Art, Design and DVC

The Visual Arts is a fascinating and innovative area of study, which encompasses five fields of creative endeavour: design, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. Students may choose to specialise in a maximum of two fields at Levels 2 and 3 NCEA; including Scholarship, which is the equivalent of Level 4 NCEA. Tertiary study allows for an even greater selection of study options and opportunities. From the junior to senior school, students are taught a wide range of visual skills; with a sound base of compositional theory and tonal modelling, and gaining confidence in using a variety of media; sometimes mixing media and informing their own art-work through the investigation of ‘artist models’. Assessment is by way of internal assignments and an external portfolio submission. Where relevant, students use appropriate computer-generated applications to create and document their art-works (e.g. Adobe Flash Professional, Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop).

The four components of the Visual Arts are:

Understanding the Visual Arts in Context

Use research and analysis to investigate contexts, meanings, intentions, and technological influences related to the making and valuing of art-works. Research and analyse contexts relevant to their intentions and to the expression of meanings in their own work.

Developing Practical Knowledge

Rangitoto Students Art Work Apply understanding from broad and deep research into the characteristics and constraints of materials, techniques, technologies, and established conventions in a selected field. Extend and refine skills in a selected field, using appropriate processes and procedures.

Developing Ideas

Generate, analyse, clarify, and regenerate options in response to selected questions or a proposal in a chosen field. Use a systematic approach, selectively informed by recent and established practice, to develop ideas in a body of work.

Communicating and Interpreting

Research and analyze selected approaches and theories related to visual arts practice. Critically reflect on, respond to, and evaluate art-works.

Field Conventions for Visual Arts Standards

Conventions refer to the characteristics and constraints applicable, relevant and fitting to established practice within the fields of design, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture.

These include:

  • drawing conventions: approaches and practices
  • technical conventions: processes and procedures
  • pictorial and conceptual conventions: ideas, themes, imagery and contexts

It is typically recommended that students explore the specific conventions of particular ‘artist models’ and apply aspects of these in their own pictorial, personal investigations. The criteria are written to be inclusive of a wide range of approaches.  Below are indicative lists and may be expanded by teachers to encompass the particular pictorial, technical, thematic or conceptual concerns of specific artists and/or approaches to art-making.

Visual Arts and Design Department 2017

Veti Afu

I took Design to bring forth and challenge myself to show creativity through the art of combining text and pictures.  I would highly recommend Design to students wanting to go down this pathway in University and also for anyone wanting to start something new and fun.

Veti Afu
Year 12 - Design


Student's Art Work Drawing conventions include (but are not limited to):

  • Research, analysis, recording, concept visualisation, worksheets, roughs, mock-ups, prototypes, models, refinements, evaluative notes, solutions.

Technical conventions include (but are not limited to):

  • Hand drawing, collage, watercolour, illustration, digital, typography (e.g. font, style, kerning, leading, stressed), layout, transformation, transparency, montage, posterisation, filters.

Pictorial and conceptual conventions include (but are not limited to):

  • Grunge, comic, handmade, corporate, illustrative, decorative, simplified, mechanical, organic, moving image, typographic, monochromatic, black and white, pictorial and typographic hierarchy, deconstructed, grid, symmetry/a-symmetry, positive/negative balance, narrative, communicative purpose, target audience, production mode, magazine, billboard, video, packaging, DPS (double page spread), letterhead, logo, masthead, poster, pillow book, website, gaming, advertising, promotion, video, industrial, fabric, architectural and landscape design .

Gemma Morpeth

I chose Design because it excites me and I love being creative.  I think Design is important because it has the ability to really sell a product and gives you the opportunity to turn it into something interesting and attractive.

Gemma Morpeth
Year 12 - Design
Career Goal 
Graphic Designer / Brand Developer


Drawing conventions include (but are not limited to):

  • Sketches, compositional notes, thumbnail concepts, proof sheets, working prints, photograms, pinhole, collage, montage, photographs, digital processes, evaluative notes.

Technical conventions include (but are not limited to):

  • Contrast, grain, focus, exposure, shutter speed, aperture, light source, tilt-shift for -analogue (e.g. fixing, sandwich negatives, double exposure, dodging, burning, sepia, spotting, solarisation etc.), and
  • digital approaches (e.g. hue, saturation, contrast, posterisation, montage, selection, transformation, filters etc.).

Pictorial and conceptual conventions include (but are not limited to):

  • Rule of thirds, diagonals, negative space, framing, viewpoint, sequencing, leading lines, depth of field, motion blur, simplicity, texture, drama, narrative, black and white, monochrome, full colour, macro, panoramic, staged photography, multiple image, HDR (high dynamic range), studio, surreal, symbolism, metaphor, portrait, figure, nude, landscape, architecture, still life, vanitas, political, cultural, documentary, sport, fashion, abstract, pattern making.

Digital Image Photography

This is a one to two term (block) course, which is designed to be appropriate to the fragmented time that International Students spend at Rangitoto College. The course covers the following aspects:

  • An understanding of single lens reflex cameras (SLR) in both film and digital formats, by learning specific functional features and their relationship in creating particular visual outcomes (e.g. shutter and aperture settings and using light meters etc.). Discuss elements of successful photographs and examine the differences between casual images and seriously intended photographs;
  • Shoot in both film and digital file equivalent; then trade process, or print at school an appropriate digital outcome. Black and white films are introduced and with the possibility of a limited number of cameras, they may be shared, resulting in a limited number of films to be developed. Students select from their own frames on the film and are taught how to print in the darkroom;
  • Pinhole photography will be used as an appropriate and intriguing method, to promote connections from camera to darkroom and beyond. Introduce and show the relevance of digital photographic software, to explore photographic elements. Playing will be discouraged, but creative engagement, to investigate and apply fundamental photographic principles will be emphasised and encouraged (e.g. composition, framing, lighting etc.);
  • Use knowledge gained to produce a hard copy photographic diary of their time spent at Rangitoto College (e.g. school, home, surrounding community, school friends, any school trips and places visited) and then images could be uploaded in a blog to show friends and family back home, their new skills gained and applied. Recognition will be in the form of a ‘Rangitoto College Certificate of Proficiency’; and elements accomplished course and it will reflect the theoretical and practical technical and creative photographic skills acquired and presented.

Design and Visual Communication (DVC)

Design and Visual Communication (DVC) focuses on understanding and applying drawing techniques and design practice to communicate design ideas. Students enhance their ability to conceptualise, develop, and communicate design ideas and potential outcomes, and their skill to interpret graphical information. Understanding and applying knowledge of aesthetic and functional related design principles are fundamental to the subject as a whole. As a long-standing University approved subject, Design and Visual Communication (DVC) has evolved from: “Technical Drawing”, “Graphics and Design” and “Graphics”, by providing a solid foundation of formal drawing and freehand sketching, within a broad range of PRODUCT DESIGN and SPATIAL DESIGN contexts; extending into specific computer-generated learning opportunities (e.g. Auto CAD, Google Sketch-Up, 3D Printing and Adobe Flash Professional, Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop). At the senior levels, students are extended in their intellectual curiosity and creative capabilities, and with the view to potentially pursue Scholarship, which is the equivalent of Level 4 NCEA.  Assessment is by way of internal assignments and an external portfolio submission.

The three components of Design and Visual Communication (DVC) are:

Knowledge of Design Practice

Design practice focuses on developing conceptual designs in response to a brief.  Knowledge of design practice includes understanding that designers identify the qualities and potential of design ideas in terms of the broad principles of design (aesthetics and function) and sustainability, and that they are influenced by societal, environmental, historical and technological factors.

Visual Communication

Visual communication refers to the effective communication and presentation of design ideas using modelling and graphic design techniques.  Initially students learn to communicate and present their design ideas and information by applying 2D and 3D visual communication techniques such as sketching, rendering, mock-ups, digital drawing and modelling, annotations, instrumental, templates, collage and overlays.  Students progress to effectively and clearly applying complex and high quality visual techniques and knowledge that communicate a story to an audience - the intent of their design ideas.

Graphics Practice

Graphics practice refers to the creative application of drawing and design knowledge and techniques to develop conceptual outcomes that address a brief, or a technological outcome of a graphical nature.




An introductory ten week (block) course in Year 9 allows students to sample the sorts of knowledge and design skills required in latter years. The Year 10 course spans an entire year, in preparation for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) at the senior levels. Students will be expected to pay a subject fee and will be issued with a specialised stationery and equipment list, for each and every level of study. Art History is a wonderful theoretical subject, which complements the more practical nature of the Visual Arts and Design-based subjects; it is also University approved, and is taught within the Social Sciences Department, at Levels 2 and 3 NCEA and Scholarship. Students wishing to pursue a career pathway within: advertising, animation, architecture, computer graphic design, engineering, fine arts, graphic design, illustration, landscape design, product/industrial design, spatial design and urban planning etc., commence their academic and professional journey here!  

Please visit the official school for more course selection information, student exemplars and an overview of the Gifted and Talented (GATE) Provision within the Visual Arts and Design Department. The development of creative industry and enterprise is significant, and to that end, students will gain the necessary knowledge, understanding and skills required to positively contribute to an increasingly connected and strengthening global marketplace.

Head of Department 
Carolyn Higham

Bachelor of Spatial Design from Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary)

Travel Award/Grant from Rangitoto College in 2008
I have taught in both the Technology Department (Design and Visual Communication) and Art Department (Design primarily) for the past fourteen years. I have enjoyed my role as Curriculum Leader of Design and Visual Communication over the past two years and recently the new challenge of combining this creative and dynamic curriculum area with the Visual Arts. Training pre-service teachers, as the Senior Visual Arts Tutor for Auckland University of Technology (AUT), over the past five years, has been a great experience and a valuable professional development opportunity. As TIC of Archery, I have overseen the scheduling of many students who wish to participate in a sport not readily available in most secondary schools. It allows the individual student to gain in confidence and develop highly technical skills, whilst forming friendships and camaraderie.
Personal Statement 
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill. I thoroughly enjoy teaching and learning; working with teenagers and having supportive colleagues, who encourage and inspire those around them - to aspire to make a positive contribution to this wonderful profession.