INFLUX: A showcase of postgraduate design work

From 13 - 28 August 2022 the School of Design Innovation—Te Kura Hoahoa is hosting INFLUX, a showcase of postgraduate design work.

Poster advertising the INFLUX exhibition at Te Aro campus
INFLUX postgraduate exhibition poster. Animation by Miguel Gierran, Director of NIGHT LIGHT film.

The exhibition features work from our Master of Design Innovation, Master of Design Technology and Master of User Experience Design students, with everything from 3D printed high heels, to tactile representations of anatomical data, to character formulation using artificial intelligence.

Head of the School of Design Innovation Nan O’Sullivan says it has been a delight to see these students, who have shown such resilience throughout their pandemic-disrupted undergraduate degrees, keep up the momentum and motivation to complete “such fantastic Master’s projects”.

“The diversity of research themes and methods showcased through such amazing creative and design practice and evidenced in the exhibition is what makes the School of Design Innovation so distinctive, and our graduates so successful.”

Master of Design Innovation (MDI) students Izzy Robb, Andrew Roberts, and Sophia Neill are just three of the 15 MDI postgraduate students exhibiting their work at INFLUX, each project showcasing how critical and creative approaches to design and research can enhance our experience of the world.

Body of Matter by Izzy Robb

a pair of glasses
Example work from ‘Body of Matter’ by Izzy Robb.

Izzy Robb was drawn to industrial design for its combination of research, planning, and hands-on work.

“The skills I enjoyed learning the most were the ones that create unexpected results or could be used to make positive impacts in someone’s life.

“From technical drawings, laser cutting, CAD designing, and multi-material printing, when you graduate with a Bachelor of Design Innovation, you aren’t short on skills.”

Now studying a Master of Design Innovation, Izzy’s work Body of Matter explores the use of emerging technologies to transform medical data from 2-dimensional visualisations into highly intricate and tactile 3D-printed objects.

Flowing personal anatomical data into defined forms, Edge to Optic creates a deeper connection between individual and product. Results demonstrate how medical data can be flooded into established design forms, from cutlery to prescription lens, creating individualistic objects.

“The art forms that lie within the human body are rarely seen and by diversifying the variety of data visualisation forms to include abstract pieces, discussion and analysis is stimulated as the context is shifted.

“In a world of synthetic materials and the sameness of mass production, we crave the variety of the organic.”

Izzy had the opportunity to work with the Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management at Wellington Hospital learning medical imaging techniques when she was awarded a summer research scholarship at the end of her third year.

“This was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t have achieved without the support from the University and the School of Design Innovation.”

This experience she has carried through her Master’s degree and has culminated in a job offer from OSSIS Limited, as a Junior Orthopaedic Engineer.

Uncanny Bastards by Andrew Roberts

mutiple images of critters
Example work from ‘Uncanny Bastards’ by Andrew Roberts

Andrew Roberts chose to study industrial design for its versatility.

“The fact that one day I could be working on some sleek furniture concepts and the next designing an alien spaceship really appealed to me—it was great dipping my fingers into anything I wanted to do.”

His Master’s research explores how emerging technologies can be applied to design industries, with a particular focus on the film industry.

“I focused on artistic AI like GANs [generative adversarial networks] and how it can be used to aid in concept design, but I also propose it be paired with multi-material 3D printing. This was done to propel the argument of doing practical effects in film so actors can be provoked to give a more genuine performance.”

The result of his research is Uncanny Bastards, a speculative thesis that explores how modern technologies can provoke the film industry.

“[It] is about imagining a film industry where designers, craftsmen, and actors can expand past creative barriers and embrace artistic honesty and innovation.

“I think the most interesting aspect about the research is that I didn't really do much designing. I propose in the thesis that the AI can act as a creative co-pilot, but to really get the message across I had to step back and follow the lead of the technology. It was a lot of fun and there were some pretty crazy results.

“Being able to simply imagine something, type it out and then see an interpretation of it in front of you is quite remarkable. The 3D printing aspect also excites me because while the AI proves to be incredibly capable, it takes on new life when printed. You really can’t beat real things that you can see and touch.”

After his undergraduate studies, Andrew was offered work experience in the industry with Weta Workshop, an opportunity he describes as the best work experience he’s ever had.

“How often do you get to go to work and have your lunch next to a giant Orc?

“I’m always taken aback by how much the industrial design programme supports us.”

You can watch the full film for Uncanny Bastards here.

The Iced Slipper by Sophia Neill

photo of high heeled shoes
Example work from ‘The Iced Slipper’ by Sophia Neill

Sophia Neill embarked on a Master of Design Innovation for the opportunity to explore a range of design areas, software, and advanced prototyping tools while being guided by great mentors, lecturers, and tutors.

Her contribution to INFLUX is The Iced Slipper, a project which explores a way of configuring parametric software for generative design and additive manufacturing of high heeled shoes.

Her research raises the question as to whether the traditional method of manufacturing and distributing high heels can be streamlined through a combination of generative design and 3D printing, for a more bespoke and sustainable system of production.

“The current cultural and social context suggests fashion is an outlet for individual identity and self-expression. This is particularly relevant for high heeled shoes where customisation of fit is critical and adaptability to style and aesthetic considerations is universally applicable.

“In addition, the traditional methods of high heel shoe manufacture depend on convoluted supply chains, complex assembly, and an extensive inventory to accommodate the required range of sizes and the demand of consumerism.”

Sophia’s project integrates diverse considerations, such as scanning technologies and style parameters with concepts like design for deconstruction and distributed manufacture to transform the way footwear is designed, manufactured, distributed, and recycled.

“It enables a vast range of unique and bespoke high heel shoe designs that would not be feasible nor realisable without the use of additive manufacturing and computational design.

“[My] research shows that this system can reduce inventory in manufacturing while maintaining a desirable product.”

While she completes her Master’s, Sophia currently works part time at a dental clinic as a lab technician, putting her skills into practice with 3D printing and post processing of dentures. Throughout both her undergraduate and postgraduate studies she has also had the opportunity to take part in national and international design competitions, summer scholarship research, conferences, exhibitions, and tutoring.

“My expectations of the programme were to provide an inviting space to allow myself to explore my own extent of creativity while having access to the learning material, mentorship, and necessary physical resources. The university most certainly lived up to my expectations.”

You can check out all three of these projects, and a broad range of postgraduate design student work at the Te Aro campus atrium until 28 August 2022.