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Knowledge of design DET 6-1

Achievement Standard 1.10, AS91053

Knowledge of design focuses on understanding the way informed, creative and critical development of new ideas is achieved and how these are realised into feasible outcomes.

Learning objective: DET 6-1

Students will:

  • demonstrate understanding of basic concepts in design


Students can:

  • explain the elements that underpin design within a specified context
  • explain considerations used to determine the quality of a design within a specified context
  • discuss the quality of a design in relation to design elements and considerations of the specific context in which the design is situated.


Prior to level 6 students should have been introduced to design and design elements in the context of their own practice and the wider world of design as it relates to fitness for purpose and the social and physical environment in which design outcomes are situated.

At level 6 students learn basic concepts relating to "What is design?" and how or why something may be described as a "good" or "bad" design. They also develop understanding of design elements in relation to the development of technological outcomes and use design elements as a basis for explain the quality of a technological outcome and how design elements contribute to the outcome in its context.

The Teacher Guidance section provides information that supports teachers scaffolding of learning from levels 1-8 of the curriculum. This allows for differentiation of a programme of learning.

The deliberate use of provide, guide, and support in this section signals that as students' capacity for self-management increases, teachers progressively reduce the level of scaffolding provided.

  • Provide – the teacher should take full responsibility for introducing and explicitly teaching new knowledge, skills or practices.
  • Guide – the students have a level of understanding and competency on which they can draw but the teacher remains primarily responsible for continuing to develop these.
  • Support – the students take primary responsibility for their own learning, drawing on all their previous experiences to consolidate and extend their understanding. The teacher is supportive rather than directive.
  • The Teacher Guidance also uses the term ensure to indicate when the teacher plays a monitoring role to check that conditions critical for learning are present.

Teacher guidance

To support students to develop understandings about the basic concepts in design at level 6, teachers could:

  • Guide students to recognise that "design" can be understood both as a verb and a noun.
  • Provide opportunity for students to explore/debate different definitions of "design" in order to understand what design is.
  • Provide opportunity for students to explore how designing pulls together subjective and objective considerations to take human ideas into "made" outcomes. Subjective considerations are those linked to aesthetics (where aesthetics is understood as it relates to all human senses/sensibilities). Objective considerations are those that can be established in a quantifiable sense.
  • Provide opportunity for students to explore differing opinions about the value of particular designs and how these arise due to differences in how subjective and objective considerations are prioritised.
  • Guide students to understand that designs can be evaluated as "good" or "bad" in terms of how they bring together form, function, cost and contextual understandings.

Contexts for teaching and learning

Students should learn about the concept of design and its relationship to the fitness for purpose of a specific technological outcome

Students should have the opportunity for class discussion on what good or bad design means. For example

  • Structure a discussion and exploration of a product with students about what considerations are required when incorporating design elements and their function in the outcome
    • Develop with students their understanding of:
    • Good design
    • Students should practice analysing the design of outcomes and the use of design elements in various contexts to build confidence, knowledge and the ability to write a coherent analysis to present for assessment when the assessment task is negotiated. Students interacting with actual outcomes they develop within this context should focus on the design aspects of the quality of the outcome and not focus on a story of practice.
    • It is useful for student’s to have a broader understanding of design elements and principles and should be exposed to wider thinking such as that in other strands of the Technology curriculum. For example the nature strand refers to form and function at Curriculum levels 3, and 7 expanding the idea of form and function to include the following broader definitions. Therefore looking ahead to the progression to Curriculum Level 7 the learning objective and drawing from the nature strand “Form refers to the physical nature of a technological outcome and function refers to the functional nature of the outcome. Design elements related to an outcome’s physical nature include such things as: colour; movement; pattern; proportion; harmony and taste. Design elements related to an outcome’s functional nature include such things as strength; durability; stability; efficiency; nutritional value etc. Design elements are prioritised in different ways as determined by such things as a designer’s intent for the outcome, understandings of materials, the socio-cultural location the outcome is to be situated, professional and personal beliefs” While this is a curriculum level 7 achievement objective it relates to the broader terms of the assessment required at curriculum level 6 which allows students to access higher levels of achievement

Literacy considerations

  • Ensure students understand the language associated with the discipline of design:
    • design (the look and functioning of a technological outcome, building, garment, or product).
    • aesthetic quality (the nature of, beauty and taste it can be both objective and subjective – the balance between elements like colour, line, shape and how they interact with one another to create a pleasing “whole”. Different cultures, eras have different definitions of aesthetic qualities hence this can be very subjective.)
    • the difference between objective and subjective. Objective aspects are those that can be established in a quantifiable sense (eg ergonomics, anthropometrics, purpose, operation, cost, production) and which are based on physical conditions. Subjective aspects are those that are based on personal, cultural and sociological factors (e.g. preference, style, fashion, taste, identity, image, perception).
  • the design elements (for example Design elements may include but are not limited to: line, balance, shape, colour, symmetry, strength, contrast, durability, alignment). Note the selected design elements MUST be relevant to the outcome and the context. Allowing students to practice this work in groups and individual contexts to explore and practice applying this knowledge of design principles and elements to actual outcomes supports their development of understanding key concepts.

b)     Support students to develop a writing frame or report structure to guide their thinking, research and report writing, with key words and sentence starters.

c)     Students are required to explain a relationship between design elements and the quality of the design of the outcome, and to discuss this within the specific context of the technological outcome therefore teaching should include supporting how this can structured within a report format:

  • to identify is to state an idea
  • to describe is a written statement that gives details about the outcome or idea
  • to explain is to describe in detail with reasons – often including the how and why
  • to discuss requires an explanation that is comprehensive, detailed, and broad and show evidence of some complexity in thinking. It may be a reasoned argument presenting a particular point of view, or a comparison and contrast between two ideas or concepts; or it may be a detailed reasoning and relationship between several complex ideas that are either in a relationship or they may be compared and contrasted

Resources to support teaching and learning

Case study material 

Other website resources

Conversations on Graphic design has a range of New Zealand based views and articles

Assessment for qualifications

The following achievement standard(s) could assess learning outcomes from this learning objective:

  • AS 91053 Generic Technology 1.10: Demonstrate understanding of design elements

Key messages from the standard

  • Ensure students understand the words associated with assessment, including words used to describe the level of expected performance at each achievement grade
  • Ensure students know how to write a report that meets the requirements as set out in the assessment specifications and covers everything asked for in the standard
  • Support students to understand what evidence needs to be included in the report. Breaking the writing task down into a series of tasks could be done by taking the assessment criteria and rephrase them into questions
  • The evidence for this standard can be a stand-alone unit of work, or part of the wider research required that allows them to develop a technological outcome through technological practice. Whichever approach is used the student must link their understanding to their own technological experiences
  • Explain the relationship between design elements, and the quality of the design within the specific outcome and context.
  • Generally students who critique the application of design elements within existing outcomes relevant to their technological practice and apply this understanding to the development and evaluation of their own outcomes are more likely to be able to demonstrate clear understanding of design elements in context. This embedding of the assessment into the student practice also engages the student to write in their own voice and demonstrate clearly their understanding of the application of design elements within the development of a quality outcome
  •  This means students must not only identify design elements but also comment on how these design elements impact on the quality of the outcome
  • Ideas can be explained by students using a range of diagrammatic and annotated illustrations or paragraphs where they have explored the design elements within an outcome and then identified through further writing, presentations and annotations how these can impact on the quality of the design in relation to the technological outpace
  • It is vital that the outcome chosen for analysis and investigation gives sufficient information and access for the student to use, as a poorly selected product may restrict their ability to achieve. 
  • Teachers must interact with the student and the report during the preparation of the assessment submission, giving feedback and formative assessment to students as they generate the evidence.

For the most up to date information, teachers should be referring to the latest standard, assessment specifications, assessment reports and student exemplars on the NZQA website. Refer to links below.

Resources to support student achievement

Last updated May 9, 2016