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7 MA graduates share how Graduate Diploma Art & Design prepared them for further study

Graduate Diploma Art & Design prepares students for Master’s study. The course focuses on developing proficiency in the independent learning methods and practices of art and design, as well as providing an environment where students meet peers and future collaborators from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. 

The course was crucial in preparing me to tackle briefs in a structured yet very personal manner. It gave me tools and support that was incredibly valuable throughout the MA
Vivee Barengo
By encompassing a broad range of media and methodologies students identify and refine the focus of their creative practice, resulting in many choosing to continue their studies as at the RCA. Read on to discover how Graduate Diploma Art & Design helped seven graduates progress to MA programmes at the RCA.

Vivee Barengo, MA Information Experience Design 

photograph of some mushrooms
Mycelium, Vivee Barengo

Before coming to the RCA, Vivee studied fashion styling and creative direction and was working several part-time jobs. She enrolled in the Graduate Diploma programme in order to discover who she was as a creative.  

‘The Graduate Diploma fulfilled even the best of predictions: I met so many different people and forged important relationships. The course was crucial in preparing me to tackle briefs in a structured yet very personal manner. It gave me tools and support that was incredibly valuable throughout the MA.’

‘My work in the MA developed into Sustainable Speculative Design with a focus on architecture and product design. These were not areas that I dealt with during the Graduate Diploma but without those pre-MA months spent exploring different facets of my creativity I would have never figured it out so quickly.’

Find out more about MA Information Experience Design

Johannes von Schoenebeck, MA Design Products 

design render of pair of shoes
NEW WORK LIFE BALANCE, Johannes von Schoenebeck

Johannes studied industrial design in Germany before coming to the RCA. His final MA project is a device that ‘dictates’ your life when working from home, consisting of a pair of shoes that adjust the wearer’s behaviour leading to a healthier work/life balance.

‘I quickly learned to adapt to the fast pace of the Graduate Diploma, being challenged every day over and over again. It was one of the most intense times of my life as a student, even compared to the MA.’

It was one of the most intense times of my life as a student, even compared to the MA.’
Johannes von Schoenebeck
‘Although it felt intimidating at times, a complete blank page forced me to step outside of my regular product design realm. I learned to let go, loosen up and trust my gut more. My progression into the MA propelled me forward to be more cutting edge, challenge norms and be more critical. This was only possible because I had learned to do so and had the safe grounds to try during the Graduate Diploma.’

Find out more about MA Design Products.

Kirsty Sim, MA Photography

photograph of a pink mushroom
Pink mushroom, Kirsty Sim

Kirsty is a photographer from South Korea who explores ideas of reality, fantasy and imagination, with a particular interest in fan culture and idol enthusiasts. She applied to the Graduate Diploma Art & Design programme to expand her practice and make work from a more sociological perspective.

‘The course helped me consolidate the artistic direction I wanted to take, based on my background and experience gained in the photography industry. It enabled me to expand my understanding of the mind and inner self, and this allowed me to produce art with a greater level of depth and authenticity.’

Find out more about MA Photography

Dara Khakpour, MA Interior Design

digital render of a building
Porous Facade, Dara Khakpour

Dara completed a BA in visual arts and communication as well as courses in architectural design in Canada, before working in an architectural practice in Tehran. He saw the Graduate Diploma as an opportunity to combine these experiences. 

‘I didn’t really expect a certain outcome, but mostly a period of reflecting on the direction of my practice while being part of a cross-disciplinary environment. The course established itself as a mixing chamber for all of us to come together and develop our practices parallel to one another. This was one the most valuable experiences I walked away with.’

I had the opportunity to meet tutors from the MA course that I was interested in applying for and observe what they expect from students aiming to join their programme.
Dara Khakpour
‘Graduate Diploma also provides a window to understand how the RCA functions. I had the opportunity to meet tutors from the MA course that I was interested in applying for and observe what they expect from students aiming to join their programme. This foresight was invaluable when I started my MA because it gave me a much clearer understanding of what I was about to embark on and what to expect from my time at the RCA.’

Find out more about MA Interior Design

Yiru Zhang, MA Jewellery & Metal

Photograph of model wearing infinity necklace
Infinity necklace, Yiru Zhang
Before coming to the RCA Yiru Zhang studied engineering of gemmology and material technology sciences at the University of Geosciences in Wuhan, China. Her final MA project was in part influenced by this background; her work changes the context of everyday objects to bring attention to interactive mechanical structures.  

‘I expected the experience of Graduate Diploma could give me an understanding of the design process – and it did teach me how a piece of work develops from inspiration to object. Beyond expectations, I also got a wonderful interdisciplinary study environment to communicate with students from different fields.’

The course not only prepared me with a great portfolio for applications, but also taught me how to communicate with tutors during tutorials, express myself during presentations and demonstrate my work via academic writing.
Yiru Zhang
‘The course not only prepared me with a great portfolio for applications, but also taught me how to communicate with tutors during tutorials, express myself during presentations and demonstrate my work via academic writing.’

Find out more about MA Jewellery & Metal

Johann Spindler, MA Visual Communication

photograph of some paper booklets about an experimental web design project
Sandcastles, Johann Spindler
Johann has an undergraduate degree in physics. He was drawn to the Graduate Diploma as a way to transition into exploring art, photography and his creative passions. His final MA project was an experimental web design project exploring the countercultural history and current state of interaction design, as well as its implications and alternatives.
‘The Graduate Diploma helped me both in terms of familiarising myself with the environment at the RCA and London, but also by introducing me to students who would become friends and whom I would collaborate with during my MA.
Johann Spindler

‘The Graduate Diploma helped me both in terms of familiarising myself with the environment at the RCA and London, but also by introducing me to students who would become friends and whom I would collaborate with during my MA. It made me aware of the need to push the boundaries of my practice, to explore my own work critically, to reach out and be proactive and seek out students from other programmes as well as my own, from whom I could learn, exchange ideas and together mutually grow our practices.’

Find out more about MA Visual Communication

Siobhán Palin, MA Fashion

photograph of a swimmer by the Thames
Thames, Siobhán Palin
Photographer: Johann Spindler
Siobhán came to the Graduate Diploma programme looking for a new experience. It led to her focusing on sustainable swimwear during her time studying MA Fashion. 

‘The Graduate Diploma gave me space, an opportunity to move far from home and re-think my approach to my practice. It provided a strong foundation, a head start, teaching me how to operate within independent and collaborative settings. The network of peers has remained an invaluable support to this day.’

‘The MA has been a continuation of my work in Womenswear, turning to specialise in sustainable swimwear. Having come from Australia where swim is known to be a saturated market, I sought to re-define the term, looking to emerging alternative fibres, applications and inclusive means.’

Find out more about MA Fashion

Interested in where Graduate Diploma Art & Design might take you? Join our Online Open Day on 13 October.