Bachelor of Design (Communication)

  • Dunedin Campus 
  • Work-based learning option available through Capable NZ for those with prior experience. Find out more > 
Three years full-time; six years part-time

On campus

By 30 November
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • CapableNZ
    1 January 2021
  • Dunedin
    22 February 2021
    28 June 2021 - 16 July 2021
    19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021
    4 October 2021 - 15 October 2021
  • Dunedin
    22 February 2021
    28 June 2021 - 16 July 2021
    19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021
    4 October 2021 - 15 October 2021
  • Dunedin
    22 February 2021
    28 June 2021 - 16 July 2021
    19 April 2021 - 30 April 2021
    4 October 2021 - 15 October 2021
  • Dunedin
    1 February 2022
  • Dunedin
    21 February 2022
    27 June 2022 - 22 July 2022
    18 April 2022 - 29 April 2022
    3 October 2022 - 14 October 2022
  • Dunedin
    21 February 2022
    27 June 2022 - 15 July 2022
    18 April 2022 - 29 April 2022
    3 October 2022 - 14 October 2022
  • Dunedin
    21 February 2022
    27 June 2022 - 22 July 2022
    18 April 2022 - 29 April 2022
    3 October 2022 - 14 October 2022

Use your creativity and vision to communicate original and exciting ideas.

Communication Designers communicate information visually.

During this hands-on degree, you'll learn to tell stories through still and moving image, text and interactive media. You'll develop industry-ready skills and use project-based learning to apply them to community- and client-driven projects that have a focus on positive social and environmental change.

Specialise in:

  • Graphic design and typography
  • Illustration, animation and character design
  • UX for game design
  • Visual design for games
  • 3D modelling and world building
  • Game narratives and interactive fiction
  • Web design and mobile app design
  • Film and photography, or
  • Social media content design and strategy. 

Interested in a career in the games industry?

Start here! 

From 2022, we're offering the chance to study this degree with a game design focus. You'll graduate with a Bachelor of Design (Communication), frontend game development skills and a portfolio of games you've created! 

Sound good? Find out more.

Why study Communication 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

  • You'll gain valuable practical experience from projects.
  • You'll spend 100 weeks in a design studio environment 
  • You'll work with our highly-skilled, award-winning tutors.
  • You'll be prepared for a broad range of creative careers.
What will I learn?
Year one

We want you to have a broad skill set so, in year one, you'll study a little bit of everything from a wide range of subjects. 

In the first half of your degree, you'll develop and advance skills and see where your strengths lie before you choose your specialty pathway for years two and three. Subjects include: 

  • Graphic design and typography 
  • Illustration, animation and character design 
  • Visual design for games 
  • 3D modelling and world building 
  • Game narratives and interactive fiction 
  • Web design and mobile app design 
  • Film and photography 
  • Communication and storytelling 
  • Campaign design for social media 
  • Research and reflective practice. 
Year two 

Start to specialise with pathways in graphic design, photography and illustration, to web, apps, film and photography or our new visual design for games path. Gain more in-depth skills then apply them using design strategies relevant to your media. At the end of year two, you'll be working in teams on your first client-based project. 

Year three 

Take your designing to the next level through a combination of group and individual projects, client-based and independent, in the media (or combination) of your choice. 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. 

Your workload

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 Hours (Non- Class Contact)

Approximate Hours Per Week

YEAR 1      





YEAR 2      





YEAR 3       





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.

Entry requirements
  • 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).

COVID-19 adjustments to NCEA requirements

  • If you completed your NCEA Level 3 during 2020, you only need 12 credits per Level 3 subject (i.e. a total of 36 credits).
  • If you completed your NCEA Level 3 during 2021, please visit this page on the NZQA website. There are different adjustments depending upon which part of New Zealand you studied in.

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 have an acceptable level of secondary school achievement. 
  • If English is not your first language, you must provide:

If you need to improve your English Language skills, we offer a wide range of English programmes

Provisional entry

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.

Selection process 

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. 

Your portfolio

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, 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.

Additional costs

Please contact the School of Design for a list of equipment, textbooks and resources you must purchase for this programme. Email 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.  

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