The School of Design Innovation has a vibrant research community of academic staff, external and industry partners, and master’s and PhD students.

Our postgraduates work closely with staff and industry collaborators on research projects addressing a wide range of contemporary design challenges. Offering a number of study pathways, postgraduate students enrolling with a four-year bachelor’s qualification (or equivalent) may elect to follow a traditional thesis pathway through our Master of Design (Mdes)—a one-year self-defined thesis research project.

Alternatively, for those with a three-year undergraduate qualification, or those students desiring a more industry-focussed professional qualification, the new Master of Design Innovation (MDI) offers a structured, postgraduate curriculum delivered through collaborative research labs and culminating in a comprehensive research portfolio rather than a traditional thesis.

The MDI degree is comprised of two primary components: coursework and intensive, collaborative research with a supervisor within the School of Design Innovation. Potential supervisors work independently as well within the School’s Design Research Innovation Labs (DRIL). These labs receive support from government, industry, and externally funded grants to produce a wide range of commercially viable and discipline-specific research outputs that contribute to the advancement of design research while engaging with a variety of social issues and needs. The links below provide further information about the research focus, methods, aims and objectives of each lab, as well as scholarship opportunities and a list of current research projects.

For more info see the Master of Design Innovation programme page.

DRIL research streams


The C.R.I.S.I.S. Design Research Innovation Lab (Critical Resilience through Innovative Solutions In Sustainability) supports design-led responses to sustainability challenges impacting Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond. Our research promotes awareness, resilience, and the development of design provocations and solutions that address “wicked” issues and the transition to sustainable socio-ecological futures.

For more see C.R.I.S.I.S.


Data.Mine is a research cluster that deals with innovation in data generation, retrieval, analysis and presentation. The goal of the lab is to further understanding of the cultural contexts, analytical techniques and design requirements to extract meaning and insight from data.

For more see Data.Mine.


MADE (Multi-property Additive-manufacturing Design Experiments) focusses on innovative design applications of 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing materials, technologies and processes. It aspires to establish a globally recognised design research expertise in the currently undersubscribed niche of multi-material printing.

For more see MADE.


The More-Than-Human Lab uses critical and creative means to engage the political, ethical, environmental, and affective dimensions of human relations with other forms of life. We are dedicated to imagining what lies beyond human-centred design.

For more see More-Than-Human.

Smart interactions

This research cluster represents a synergy of existing expertise in the School of Design Innovation along with strategic research partners: combining Media Design (MDDN), Industrial Design (IDDN), Software Engineering (SWEN) and Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering (ECSE).

For more see Smart Interactions.

Social Design Lab

Student work formed in the Social Design Lab, a dress that lights up, a wooden set of drawers, a person dressed in Pacific Island like costume, and a rack of lamb made of soft toy material

Social Design Lab positions social and cultural issues as highly relevant in contemporary design research. Social Design Lab positions social and cultural issues as highly relevant to contemporary design research and situates them as central points of departure for our investigations. The research projects cultivated in this stream employ critical, creative approaches to their explorations of indigenous culture, society, politics, economics, technology and the environment.

For more see Social Design Lab.

Virtual World Lab

Virtual Worlds

New developments with Virtual Reality technology highlight a vast territory for immersive storytelling, gaming, and many other forms of interactive experiences such as simulated education, medical therapy, and scientific visualization. While Sony, Samsung and Oculus Rift (Facebook) have delivered the hardware, start-ups and research labs are playing catch-up with the development of content. Local Wellington company 8i for example, has received over 20 million dollars in seed funding, and Weta Digital is also investing in this new domain.

At the lab, Design staff and students will research new methods for storytelling, interaction, and immersive experience, presented via emerging technologies like head mounted displays.

For more see Virtual World Lab.