Design - for community, commerce and culture

Design research at Massey In a world where we have to manage a range of complex social, economic and environmental issues, the advantages of a design led, solutions oriented approach to these problems are held to be significant. At Massey we foster a multidisciplinary cross cultural approach to design research which informs, supports and enables creativity and innovation to enrich the lives of people, enhance the places they live in and promotes economic sustainability. Our research expertise spans disciplines including industrial and communications design, fine art, design for culture, creating tools for commerce, disaster relief strategies, design for the ageing population, sustainable design, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Our research activity continues to make a real and practical difference.

The Massey College of Creative Arts hosts Australasia’s only fabrication laboratory, a small scale workshop where designers and producers (and the public) can access personal digital fabrication tools such as laser cutters, milling machines and 3D printers, software and databases of blueprints.  This facility is affiliated with Fab Lab, a revolutionary global design movement founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States which allows access to an open network of design expertise and connects New Zealand to the world.

Massey also hosts New Zealand’s oldest and most distinguished design school with strong connections with many industry partners with whom they have designed multiple commercial products contributing to New Zealand’s economy. Key to strengthening our relationship with industry partners was the recent launch of Open Lab, a specialist design studio enabling researchers and students to work alongside businesses to design real world solutions to everyday problems. This is another way in which Massey ensures that design-led research is centred in the demands and needs of the community.

Our design strengths also show in the field of robotics and mechatronics. Massey researchers are developing robotic tools to assist with a range of industrial activities from agri-food production (e.g. fruit harvesting, the automated sorting of delicate soft harvest produce, refrigeration technologies) to potential biomedical applications. Using state of the art technical facilities we are able to explore the opportunities which arise from the novel use of materials, new fabrication processes and new methods.

World Cup fever inspired Massey staff and students to build a pneumatically operated humanoid kicking robot, providing a platform for research into the dynamics and kinematics of kicked rugby balls. Featured during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the device received attention both locally and internationally.

Pioneering work in the area of sustainable colouration of textiles, with the use of waste stream goods, invasive weeds and indigenous plants underlines our commitment to the environment. Massey researchers have succeeded in combining dyeing and resist processes to design three-dimensional pattern and colour aesthetic effects.

Finding solutions in the challenging area of transport is another focus of design activity related to sustainability. With an eye on Auckland’s transport issues, a Massey researcher developed a driverless, slim rail system concept, using limited space in a more sustainable way. The concept is already attracting attention in Europe.

Strength in fine arts has resulted in Massey Researchers being showcased at internationally claimed venues including Musee du Quai Branley in Paris, Flanders Fields Museum in Belgium, the 2009 Venice Biennale, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and Te Papa Tongarewa. Our researchers have designed culturally significant works including the National War Memorial in Wellington and the Cloak of Peace gifted by the New Zealand Government to the Nagasaki Peace Park, Japan. Another key aspect of much of this work is the sensitive linking of fine art to the study of climate change and the environmental challenges that result from this phenomenon. A ten year photographic exploration of Antarctica has subtly revealed much about the impact of human endeavour on this majestic frozen continent. Equally rich in both socio-cultural and environmental dialogue is an extensive photographic diary of the Kiribati Islands of the Central Pacific.

The power of words and how we communicate is another important component of a design enriched capacity to resolve problems and enable communities and publics to function for the greater good. One Massey researchers has noted that “because words can motivate or demotivate, heal or antagonize, build or destroy, if we choose to wield language with thought, skill, and purpose, we can change the world for the better”. Equally important is the forecasting of new product uptake, the analysis of brand equity and market structure, and a determination of which customers contribute to sales growth. In addition to these major strands of research, Massey researchers have just completed a critical study evaluating knowledge claims in marketing. In a digital age, the impacts of information and communication technologies on work and communities is another important societal dynamic being researched at Massey.

Design research stories