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MA Programme Description

Design Products

The Design Products Programme is about creativity for purpose. We educate students to be design leaders, encouraging them to address real-world challenges through balancing high levels of creativity and technical capability with contextual insight and empathy for people.

The MA Programme provides students who have already acquired knowledge and skills in various areas of design with an academic framework in which to continue to develop their own professional direction. The Programme support the students in gaining independence, developing their design identity and to tackle problems with increasingly level of uncertainty and ambiguity as they progress. The course takes a pluralistic view of the students’ ideas and interests and encourages experimental, groundbreaking work, encouraging a critical approach and a questioning of accepted practices to address real world problems, develop new innovative and global challenges. 

The MA Programme builds briefs, projects and opportunities that aid students to encompass their visions as they are student led, underpinned by world leading experts. Students develop their specialisms with input through: tutorials, workshops, lectures, seminars and peer led opportunities. This is underpinned with principles, tools and techniques, that are relevant to the current or future practice of design, for example: design research methods, systems thinking, advanced ideation techniques, visualisation and prototyping in physical and digital environments and; issues of design for sustainability, the circular economy and commercial viability.

The School of Design has created a unique environment for interdisciplinary design led innovation. It attracts students from a highly diverse set of global disciplines, experience and industries. This provides the opportunity to not only reshape their own design practice, but to reshape the discipline of design itself. 

The Design Products Programme consists of six Programme-specific units that provide the core learning. These units are complemented by the Cross-School Programme addressing a grand challenge and a College-wide module culminating in a dissertation where students are encouraged to research their design interests to inform their further projects. The Cross-School Programme fosters collaboration and interdisciplinary skills, providing an opportunity to network and work closely across different disciplines within the school, and work on shorter faster projects.

The progression of the units is designed to increase the level of ambiguity and uncertainty of the projects as we move from the first year ‘The Deep End’ and ‘In Reality’ to supporting the students to develop their emerging specialisms  (‘Dream Team’ and ‘Express Yourself’) in the second year and an increasingly level of independence leading to the final unit, ‘Launch pad’, the student final self-directed project. Second year students are expected to produce a minimum of two graduation projects, or one large graduation project. 

The units are led by a world-leading cross-disciplinary tutors, visiting tutors, visiting professors, practicing designers, research professionals and experts in their fields and are supported by the thought leadership of the Head of Programme.

The Programme consist of two Pathways (subject to validation):

  1. Design Products Pathway as described above.
  2. Design Futures Pathway consisting of 60 tailored units and with the possibility to continue into the independent final project. Students will be challenged to provoke and design discourses for significant future issues, be they technological, social, cultural, values, political, economic or environmental expecting to lead to new interactions, experiences, products and systems. These will run in parallel to (and integrated partially) with Dream Team and Express Yourself (second year), thus enabling students to apply the futures vision across the multitude of DP design cultures. 

Critical & Historical Studies

The RCA provides a unique environment for postgraduate art and design students to reflect upon their own practice, and to engage with students from their own and other disciplines. The role of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS) is to support the studio programmes in enabling these critical engagements to take place. The courses offered by CHS to first-year, studio-based MA students propose an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

In the autumn and spring terms there are a series of College-wide seminars and lectures. The autumn term series will relate to your particular discipline, whereas the spring term series will be more broad-based and cross-disciplinary in nature.

In the spring and summer terms, a CHS tutor will give you individual tutorials to support the development of a dissertation which is submitted at the end of the summer term. The dissertation should be between 6,000–10,000 words in length – this is a major piece of work and you will not be able to submit for the Final Examination until you have passed this assessment.

For more information see Critical & Historical Studies College-wide Programme.

This programme description is taken from the 2018/19 Programme Specifications. While we try to ensure that all Programme information is correct, some things may be subject to change and/or outside of our control. 

RCA Ranked World’s Top Art & Design University for Fifth Year

In February, the RCA was named the world’s leading art and design university for the fifth consecutive year.  

The RCA leads the table of 200 of the world’s top universities for the study of art and design in the 2019 QS World University Subject Rankings, ahead of much larger institutions around the globe.


240 credits
Two-year programme