MA Programme Description

Vehicle Design

Central to the course methodology is an understanding of the broader issues of vehicle design necessary to optimise opportunities for mobility. Students are expected to develop an awareness of the range of issues that affect mobility including accessibility, aerodynamics, environmental impact, ergonomics, legislation, materials, production, safety and technology, as well as aesthetic principles.

The MA curriculum is structured around three themes:

  • Automark focuses on the end-user relationship with the vehicle, and its commercial context. It concentrates on new design opportunities offered through globalisation and new consumer markets. It examines individual expression and brand loyalty, business image, market awareness and responses to consumer research, design of the vehicle expressed in its context, components and complex imagery, and design strategies for maximum appeal and feasibility in emerging and changing markets. Automark seeks to place design at the forefront of vehicle development within a commercial framework that satisfies personal need and desire.
  • Inside Out  focuses on interior design and how it is influenced from one design discipline to the other in an innovative and creative way. It addresses new opportunities in sustainability, experimenting with innovative materials and structures, changing manufacturing techniques, applications of light, sound and touch to engage the user’s senses, and the incorporation of ideas based on fast-developing technologies and systems. Inside Out seeks to develop vehicles in advanced or innovative typologies and harness imagination through the development of inspiring interior spaces.
  • Urban Flow seeks design innovation through integrated transport solutions, including personal and public means of transporting people and goods. It focuses on advances in systems design and urban mass transit, vehicle typologies and transport infrastructure, new consumption models to advance inclusive and personal mobility, moving people and goods within and between urban environments, and pioneering solutions to existing journey and environmental concerns. Urban Flow places design, in every aspect, at the center of the debate by seeking responsible and sound outcomes at the leading edge of transportation design and trends.

First Year

Vision − autumn term opens with an introduction to each pathway, and individual presentations by students of their work and experience to date. Students also enjoy an introduction to London and its transport systems. The term includes skills workshops and lectures on the year’s theme. In addition, a pathway specific manifesto is introduced and utilised to support relevant areas of investigation to develop students’ knowledge and critical design thinking.

Focus – spring term maintains pathway focus and tuition, seminars, internship interviews and two major initiatives. Either independently or as part of the term’s major project, students visit a significant external facility, such as an automotive factory, design or other museum, specific exhibition or show.

The three principal initiatives during the term are the dissertation, a pathway project and an industry project.

The industry project sees the programme working closely with an industrial partner in the automotive, transport or related fields. It culminates in a display of student outcomes and a publication, and may include an exhibition. The dissertation comprises a major part of the course. Students determine a relevant theme in discussion with tutors, research it, develop it, evolve and enlarge a sustainable argument.

Reflection – summer term focuses on students’ independent study and the preparation of a dissertation for submission at the start of year two.

Second Year

Through their second year, students are expected to become progressively more independent in both the studios and workshops. By this stage they have developed a working method that can be sustained after graduation, together with an understanding of theoretical, intellectual, creative and professional contexts.

There are regular reviews where any necessary adjustments are made to students’ individual programmes, supervised by their Year Tutor.

The second year programme includes an industry-focused project that aims to develop specific high-level vehicle design skills and a high level of professional orientation for all students. This project runs during the autumn term in parallel to the self-directed study area.

The focus of the spring and summer terms is on the major, self-directed study area, with all students moving from initial research and conceptualisation into realisation and testing of design ideas. This work will be presented in the end of year Show.

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 (though it is possible to elect to join a series being offered to students on other programmes) 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 start of the second year. The dissertation should be between 6,000–10,000 words in length – this is a major piece of work and you will be not be able to submit for the Final Examination until you have passed this assessment.    

"The programme is structured around six terms of a taught schedule of activity that enables students to build a portfolio demonstrating a wide range of skills, abilities and personal development."