

To develop further a working understanding of theory and practical application of user-focused methods suitable for contemporary design research.  Students will gain an understanding of context-driven design, visual language tools and experiences for their selected design media. They will also be introduced to market research, positioning and effective communication through design.

Communication Design Studio 1

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

Communication Design courses (Year Three) 

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 event or outcome based on the student's interests and choice, that demonstrates independent research, planning analysis and evaluation, and the integration of design skills and languages across a range of processes.

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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