Research innovation in Design & Creative Tech at Media Design School

At Media Design School we strive to be at the forefront of innovative research in the fields of design and creative technology.

Over the last 8 years, we have been developing our research profile and believe that research is critical to the success of teaching and learning, industry innovation, and community engagement. We strive to benefit society by acting as a specialist repository for knowledge and expertise, and by producing research outputs of national and international quality.

As a design and creative technology school, a large proportion of our research involves creative practice. Building on our success in the TEC Performance Based Research Fund Quality Evaluation in 2018, we have continued to produce high quality traditional and non-traditional outputs. In 2022/2023, several members of the Media Design School faculty received high-profile awards for creative research, including a first-time externally funded research grant under the Indigenous Culture and Emerging Technology research theme.  

“Media Design School is tracking well for the next quality evaluation in 2026, with many of our early career researchers becoming more established in their fields,” said Dr. Sarah Elsie Baker, Head of Research at Media Design School. “This is, in-part, thanks to funding schemes such as the Research Leave Policy that enables research-active faculty to have more focused time for research projects”


Media Design School Research Highlights 2022-2023

Digitaonga: exploring new methods of repatriation using blockchain technology

Digitaonga is a project started by a team at Media Design School who are working with iwi/hapū and museums to explore the potential of emerging technologies such as 3D scanning and blockchain for repatriation. The project was initiated by two Graduate Diploma of Creative Advertising students, Bella Rākete and Sam Taunton-Clark.

Since its original incarnation, it has become a research commercialisation project involving Media Design School, Torrens University Australia, alumni and founders Bella & Sam, Dr. Sarah Baker - Media Design School Head of Research, Kate Humphries - Programme Director of Creative Advertising, and Dr Moana Nepia - Media Design School Senior Research Fellow, as well as an external advisory group including leaders in kaupapa Māori research, museum studies, and emerging technologies.

Dr Moana Nepia’s appointment at Media Design School marked a significant achievement and has strengthened the Indigenous Culture and Emerging Technology research theme at the school.  Dr Nepia has extensive knowledge of Mātauranga Māori and Kaupapa Māori research, and is an artist, curator and choreographer.

The team was awarded a $213,000 research grant from the NZ Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa Fund to finance the first stage of the project which will work with three iwi/museum partners.

The project aims to co-create rich and engaging digital assets and register their rightful ownership on the blockchain. These assets can then be used by iwi/hapū to connect and share knowledge, as well as to loan to museums as incentives for the repatriation of physical taonga.


Using AI for Skin Cancer Detection

Media Design School Lecturer, Dr. Rampreet Kaur’s research explores the role of AI in healthcare, particularly the detection of skin cancer. The impact of Dr. Kaur’s research is highly significant given that the technologies created could aid the early detection of melanoma. Dr Kaur has published several papers in the area including ‘Automatic lesion segmentation using atrous convolutional deep neural networks in dermoscopic skin cancer images and collaborates with a range of national and international researchers.


Selwyn Muru: A Life’s Work

Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Moana Nepia curated the first retrospective of Selwyn Muru’s artwork. Muru’s life's work spans radio broadcast, drama, acting, set design, sculpture, painting, poetry and whaikōrero. The exhibition includes a selection of this activity since the 1950s, capturing the diverse communities he worked with, and conveying his social commentary and advocacy for his Ngāti Kuri people. Selwyn Muru: A Life’s Work’ opened at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Wellington and subsequently toured to The Wallace Arts Centre in Auckland. Dr. Nepia is currently working on a book with the same name to be published by Oratia Books. 

You can learn more about Selwyn Muru and Dr. Nepia's work here:


Conversations With My Ghost

Don Chooi, Senior Lecturer - Bachelor of Media Design, created his second graphic novel Conversations With My Ghost, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel exploring the grief of losing a longtime partner through the gay perspective. Chooi’s research journey and design process is detailed in an interview with Jess Lowcher of Design Assembly. His work exemplifies an approach to creative practice that produces both traditional and non-traditional outputs and combines strong theoretical and methodological frameworks with advanced creative and technical skills.


History By HBO: Televising the American Past

Lecturer, Bachelor of Art & Design, Dr. Rebecca Weeks published her single authored manuscript ‘History by HBO: Televising the American Past’ with the University of Kentucky Press. Dr. Weeks defends the historiographic power of long-form dramas and outlines how history is crafted on television.  As an examination of HBO's unique structure for producing quality historical dramas, Weeks provides four case studies of HBO series set during different periods of United States history: Band of Brothers (2001), Deadwood (2004–2007), Boardwalk Empire (2012–2014), and Treme (2010–2013).

“In this engaging and persuasive book, Rebecca Weeks argues for television's capacity to communicate historical meaning, providing a fresh contribution to existing theoretical debates alongside an in-depth examination of four key HBO dramas. Her finely detailed account explores the historiographic work involved in the crafting of sets, costumes, character arcs, narrative structures and sonic environments, generating fascinating new insights into television's engagement with the past.” - Allan Cameron, author of Visceral Screens: Mediation and Matter in Horror Cinema


These are only a few of Media Design School's highlights. With numerous dynamic research projects currently underway, Media Design School is continuing its journey of discovery, innovation and creativity. By nurturing a culture of rigorous inquiry and interdisciplinary collaboration with industry and community, Media Design School is well and truly solidifying its position as a beacon of groundbreaking research over the coming years.

Te Hira Henderson and Dr Moana Nepia, Senior Research Fellow Media Design School in front of two of the carved wooden pou at Heretaunga III.
Te Hira Henderson and Dr. Moana Nepia

Te Hira Henderson, Curator Māori at MTG Museum, and Dr Moana Nepia, Senior Research Fellow Media Design School stand in front of two of the carved wooden pou from the wharenui (meeting house) Heretaunga III.

(Photograph by Mark Entwistle, courtesy MTG Hawkes Bay)

Bella Rakete and Sam Tauton Clarke, alumni of MDS, were founders of the NFTaonga project that began during their Graduate Diploma of Creative Advertising studies
From Left: Bella Rākete, Sam Tauton-Clarke

MDS alumni and founders of Digitaonga, Bella and Sam, are now currently a Junior Creative partnership at creative agency 'Special Group'

Conversation with my Ghost, created by Don Chooi, explores grief through a gay lens

‘Conversations with my Ghost’ is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel that is self-authored and illustrated by Don Chooi