Why study Product Design with us?
An Otago Polytechnic design degree allows you to develop specialist and transferable skills that are sought after by employers but also well-suited to entrepreneurship and self-employment.
You'll graduate as a work-ready designer with strengths in your chosen design field. You'll also have an understanding of your responsibilities as a designer, learning to design better experiences, create more responsive products and services and consider people, planet and place in the process.
Throughout your degree, you'll have the opportunities to work with design students from other disciplines and develop communication, organisational and collaboration skills through electives, interdisciplinary, individual and team-based projects.
Benefits of studying with us
- Valuable industry experience that gives you key connections
- A range of international exchange opportunities with global partner institutions
- Human-centred approaches, manufacturing processes and aesthetic considerations to enhance your concepts and ideas
- A balanced curriculum of theoretical content and studio-based projects
- Highly personalised learning with small classes and plenty of one-on-one support
- World-class technology, CAD suites and technical support that will provide you with all the tools you need to get the most out of your learning - Read more about the great resources we offer when you study with us
- Employers want our Product Design graduates for their problem-solving abilities, agile thinking and teamwork. In this programme you'll design, build and test prototypes to understand and refine concepts and cultivate your skills in:
- CAD software
- graphic design
- production methods.
Want to know more?
- Go to our Facebook page to connect with School of Design students, graduates and staff.
What will I learn?
You'll develop a foundation of skills and techniques that allow you to practice as a product designer. These include hands-on skills such as sketching, prototyping and material technologies, as well as human-centred design principles, ergonomics, design history and research skills, 3D modelling software and Adobe Creative Suite. In design studios, you'll respond to a project brief, drawing on all your learning to design and create your own products.
The second year introduces you to design for sustainability strategies and design thinking for entrepreneurship. In the studio project, you'll work on a client brief to learn about the commercial realities of designing for the real world. At the same time, you'll also learn to develop more advanced skills and techniques in understanding materials and production processes, and modelling software.
Take your designing to the next level and apply advanced design research skills and production processes to respond to a client brief, working either in a team or individually. You're encouraged to bring in a project brief of your own interest and work in a real-world context. By the end of the year, you'll have built up a portfolio that will help you take the next step in your design career!
First aid and using equipment safely
You'll be working 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 in first aid and in how to use the workshop and studio equipment safely on your own.
You will also have significant exposure to working with design software and be required to have computer health and safety training.
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 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 loves exploring the process of designing and learning new ways to express ideas. Coming to design education with an industry background, he remains active within industry.
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
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.
- 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 (unless you meet the criteria for automatic entry or have a pre-approval for your portfolio – see Your Portfolio section below).
- You 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 provide:
- New Zealand University Entrance OR
- Overall Academic IELTS 6.0 (achieved in one test completed in the last two years)
- Writing band 6.0
- Speaking band 6.0
- Reading band 5.5
- Listening band 5.5, OR
- Acceptable alternative evidence of the required IELTS (see here for NZQA proficiency table and here for list of recognised proficiency tests).
If you need to improve your English Language skills, we offer a wide range of English programmes.
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.
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.
You need to submit a portfolio when you apply for this programme unless you meet the criteria for automatic entry or get portfolio ‘pre-approval’.
1. Automatic portfolio approval – no portfolio needed
- If you have achieved University Entrance endorsed with excellence overall including merit or excellence in an approved art, design or technology subject at NCEA Level 3, you have automatic entry, and will not need to submit a portfolio.
- This also applies to applicants who have achieved Cambridge International AS grade A or B in an approved art, design or technology subject.
Note: When you apply online and are asked to upload a portfolio, you can either upload a copy of your NCEA results, or upload a note that says “I qualify for automatic entry”. We’ll then verify that with NZQA.
2. Portfolio pre-approval – show ‘work in progress’
- You can show a ‘work in progress’ portfolio to a staff member from the School of Design by making contact with the school, or at open days and careers events throughout the year.
- If you have achieved University Entrance and your portfolio already meets the criteria, you’ll receive a portfolio pre-approval letter. You can then upload that letter with your online application and you won’t have to submit a final portfolio.
- If you want to talk to us about portfolio pre-approval, please email our school administrator, Pam.Hodgkinson@op.ac.nz or phone 0800 762 786.
Need to submit a portfolio?
A portfolio is a selection of work that shows your creative potential and passion for your chosen design specialty. It can include examples from your school or your own projects at home or in the community.
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.
Please contact the School of Design for a list of equipment, textbooks and resources you must purchase for this programme. Email email@example.com or phone 0800 762 786.
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.
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.