Design for Social Innovation

Examine the myriad ways that design interacts with culture, society, technology, and the environment.

Black and white image of age rings on sliced tree trunk
Image borrowed from the More-Than-Human Lab

Design for Social Innovation examines the relationship between design and culture, society, technology, and the environment. It explores how they impact each other and delves into the theoretical and practical connections between them.

In this field, we undertake a variety of research. Our research focuses on how design shapes, and is shaped by, cultural beliefs, values, norms, institutions, relations, and practices. Research themes we pursue include design for more-than-human worlds, indigenous cultures and narratives, sustainable design, and transition design.

Research in this area aims to have a positive impact on the way people live and work. We seek creative solutions to some of the social, environmental, and cultural challenges facing our world.

Research topics

Research topicStaff who can supervise research in this area
Design ethnographyAnne Galloway, Bobby Luke

Design for more-than-human worlds

Anne Galloway

Fashion cultures

Hannah Goldblatt, Bobby Luke

Fashion design for sustainibility

Hannah Goldblatt, Bobby Luke
Indigenous cultures and narrativesNan O'Sullivan, David Hakaraia, Bobby Luke, Edgar Rodriguez
Service designNan O'Sullivan, Dana Fridman, Leon Gurevitch
Sustainable designTonya Sweet, Leon Gurevitch
Transition designNan O'Sullivan, Tonya Sweet, Bobby Luke

Academic staff

Name Research interests
Dana Fridman
  • Design investigations that aim to have a positive impact on the way people live and work
Anne Galloway
  • Exploring how design shapes, and is shaped by, cultural beliefs, values, norms, institutions, relations, and practices
  • Re-imagining our relations with nonhuman animals, plants, materials, elements, and forces of the Earth
Hannah Goldblatt
  • Exploring the significance of fashion for people and societies throughout time
  • Investigating fashion as object, representation, and practice in the context of sustainable design systems
Leon Gurevitch
  • Design investigations that aim to have a positive impact on the way people live and work

David Hakaraia

  • Design explorations that are driven by and/or recognise the value of cultural diversity through any creative medium

Bobby Luke

  • Exploring how design shapes, and is shaped by, cultural beliefs, values, norms, institutions, relations, and practices.
  • Exploring the significance of fashion for people and societies throughout time
  • Investigating fashion as object, representation, and practice in the context of sustainable design systems
  • Design explorations that are driven by and/or recognise the value of cultural diversity through any creative medium
  • Design investigations that challenge complex social, cultural, political issues through any creative medium

Nan O'Sullivan

  • Design explorations that are driven by and/or recognise the value of cultural diversity through any creative medium
  • Design investigations that aim to have a positive impact on the way people live and work
  • Design investigations that challenge complex social, cultural, political issues through any creative medium
Edgar Rodrigues
  • Design explorations that are driven by and/or recognise the value of cultural diversity through any creative medium
Tonya Sweet
  • Design investigations that challenge complex social, cultural, political issues through any creative medium

Design Research Labs

C.R.I.S.I.S

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.

More-Than-Human

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.

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.

Study options

The following postgraduate programmes allow you to pursue research in the area of design for social innovation:

Master of Design (MDes)

The MDes allows you to further develop your critical thinking and discussion skills, increase your understanding of design, and learn to express your own ideas and conclusions within a theoretical framework.

Find out more about the Master of Design (MDes).

Master of Design Innovation (MDI)

The MDI delves deep into the process of innovation, from conception to design to construction. Through independent research, you'll gain the specialist skills and knowledge you need to be a successful professional in the design industry.

Find out more about the Master of Design Innovation (MDI).

PhD

On our PhD programme, you'll produce an original body of research that expands the design discipline. Your work will be largely independently driven, with two supervisors available to advise you. Typically the PhD is studied on-site, but in suitable cases it may be studied by distance.

Find out more about the PhD.