Auckland’s Media Design School (MDS) has officially thrown open the doors to its new campus in the heart of the Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct. With a 23-year history and a reputation as New Zealand’s most awarded tertiary institution for creative and digital technology qualifications, the relocation reinforces MDS’s ongoing priority of embedding its students deeply within their chosen industry.
“Since we first opened in 1998, a connection to industry has always been a vital part of the Media Design School story,” says Darryn Melrose, General Manager, Design and Creative Technology.
“As technology speeds up and the pace of change accelerates, it’s important for students to be integrated in industry and vice versa. The new campus in the Innovation Precinct elevates and opens up our possibilities in that realm.”
Part of the Torrens Global Education network (along with Torrens University and Think Education in Australia), this next chapter of MDS reflects the network’s broader push for a global outlook with firm local roots. The precinct is home to some of New Zealand’s biggest tech players – including Datacom, IBM and GridAKL – and as the only education provider, the campus’s proximity to industry is expected to be a major drawcard for prospective students both locally and internationally.
An ethos embodied in architecture
Located in the seven-storey 10 Madden Street building, the site of the campus itself was recently described by the NZ Herald as “the most sustainable and biggest urban-regenerated neighbourhood in the country”, earning a 5 Green Star rating under the Waterfront Auckland Custom Tool.
Melrose believes the architectural and interior design of the campus lends itself to MDS’s overarching goal of connecting students with industry throughout their studies.
“It doesn’t look or feel like a normal campus – it’s not a series of lecture halls, corridors and libraries, although we do have that functionality. It’s a big, open-plan, creative space located in the middle of another big, open-plan, creative and innovative precinct,” says Melrose.
“The design of the campus encourages this idea that our students should be working in partnership with industry from day one, and that industry isn’t something you should suddenly arrive at when you graduate.”
Ruth Cooper, Country Director for the New Zealand division of Torrens Global Education adds that the campus design should be commended not only for its layout and sustainability features, but also for its connectedness to culture.
“One of the amazing things about the new campus is the way this vision is integrated into the building itself,” says Cooper, referring to the campus’s wayfinding navigational design that are steeped in Māori and Pasifika storytelling.
“As students, staff and visitors navigate each of the school’s levels within the building, they are guided by words, colours and design features symbolising Māori and Pasifika stories and providing a cultural context to every step taken on campus.”
The pick of the industry
Through partnerships with industry groups and organisations, MDS students enjoy the promise of a range of pathways into their chosen careers. These partnerships are intended to be symbiotic: the industry gains access to students and job-ready graduates, and students are ensured up-to-date knowledge and real-world experience within the relevant sector.
The high education standards and industry connections deliver world class results for students, year in, year out – with MDS students taking the top spots not only in student awards but prestigious industry awards too. In 2019, MDS student Mona Gabr took home Gold, Silver and Bronze awards at The Designers Institute of New Zealand’s Best Design Awards, and the following year received accolades in Australia’s Good Design Awards for outstanding design and innovation.
Mona’s project, titled Pick, is a prototype tag system providing assistance to people with disabilities when catching the bus on public transport. Using NFC technology, Pick allows communication between the individual and bus drivers to ensure the passenger gets on the correct bus.
“After finishing up at MDS, Mona ended up working for Datacom here in New Zealand and eventually in Australia too. It’s a great story of a capstone project not only winning awards but having real industry influence too,” says Jim Murray, Programme Coordinator of the Bachelor of Media Design.
Elsewhere, MDS offers several other partnerships to help students dive into real-world projects during their studies.
For the past few years, Bachelor of Media Design students have worked on live briefs from the Auckland Council for the annual Matariki festival – recently announced by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as a public holiday, with the inaugural observance set to occur in 2022.
“Next year’s Matariki is something we’ve been working on with Panuku Development Auckland, part of Auckland Council,” says Murray, adding that students are briefed on a specific design problem then must work collaboratively on solving it.
“It might involve a motion designer, a graphic designer or an interactive designer, and they’ll work together to pitch back their concept and proposal, then work through them over several sessions. The final concepts are then presented to lecturers and industry guests.”
The outcome is not only a win for the Matariki festival but also for the students, many of whom will be experiencing real-world contact with the industry for the first time through this project.
“It’s also a win for the local community, who get to experience these works the students have made with the intent to actually effect change. Also, the students get to see their work out there in the world, as opposed to in-house projects that don’t really have any connection to the real world,” says Murray.
Also vital to MDS’s industry partnership strategy is connecting with Māori enterprise. One such example is Kiwa Digital, who last month launched their Aho Wahine project at MDS, with a ceremony hosted by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon. Carmel Sepuloni. Aho Wahine is a series of bilingual apps breathing new life into the traditional stories of Aotearoa, interpreting from the point of view of the women in the stories.
“Kiwa Digital are our neighbours at the Wynyard Quarter innovation precinct, and we wouldn’t have been able to be such an integral part of the launch were it not for the new campus. We’re just thrilled to be connected with them,” adds Ruth Cooper.