How Technology is Changing Design

Story by Jeremy Young

Faculty of Architecture and Design, 2018


Former Sony CEO, Norio Ohga, stated, “design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another in the marketplace”. In the crowded industries of today it is the role of designers to make products and ideas stand out in a sea of similarity. Design has evolved from creating forms by hand to convey the requirements of a product to now using new technologies (such as virtual reality and 3D printing) as a catalyst to create the products themselves.

What is Virtual Reality?

Imagine watching a movie that was not limited by the boundaries of a screen; where you could interact and touch elements surrounding you. This is virtual reality. It is the process of using interactive software, combined with a headset, to simulate an environment; immersing you in the experience and creating a greater level of interaction. The School of Architecture and Design at Victoria University of Wellington has fully e­mbraced and encouraged student experimentation and development of projects for use in a virtual reality space.

Virtual Reality

  • <p>Wearing a VR headset. Image by Thomas Meier / CC0. Available from</p>
  • <p>VR Painting. Image by Billetto Editorial / CC0. Available from</p>

The Possibilities of Virtual Reality

The possibilities for virtual reality are still being recognised, and the technology offers a new way of showcasing projects. For instance, Master of Architecture student, Daniel Innes, has been using virtual reality to present his research in urban development to K­­arori residents. Local residents were able to interact with conceptual designs and make design decisions about the buildings when viewing them through a virtual environment. The purpose of this was to develop a more intuitive way of interacting with models and engaging with community members.

While virtual reality is yet to become mainstream, it is far from being considered a passing trend or gimmick. The technology is continuously being adopted for new mediums and uses, with 30 percent of marketers in the Forbes Global 2000 planning to experiment with using virtual reality as part of their campaigns by the end of 2017.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is changing the way we make objects, from toys to aeronautical engines. It is the physical process of building sequential layers of a material to create an object; in essence, printing in three dimensions, rather than a normal printer printing a 2D picture onto a piece of paper. With the advent of 3D printing, the transition from a conceptual model ­­on a computer to a tangible object becomes almost effortless.

3D Printing

  • <p>3D printer. Image by Kaboompics / CC0. Available from</p>
  • <p>3D printed bionic hand. Image by Splotramienny / CC0. Available from</p>

Printing Innovations

Victoria has always been at the forefront of 3D printing, and recently partnered with the world’s largest 3D print manufacture, Stratasys. This partnership allows Victoria to use and test unreleased software, as well as to experiment with new ways of 3D printing, enabling the University to push 3D printing ahead more than ever before and to develop techniques and projects that compete on a global level.

Embracing new creation techniques such as 3D printing propels Victoria and its students into the future and allows for the development of ideas that would otherwise have been impossible with traditional methods.

The Future

Virtual reality and 3D printing are at the forefront of a new age of design technology, which is making the role of design in society and business more important than ever before. For instance, Victoria graduate, Stuart Baynes, has worked to create a new class of prosthetics to be used while swimming. He uses 3D printing to custom design the shapes and how they interact with water. This is just one example of how Victoria is embracing and pushing these technologies to new heights.

Find the School of Architecture and Design

School of Architecture and Design, 139 Vivian St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand