Otago Polytechnic

Bachelor of Design (Product)



Three years full-time; six years part-time

On campus

February 2019
by 30 November
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Dunedin
    18 February 2019
    1 July 2019 - 19 July 2019

Product Design is an exciting, ever-evolving profession focused on designing objects and systems to improve the way we live.

Bachelor of Design (Product) graduates are keen problem solvers, agile thinkers and team workers who are sought-after by employers. Through the programme, you'll cultivate a multitude of skills, such as conceptualisation, drawing, model-making, CAD software, graphic design and production methods. You’ll build and test a variety of prototypes to understand and refine concepts.

Through internships and projects in partnership with employers and businesses, you’ll gain valuable industry experience and make key connections. You can also consider a range of international exchange opportunities during your studies, thanks to our strong relationships with global partner institutions.

You will explore human-centred approaches, manufacturing processes and aesthetic considerations to enhance your concepts and ideas, and will enjoy a balanced curriculum of theoretical content and studio-based projects.

Your learning will be highly personalised. Our small classes mean your lecturers will know you by name and understand your individual interest areas, and you’ll receive plenty of one-on-one support. Our world-class technology, CAD suites and technical support will provide you with all the tools you need to get the most out of your learning.

Product Designers work for corporations, manufacturers, consultancies and the public sector. They often collaborate within multidisciplinary teams, e.g. with doctors, researchers and engineers to create medical equipment. Our graduates work as designers of a wide range of products, including outdoor equipment, medical equipment, lighting, appliances, architecture, audio, and jewellery. Others work as model-makers, social innovators, consultants and entrepreneurs.

Because our graduates learn many transferable skills – including project management, communication, marketing skills and idea generation – they are well-equipped for the workforce.

Skills required
  • Creativity and vision
  • A passion for design
  • The ability to see an idea through from concept to reality
  • Practical ability
  • The ability to communicate your ideas to others
  • An interest in people and the world around you.
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).
  • 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.     

All students (international and domestic) for whom English is not a first language:

  • must demonstrate English Language skills with an IELTS overall band score (academic) of 6.0, with no band score lower than 6.0 in writing and speaking, and no less than 5.5 in reading and listening OR
  • must provide acceptable alternative evidence of English language proficiency depending on the visa decline rate of the country you are from. See here for acceptable evidence and visa decline rates by country.

Please note: All scores must be achieved in a single test completed in the preceding two years. You cannot combine scores from multiple tests. If you have achieved NCEA Level 3 University Entrance you are not required to provide evidence of English Language skills. 

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 15MB file size limit 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.

Selection procedure

Selected applicants may be invited to 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 One at the discretion of the Head of Department. Those who successfully complete and pass Year one 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, and evidence of creativity and ability to take a concept through to a model stage and who demonstrate 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 documentation

You must supply certified copies of proof of identify, academic records, proof of residency (where appropriate) and curriculum vitae.

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

Continue your learning with our graduate or postgraduate programmes in Design or Art, or increase your career options 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. You will be required to attend Otago Polytechnic training sessions in first aid and computer health and safety and will have significant exposure to working conditions in relevant design software.

Studying at the School of Design

Offering small class sizes in immersive studio environments, the School of Design provides you with numerous chances to showcase your creative talent. You will be frequently involved in talks, exhibitions, and events, with the year culminating in the 'Excite' exhibition, a highlight on the Otago Polytechnic calendar. Choose to study product design and gain practical experience in our workshop facilities and modern CAD suites. The Design School also houses year group studios, a gallery space and we have access to the EPICentre Design Studio.

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. 

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.

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 (Non-Class Contact

Approximate Hours Per Week
















You will study

You will complete core courses common to all Design specialties (Fashion, Interiors, Communications), in addition to courses specific to Product Design and a range of electives.

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. 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 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.

Interdisciplinary courses 

Interdisciplinary Studio 1 (Year One, Two and Three)

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

Studio Workshops (Year Two and Three)

All interdisciplinary courses are intended to broaden knowledge and provide opportunities for collaboration. Studio workshops are set at Level 6 in the first two years and at Level 7 in the final year. 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 are set at Levels 5, 6 and 7, again providing opportunities 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 every year) and may include:

Photography, Production Ceramics, Furniture Design, Digital Film, Digital Animation, Sculptural Design, Web Design, Textiles, Accessories, Printmaking, Rapid Prototyping, Exhibition Design, Storyboarding and Illustration, Small Business, Digital Photography and 2D and 3D technologies.

Year One courses 

Design Communication

Will introduce skills and develop confidence in the ability to observe, conceptualise and communicate ideas in a design context. Students will explore 2D and 3D drawing and model making techniques for concept visualisation, exploration, evaluation, validation and presentation.

Product Design History

Develop a fundamental understanding of design history specific to product design; focusing on the historical evolution of the discipline with particular emphasis on design developments and environments. Develop skills in research, analysis and critical thinking with respect to the history of product design.

Product Design Studio 1

Identify a range of human-centered factors and values relevant to successful product design; issues of form, formal experimentation and iteration will be emphasised as well as an explicit reflection of the design process..

Product Design Communication

Gain an understanding of product design digital drawing and modelling in an applied context.

Design Lab 1

An introduction to fundamental detailing and production skills and familiarisation with distinct properties and technologies commonly used with product environments.

Studio Workshops 1 - Presentation

An introduction to graphic design; develop skills in Adobe Illustrator and InDesign and apply these to present your design outcomes.

Year Two courses 

Materials, Manufacturing and Production

Explore a range of materials and production processes required when prototyping and specifying product design solutions.

Applied Design Methods

Survey, select and apply suitable design methods as a catalyst for the development of innovative and sustainable product services an experiences.

Product Design Studio 2

Research and develop ideas in response to a brief and develop design concepts. The emphasis is on research , experimentation, problem solving and the appropriate selection of concept development and presentation techniques to achieve a quality outcome.

Design Lab 2

Analyse and interpret a brief; research and develop ideas to develop design concepts. The emphasis is on research, experimentation, problem solving and appropriate selection of concept development techniques to achieve a high quality outcome.

Rapid Prototyping

Extend the material understanding, skill and the technical knowledge required to visualise design concepts. The emphasis is on research, experimentation, and the appropriate selection of techniques through a series of exercises to develop rapid prototypes for design communication.

Year Three courses 

Product Design Studio 3

Develop your own brief for a product design project which will include research, analysis, brief refinement, concept development, prototyping and presentation communication. Students will take significant responsibility for the whole project from inception to completion with supervisory support provided. A successful outcome from this studio may be developed more in Studio 4.

Design Lab 3

Develop a concept for a large scale commercial design project within the framework of sustainable design. 

Portfolio Design

Develop a portfolio that describes and presents major design outcomes and provides evidence of individual design literacy and subject knowledge.

Product Design Studio 4

Develop your own brief and concepts for a product design project. This may further extend the work developed in Studio 3 or be a second portfolio of product solutions that is resolved, relevant, compelling and evocative. Students will take significant responsibility for the whole project from inception to completion with supervisory support provided.  

Our staff

Machiko Niimi

Machiko is interested in Human Centred Design and likes looking at what we do everyday and how this affects our behaviour. Machiko values both applied methods and the practice of design to increase sustainability of products and services. 

Gavin O'Brien 

Gavin is a design historian and a cross-disciplinary educator with 20 years’ experience in teaching. He has a diverse background of research, practice and education across fine arts, design and architecture and is interested in the intersection of culture and technology. He considers that 'Design is making sense of things' and has has a passion for products that provoke this understanding.

Andrew Wallace

Andrew loves exploring the process of designing and learning new ways to express ideas. Coming to design education with  industry background, he remains active within industry and is involved in delivery of the Master of Design Enterprise program.

Nick Laird

Nick has a history of shaping design education in New Zealand. A sociologist and architect by training, he is constantly striving to unpack and shape new theories into digestible bites, to allow business people to understand creative methods and helping creative people to become better with business tools. Nick is also involved in delivery of the Master of Design Enterprise programme.   

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

Connect with School of Design students, graduates and staff on our very active Facebook page.


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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