By Darryn Melrose
In a future world of robots and automation, Darryn Melrose, CEO of Media Design School, says that it is the creativity of New Zealanders that could become valuable to organisations globally.
Being from New Zealand Media Design School has always had global ambitions of being one of the best. The school was originally founded in 1998 to provide trained graduates for creative, design, digital and technological companies so that they could respond to the opportunity of a rapidly expanding global industry and, since then, the school is fast developing an international reputation for developing some of the very best digital designers and advertising creatives in the world.
Pushing creative boundaries
Despite our relatively small size of just under 1,000 students, within the past year, not only has one of our school’s short film Accidents, Blunders and Calamities (2015) picked up the Best Animated Film at San Diego Comic-Con, but we were also recognised as the world’s top tertiary provider for both Graphic Design and Photography by The Rookies' panel of internationally renowned judges, beating 500 other schools worldwide for this accolade. Not resting on our laurels, we were the first educator in New Zealand to offer qualifications in the field of game development (game art and game programming) and now in both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
When I’m asked how Media Design School consistently manages to rank globally, I feel that it comes down to two aspects. The first is that we have fostered a culture with an emphasis on developing and promoting our students’ capacity to set high standards, take risks and push their creative boundaries. Secondly, by being in New Zealand we can connect deeply with our eco-system. The New Zealand creative industry has provided some of our amazing faculty who have helped create the curriculum for our award-winning programmes. Industry feel connected to the school and the students in it and we are fortunate that an aspect of New Zealand business is that many leaders can see ‘end-to-end’ like this.
Collaborating in NZ
This means that New Zealand’s creative studios and agencies are integral to the development of our curriculum and to our organisation as a whole. The school works closely with an industry panel of New Zealand’s best and brightest creatives from Kiwi-owned and operated companies who have experienced commercial success such as Weta Digital, Rush Digital, Cirkus and PikPok, who are responsible for providing strategic guidance and ensuring that our programmes and qualifications are world-class and industry relevant.
We’ve created close ties with New Zealand companies but we’ve also developed a number of exclusive industry partnerships with international organisations to ensure that our students gain an edge over their peers once they graduate from Media Design School and look for employment both here and overseas.
Not only are we the only school in New Zealand to have partnered with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s PlayStation First Academic Development Programme but we’re also the first tertiary provider in New Zealand to be accredited as a Certification Partner for Unity Technologies, one of the most popular licensed game engines globally.
Creating these partnerships with industry allows our students to excel in what is a globally competitive industry. Working closely with industry helps us to shape our curriculum and to devise courses that mirror the challenges and successes that are faced by a typical graphic designer, animator, or creative director on a daily basis.
Over the past few years, a question that we challenged ourselves with was: “why can’t students earn income from their ideas while studying?” Digital students like ours have global opportunities to earn income. So two years ago, we launched Media Design School Studios, the first accelerator programme of its kind in New Zealand. The programme currently offers a select group of students who are studying in the field of Game Art or Game Programming the unique opportunity to take their game prototype or concept and, through intensive industry mentorship, allows them to launch and create commercially successful ventures whilst simultaneously studying.
Using creativity to differentiate
Looking into the future, it is said that, interestingly, creative roles are among the jobs least likely to be replaced by automation. In fact, the rather humorous website replacedbyarobot.info (powered by a 2013 study conducted at Oxford University) estimates that there is only an 8% probability that graphic designers will eventually be usurped by artificial intelligence.
In the immediate future of Artificial Intelligence, data science, and machine learning interconnecting, many companies are likely to need creativity as a differentiating factor. We may very well find that New Zealand’s global reputation for producing creative talents could make us an even more attractive destination for investors.
In the meantime, we’re certainly here with a mission to keep providing our incredible and creative companies the supply of prized talent that they need to keep themselves well ahead of the rise of the robots.