What is Design and Visual Communication about?
Subject-specific terms can be found in the glossary.
Design and Visual Communication consists of two distinct disciplines that are inextricably linked.
Design encompasses the ideation, exploration, development, and production of design ideas into workable outcomes that serve a specific purpose, provide innovative solutions, and are informed by design heritage.
Visual communication addresses how design ideas and outcomes are presented in ways appropriate to the viewer. Design ideas and outcomes are expressed in a manner that gives life to the learner's thoughts, allowing for engagement, feedback, and collaboration.
Designers acknowledge how their design ideas can meet the needs of people within various contexts, and are responsive to the ethical, environmental, and cultural impacts they may have.
By developing the practical skills and techniques of Design and Visual Communication, learners will discover how to give form and voice to their ideas. In order to create purposeful and future-focused design ideas, learners must be willing to experiment, respond to feedback, and reflect on their design thinking and processes to improve and refine the products and spatial experiences they propose. This helps to build confidence in their strengths, talents, and abilities, as well as resilience, resourcefulness, and a sense of ethical responsibility to the peoples and places they are designing for.
Big Ideas and Significant Learning
Big Ideas are derived from the Learning Area essence statement and capture the essence of a subject, ensuring coherence rather than fragmentation of learning. At the subject level, they inform the Significant Learning – learning that is critical for students to know, understand, and do in relation to a subject by the end of each Curriculum Level. This covers knowledge, skills, competencies, and attitudes and also includes level-appropriate contexts students should encounter in senior secondary education.
The Significant Learning is collated into a Learning Matrix and progresses across Curriculum Levels 6-8. Teachers can use the Learning Matrix as a tool to construct learning programmes that cover all the 'not to be missed' learning in a subject. There is no prescribed order to the Learning Matrix within each level. A programme of learning might begin with a context that is relevant to the local area of the school or an idea that students are particularly interested in. This topic or context has to relate to at least one Big Idea and may also link to other Big Ideas. The Learning Matrix is designed so that educators have the freedom to create courses that are both flexible and coherent.
Within Design and Visual Communication, the five Big Ideas flow into each other throughout the learner's journey. Tikanga, voice, purpose, knowledge, and Visual Communication are all vital components that create the skills and capabilities of all designers. These components encourage learners to bring their own strengths, talents, tastes, and styles with them as valued assets and contributions.
Design tikanga weaves together both divergent and convergent thinking in the generation, exploration, refinement, and resolving of design ideas and outcomes
The practice of design is where ideas begin to take shape into potential products and spatial experiences. It combines the skills and knowledge that learners attain into action-oriented development. Learners will ask questions, propose scenarios, and reframe perceptions to generate ideas through applied, practical, multimodal techniques and active engagement with design tools and technologies.
Translating their ideas from thought and giving them life in a visual format gives learners a sense of how their own unique way of seeing the world is a vital asset in design thinking and developing outcomes. They will also begin to see how their sense of aesthetics can be applied to create innovative solutions. Engaging with hands-on, practical exercises will also allow them to think about the function and purpose of design outcomes, learning 'how stuff works' and how old design ideas can be built upon to inspire new ones.
Designers bring their own unique voice that draws from their personal experiences, cultures, values, and perspectives as well as those of other people
The unique voice that a learner brings to their design ideas and outcomes is the strongest asset they have. It allows them to bring their own talents, values, and cultures to a project, creating opportunities for innovation and self-discovery.
Learners can also examine, critique, and be influenced by the perspectives and inputs of others, creating a fluid, supportive, and collaborative learning environment. They develop resilience and confidence through feedback and critique, reframing 'mistakes' as valuable learning opportunities.
Voices also include those of Māori, Pacific, and local contexts, as well as the global design perspectives of indigenous cultures and other designers' unique backgrounds.
Learners will be able to convey and give life to their personal aspirations, getting a clear vision of the paths available to them with the knowledge and skills they attain, as well as the unique voice they contribute to the practice of design.
Design is an act of manaakitanga that seeks new ways to improve the lives of people and their places
Designers are responsive to social, cultural, and environmental contexts, producing outcomes that improve people's lives. They consider forms of knowledge from multiple perspectives that speak to the people and place of the design ideas and outcomes they develop. This includes ethics, sustainability, and inclusion. By engaging with their community and acknowledging the whakapapa and tikanga of the people they're designing for, they develop the ability to meet the needs of design briefs and understand the importance of user engagement and user experience.
Without the problems that require solutions for the people and environments they arise from, there would be no need for designers. Therefore, it is imperative that learners understand the purpose of their work and the value their ideas and talents have within local and global contexts. In this sense, manaakitanga is the designer's drive to develop design ideas that empower individuals and support their communities. Designers see the potential lying in everyday situations and environments, and are able to reflect on the intent behind their design ideas within various contexts.
Design has a whakapapa – heritage, philosophies, and knowledges, both functional and aesthetic, in relation to product and spatial design
By drawing from the rich history of design and the specialist technical knowledge of their kaiako and other subject experts, learners will gain the understanding required to apply their talents and skills in a way that gives life to their ideas.
It also allows them to recognise concepts of product and spatial design within different cultures and communities (for example, how icons are recognised through socially constructed value judgements), which further builds upon their personal design influences and sense of aesthetics. This creates a richer, more dynamic learning environment that lends to adaptation and playful engagement with the histories and precedents that the subject is built upon.
Design is an iterative and accumulative process that is constantly building on the past in ways that refine and improve current practice. Through the exploration and examination of the whakapapa of design, the movements and theories that have gone before, learners will develop their own sense of aesthetics and create concepts that will further expand the body of knowledge that inspired them.
Visual communication is a set of visual literacy skills that allow designers to think about, evaluate, and appropriately present design ideas and outcomes
The ability for learners to communicate their ideas in a visual format is vital to the design process. It makes manifest their design ideas through conventions and techniques that build narratives, transcending the boundaries of language and culture. By developing skills such as sketching, modelling, and sequencing, design ideas can be effectively expressed to a range of different audiences appropriate to the context, whether it be the learner's peers, whanau, community, or the wider public.
Presentation of ideas also allows for their critique, further developing resilience and strategies for risk-taking, and allows the learner to reflect, refine, and improve on their initial concept. This also opens opportunities for surprising discoveries and alternative viewpoints that the learner may not have previously considered. Giving life to a design idea through these communication techniques illuminates further insight into its purpose and how it aligns to the ethics, values, and tikanga of both the designer and the user.
Key Competencies in Design and Visual Communication
Developing Key Competencies through Design and Visual Communication
Learning in Design and Visual Communication provides meaningful contexts for developing Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum. These Key Competencies are woven through, and embedded in, the Big Ideas and Significant Learning. Whether it's forming connections and relationships with clients and collaborators, practising ideation and design thinking, managing their time and wellbeing, or applying the visual communication techniques necessary to promote their design ideas and outcomes, learners will gain skills and knowledge that will be carried with them throughout their design practice and beyond the learning environment.
Students in Design and Visual Communication will:
- use design thinking to foster exploration, experimentation, and problem solving
- be encouraged to look at things from different perspectives that they may not have previously considered
- draw from a range of influences to develop a sense of aesthetics, adopting different ideas from the voices of different cultures and the rich heritage of design
- be required to think for themselves and develop a confidence in their abilities to generate ideas
- be strongly encouraged to use both divergent and convergent thinking:
- divergent thinking allows the learner to experiment and take risks in order to innovate and find new ways of achieving results
- convergent thinking allows them to draw from the knowledge and history of design, as well as the knowledge of their peers, to build upon the paths laid by others in the field.
- bring their own unique voice and background to their design thinking in order to experiment and innovate
- use design thinking to foster self-reflection.
Using Language, Symbols, and Text
Students in Design and Visual Communication will:
- develop visual communication skills in order to form narratives and tell stories through their design thinking and practice
- learn visual techniques and strengthen visual literacy, letting them explore, generate, critique, and resolve design ideas
- become aware of how design lends itself to the use of symbols and other forms of universal visual language that is internationally recognised by the design industry
- use visual communication systems, such as drawing conventions, within multiple media formats
- acquire a fluency in design language, including the aesthetics and function of design ideas, which will determine what form they may need to use to communicate their ideas most effectively
- decide on which techniques best suit how they will approach making improvements and progressing their design ideas further.
Relating to Others
Students in Design and Visual Communication will:
- learn visual communication techniques to develop skills and confidence in presenting ideas and opinions with their peers, community, whanau, and the potential users of their design outcomes
- develop connections with their audiences and users and resolve issues with others in ways that translate into valuable industry skills
- engage in critical inquiry in order to understand and empathise with the user to better meet their needs and honour their values
- connect with place and the whakapapa of the people they're designing for
- practise collaboration and critique with each other within the learning environment
- consider the ideas of other students
- build from each other's strengths and talents with respect and empathy
- learn about the tikanga aronga of their community to help them understand local protocols and engage with people by building bridges, developing partnerships, and building on the narratives of the people and places they design for.
Students in Design and Visual Communication will:
- develop skills in time management, use of resources, and adaptability when undertaking projects
- be able to practice self-reflection and confidence to commit to their ideas throughout the design process
- be able to know when to take risks and when to follow procedure in order to achieve the best results, which is a key aspect of delivering quality outcomes
- take ownership of their own processes and ways of working, including the curation of their design portfolios
- engage with design contexts, and internalise the knowledge they've gained from other perspectives, to build upon their sense of aesthetics and help them refine their own personal tastes and styles
- have to think on their feet to make decisions, sometimes under tight deadlines that require them to make do with what they have and work to their personal strengths
- recognise that the resilience and focus required for design leads to the necessity for stress management and wellbeing practices that are vital for ideas to be generated and communicated effectively, leading to high-quality outcomes.
Participating and Contributing
Students in Design and Visual Communication will:
- use their emerging visual communication skills to connect their ideas with people and place
- take an active role in developing solutions to meet the needs of others while remaining aware of the potential impacts their design decisions could make within social, cultural, and environmental contexts
- see design is a cumulative process that builds upon previous work and requires constant engagement and active participation to bring ideas to fruition
- understand that collaboration and teamwork allows for new ideas to be generated that the learner may not have previously considered
- recognise that feedback and critique helps their peers strengthen their own knowledge and skillsets, creating a rich, supportive, and innovative learning environment
- recognise that the resilience and confidence built through developing, testing, and presenting design ideas allows them to reframe 'mistakes' as valuable learning opportunities in which they can reflect on and improve their ideas.
This section of New Zealand Curriculum online offers specific guidance to school leaders and teachers on integrating the Key Competencies into the daily activities of the school and its Teaching and Learning Programmes.
Introduction to sample course outlines
Sample Course Outlines are being produced to help teachers and schools understand the new NCEA Learning Matrix and Achievement Standards. The draft Course Outlines that were published at the end of Phase 1, Level 1 product development are now being taken down. Work will continue on these, reflecting the changes noted in the SEG responses, and the additional detail that will be provided in Phase 2 products. They will be re-published for the next cycle of feedback on the Phase 2 products in early August 2021. Exemplars of student work will be provided after the Pilot phase in 2022.
Unpacking The Standards
These statements help to unpack the ways in which the Achievement Standards assess the Significant Learning in the Learning Matrix.
1.1 (Internal) Explore and experiment with design ideas using visual techniques to respond to Te Ao Māori and another design heritage
Designers are responsive to the whakapapa and tikanga of the people and places they design for. Within this Achievement Standard, learners are encouraged to explore and experiment with different design ideas, revealing new possibilities that lead to the generation of their own. The Significant Learning they engage with in this Achievement Standard focuses on developing practical design skills by responding to Te Ao Māori and selecting from different design heritages in order to gain influence, inspiration, and understanding from cultural and indigenous contexts. By practising divergent thinking as part of their design ideation, they will be encouraged to explore these design ideas in a way that gives rise to innovation.
Visual techniques could include quick sketching and fast computer modelling. It also could involve using appropriate visual communication techniques that aid the learner’s generation and ideation by playing with shape and form. Learners will be encouraged to discover and use visual techniques that cater to their individual capabilities and, as such, they are not limited simply to drawing.
By gaining influence from Te Ao Māori and exploring different design heritages, learners will not only begin to understand and appreciate different cultural approaches to design, but they will also begin to develop their own design style, tastes, and sense of aesthetics.
1.2 (Internal) Use representation techniques to promote a product or spatial design outcome
Once the learner has explored the layout and composition of a design outcome (see Achievement Standard 1.3), they will then gain understanding of the representation techniques required to promote the outcome to the intended viewer, (for example, users, clients, or communities). Having the opportunity to deliver a presentation on their design outcomes allows them to demonstrate the purpose of their design idea and explain how it will be of benefit to the places and people it’s developed for. They will choose between different representation techniques, such as rendering or nine head figures. And it will become apparent how different visual approaches, such as tonal effects, shadows and highlights, shadow lines, and textures, can all contribute to an impactful, persuasive, and engaging presentation.
The design outcome should be presented and explained in a manner that makes clear the learner’s thinking and how they have incorporated design heritage, drawing techniques, and cultural aspects into their development processes. Aesthetics will also come to the forefront here, and learners will need to present their outcomes in an impactful way that grabs the eyes and attention of the viewer effectively. This is their chance to let their design outcomes shine using visual communication thinking. As such, they are encouraged to take innovative and imaginative approaches to communicating their ideas in order to promote their work in unique and inspiring ways.
1.3 (External) Use instrumental drawing techniques to communicate a design outcome for a selected context
The intention of this Achievement Standard is for learners to know about and use the appropriate visual communication techniques necessary to convey representation of a design outcome as accurately as possible. It requires them to develop knowledge and skill in using instrumental drawing techniques and drawing systems, such as:
- orthographic projection
- paraline drawing
- pictorial sketching
- 3D CAD drawing or modelling
- 2D drawing or modelling
- pattern making.
By selecting and exploring one or more of these modes, learners will begin to understand how different techniques lend themselves to the effective communication of a design outcome for different contexts. The context will also be selected by the learner and will inform their choice of drawing system based on its requirements. How best to represent their design thinking will be demonstrated by their emerging visual communication skills.
Deeper design knowledge will begin to form through this Achievement Standard. For example, an understanding of different line types, scaling, dimensions, and conventions can all be gained. Other representation modes such as floorplans, isometric drawings, and cross-sections can also be explored. Learners are encouraged to consider and explore different modes to find the best technique to clearly present the details of their design ideas.
1.4 (External) Develop design ideas through consideration of place, people, and purpose
This Achievement Standard asks learners to reflect on the role design plays in enhancing the lives and environments of the intended user by giving solutions to problems and meeting needs in unique and innovative ways. It recognises that all design ideas arise from the places for which they are developed and are deeply connected to the whakapapa and fonua of the people within them. This makes clear the purpose of design thinking and allows learners to realise how the function, use, and aesthetics of their design ideas will serve and honour the individuals and communities they’re developed for.
Learners are encouraged to practise both divergent and convergent thinking strategies to understand, as a designer, when to think outside the box to develop original ideas, while also abiding by established design principles and ensuring they meet the needs of the brief assigned to them. They will begin to develop an understanding of concepts such as ergonomics (for product design), proxemics, and site considerations (for spatial design). Design ideas will evolve and be refined throughout their development to ensure that they’re fit for purpose.
Visual communication skills will also be refined and drawn on here, as well as the ability to give and receive constructive critique of design ideas in order to make improvements and reflect on opportunities they may not have previously considered. Within a supportive and respectful learning environment, students can acknowledge the voices and perspectives of their peers, and gain inspiration from one another’s knowledge, styles, and experiences to discover new ways of doing things. This can lead to further insights into the purpose of the products and spatial experiences they develop, and how their unique voice can speak to the places and people they design for.