Assessment Report

Level 3 Design and Visual Communication 2021

Standards 91627  91631

91627:  Initiate design ideas through exploration


Candidates need to demonstrate that they can use a starting experience to generate ideas, and through the use of visual communication strategies, transform these ideas in a way that enables the formation of design ideas. The drawings must convey the design requirements of the standard and communicate the candidate’s knowledge, understanding, and skills relevant to the standard. Evidence may be drawn from one or more units of work and is submitted as a portfolio.


Evidence for AS91627 will be found in the divergent thinking (initial experimentation and initial idea generation) and convergent (development) work of the internal standards. It is important to understand that this standard is intended to be part of the same design practice.

"Ideation" should allow students to experiment, manipulate and play to open up possibilities for design ideas (divergent thinking) rather than be dictated by class exercise (teacher driven). This process involves risk-taking, critical thinking and iteration. As noted in previous years’ reports, some teaching and learning programs continue to treat the work required for this standard as a quick mini project in which candidates generate a range of shapes and forms from an origin or starting ideas. This does not allow candidates the opportunity to re-interpret, analyse, or extend their thinking and gain higher grades.

An appropriate design brief is a crucial part to a candidate's success. The brief can be introduced after design experience and initiation has commenced. Successful submissions had briefs with a clear context, allowing candidates to understand function, purpose, and aesthetics, and to have a narrative and personal viewpoint in their design exploration. While ideation can happen early, this can be re-introduced after the brief on a secondary level to encourage creative thinking and expansion of the design idea to fully extend and transform and take advantage of the brief context. Design briefs that are too simple (e.g. a chair or clothes hook), too limiting (e.g. a toy, a car, a car engine) can significantly restrict the student's opportunity to explore and transform their design ideas.

Demonstrating links to a potential design idea is a requirement of the standard. In a spatial design context, this might be demonstrated through some appropriate floor plans, or elevations, or interiors and exteriors, or some construction details and / or site contextualisation; in product design context, this might be demonstrated through some appropriate external and internal details and parts / components, or exploded drawings, or cross sections, and / or construction details. In both cases, showing the human figure (or part of) was beneficial in showing the functional aspect of the design idea as was using visual communication rendering techniques to emphasise the 3D qualities of the ideas.

Some candidates / schools appeared to misunderstand the use of multiple influences, i.e. instead of presenting multiple influences towards a single brief or idea, they presented multiple starting points, which each lead to multiple different design ideas. This meant that they did not have the evidence for 'reinterpretation' although they presented a lot of exploration.

Extensive written research or planning of an exhibition of the design outcome is not required. Technology standards project evidence should not be submitted. Large quantities of writing and research do not support the visual communication intent of this standard.

Exemplars for this standard on the NZQA website are a useful resource for both teachers and students.

As noted in previous years, some candidates unnecessarily used all the possible visual communication strategies (explanatory note 4), to interrogate and regenerate new shapes and forms, when a limited range (two or three) would have been more suitable.

Teacher Best Practice Workshops and Professional Learning via NZQA and local subject associations provides opportunities for teachers to share, strengthen and extend their knowledge and expertise. Exemplars for this standard on the NZQA website are a useful resource for both teachers and students.

Grade awarding

Candidates who were awarded Achievement commonly:

  • used visual communication techniques (e.g. observational sketches, sketching from photographic sources and other existing images, 3-D modelling) to explore shapes, forms, and other aesthetic elements (textures, line, negative space, etc) to visually analyse a starting experience, new shapes and forms, when a limited range (two or three) would have been more suitable
  • showed a connection between their ideation explorations that linked to their design ideas (largely as a form generator or pattern generator that remained largely derivative and lacking any further exploration or reinterpretation)
  • selected promising foundation points from their explorations to regenerate into design ideas that had aesthetic and functional qualities
  • did not constrain their idea initiation to a brief and experimented with and explored potential shapes and forms without a pre-determined design idea
  • often had a train of thought, but this was not being used to inform the design ideas or context
  • did not provide evidence of further analysis and re-interpretation in context or with purpose, beyond initial regeneration (design ideas did not reinterpret the ideation inspiration in ways that were meaningful or purposeful to the design context)
  • extended their ideation to an overall form or part of a design idea, but without further evolution. (i.e. presented simplistic, predictable, or limited ideation strategies and design ideas)
  • explored organic forms but may have been restricted using modelling programmes in which the forms appeared too complex for the student to apply within a design
  • presented design briefs that lacked complexity and didn't give them the opportunity to extend their ideas.

Candidates whose work was assessed as Not Achieved commonly:

  • showed no clear inspirational sources and / or a starting experience. The design ideas may have had identifiable aesthetics and function but no connection to a starting point that was explored and interrogated
  • did not use the starting experience alternatives and variations to explore and regenerate into a design idea
  • did not present clear design ideas with recognisable functional or aesthetic attributes (only a single design idea was developed from ideation and tended to be basic, oversimplified, or generated early in the process)
  • derived shapes from a source which were then superficially imposed as a decorative pattern or surface feature rather than influencing the form of the design
  • presented no functional qualities to the design ideas (this was most common in a fashion context)
  • did not generate any original ideas, only copies of pre-existing ideas from well known designers
  • used starting experiences and forms too literally, with no visual interrogation that moved beyond the initial form
  • explored alternatives and variations but had no interrogation and regenerations, which lead towards design ideas this was quite common with organic forms and geometric spatial designs
  • submitted design refinement and research not preceded by idea generation
  • included selected parts of multiple projects that had no connections or showed regeneration of design ideas
  • presented poor or unclear visual communication, with no contextualising of the design ideas.

Candidates who were awarded Achievement with Merit commonly:

  • showed further analysis and re-interpretation of design ideas by purposefully using the ideation influence to make meaningful connections to the context
  • continued to look at different ways to implement the ideation theme in a coherent manner for different aspects of the design idea
  • showed some design evolution although this tended to influence the exterior form more so than the details (this often appeared superficial or loosely linked)
  • re-worked design ideas with a train of thought that connected to context and viewpoint that had intention in a functional, aesthetic, or thematic way
  • used thoughtful and carefully chosen visual communication techniques / strategies to extend and grow the design thinking
  • typically showed connection and consideration of human use, experience, interaction and to the environment
  • showed iterative exploration by continually adapting ideas and reworking elements through further interrogation of the design purpose / intent. This gave a depth of thinking through experimentation, and a level of creative play for the train of thought to emerge
  • showed elements of risk taking by allowing their ideas to be continually adapted which informed further interrogation and purposeful exploration
  • undertook and applied purposeful research. While research was not included, it was evident that it had occurred through in-depth visual communication of design details
  • reinterpreted the design idea by using analytical visual thinking with the train of thought evident and embedded
  • linked the body of work as a whole.

Candidates who were awarded Achievement with Excellence commonly:

  • communicated their thinking clearly with a strong narrative
  • were driven by the exploration process, not a prescribed pattern
  • used sophisticated and varied visual communication techniques and strategies
  • presented striking and memorable designs and presentations
  • moved the design idea beyond the obvious, showing some transformation through a distinctly new or original idea
  • returned to the intended context and refined ideas further
  • presented creative, compelling, and clever ideas
  • presented a range of ideas that continually evolved, explored, and built on the design idea
  • showed extensive exploration to challenge thinking through divergent and perceptive alternatives by continually exploring and investigating, questioning, stimulating new thought
  • showed an ability to extend and transform both aesthetic and functional elements of the design idea. This extension and transformation was usually symbiotic and complementary, i.e. aesthetic elements informed functional elements and vice versa. Ideation informs the aesthetic and functional aspects of the design
  • presented complex and often unpredictable design ideas
  • showed clear consideration of human and environment interaction / use.


91631:  Produce working drawings to communicate production details for a complex design


Candidates need to demonstrate they can produce a set of related drawings that can utilise 2D and 3D modes, instrumentally constructed / modelled using either traditional drafting equipment or computer applications. Evidence for this standard should involve the selection of views and modes, informed by accepted design and visual communication practice and convention. The drawings must convey the design requirements of the standard and communicate the candidate’s knowledge, understanding, and skills relevant to the standard. Evidence may be drawn from one or more units of work and is submitted as a portfolio.


Spatial design has now become the most common type of submission and CAD has become the most commonly used graphic mode. This growing media choice is enabling candidates to produce complex designs that are directly related and accurately executed. However, students must also understand projection, conventions, and standard drawing practices used in New Zealand. (Refer to Explanatory Note 6 of the Standard).

Conventions include those which are commonly applied within a community of practice, e.g. engineering (SAA/SNZ HB1:1994), or architecture – building and landscaping (NZS/AS 1100.101:1992 Technical drawing – General principles; NZS/AS 1100.301:1985 Technical drawing – Architectural drawing).

Students must use standard accepted scales. When using CAD, fit to page can produce non-recognized scales. It is important that details relate to the area they are explaining (detailing), i.e. the same materials and orientation as the cross-section or area they are explaining.

Candidates need to understand and use scales correctly. Issues with scale can prevent candidates from advancing beyond the achieved level. In a similar vein, the purpose of a site plan is to show the position and orientation of a building in relation to boundaries and to a north point. Without at least some dimensions and an indication of north (especially if then used to label elevations), this view becomes useless.

Candidates must understand the importance of referencing drawings especially when detailing. A well-produced detail drawing will not gain higher grades if it is not referenced back to the area it is explaining or is related to.

Grade awarding

Candidates who were awarded Achievement commonly:

  • selected a design of adequate complexity
  • included views and modes that would conventionally be used as a set of working drawings including site plans, floor plans, elevations, cross-sectional views, assembly views, detail views, material information
  • included exterior and interior detail related to their construction and / or assembly
  • showed some proficiency in drawing conventions
  • indicated the relationship of one drawing to another using recognised conventions
  • identified materials using appropriate hatching, colouring or symbolic reference of material types and / or used labels.

Candidates whose work was assessed as Not Achieved commonly:

  • did not submit a set of working drawings
  • selected a design of inadequate complexity
  • produced working drawings of the exterior or interior (by using cross-sections) but not both
  • did not communicate construction or assembly of their designs using appropriate detailed drawings
  • did not communicate materials or components / parts adequately
  • lacked understanding in the use of drawing conventions
  • produced drawings that were not linked to each other or showed no relationship to each other
  • included drawings with contradictory information, e.g. different measurements for the same item
  • did not present formal drawings
  • presented drawings that were not to scale or did not have dimensions to enable scale to be verified or view labelling was missing.  

Candidates who were awarded Achievement with Merit commonly:

  • showed precise measurement and dimensioning, accurate line-work and good application of drawing conventions
  • produced a complete set of linked drawings with the exterior and interior detailing, explaining the construction and assembly of the design with accuracy
  • presented drawings that were the outcome of considered design thinking and represented a solution to a design problem.

Candidates who were awarded Achievement with Excellence commonly:

  • showed excellent and consistent use of drawing conventions and standards
  • included all relevant drawings to clearly communicate detailed construction and assembly information using carefully selected series of plans, elevations, section views, assembly views, and enlarged detail views
  • included three-dimensional drawings, pictorial views, and / or CAD models or animations to clearly communicate assembly and construction. The animations offered sequential information that clearly communicated assembly and rotational views that explained 3D design details.

Design and Visual Communication subject page

Previous years' reports

2020 (PDF, 227KB)

2019 (PDF, 117KB)

2018 (PDF, 107KB)

2017 (PDF, 66KB)

2016 (PDF, 224KB)

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