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Map of gravity acceleration values over the entire surface of Earth's Moon. Taken from Lunar Gravity Model 2011


Take your career and practice to the next level

Key details

  • 180 credits
  • 45 week programme
  • Full-time or part-time study
School or Centre
Application deadline
  • 14 Aug 2024
Career opportunities
  • Design Futures graduates will be creating and leading new design futures that provide strategic and fundamental change for a safer and better world. Graduates are expecting to go on to work in a range of fields, including NGO’s, government, think tanks, futures groups, advanced consultancy roles, ‘X’ labs and start-ups.

Transform the world and your career through the potential of design on this Master of Design (MDes)

In an era of turbulence for people, planet and nature, how we navigate our future is more critical than ever.

The Design Futures programme is designed to enable you to work across all the disciplines and beyond, to build future-shaping knowledge and skills, address the challenges we face, envision and then navigate towards a preferred future through design-led interventions. It will allow you to ask the ‘big questions’ about disruptive innovation, ethics for design, design resilience, shared values, future forecasting and design for safety.

Design Futures is focused on professional development and action, identified and implemented through research methods and strategies.

The programme is aimed both at postgraduate students and career changers, and offers a balance between core knowledge, elective and collaborative work and a self-defined research project – enabling you to choose your own areas of interest, while developing the skills to implement your ideas.

Within the overall credits of electives on offer, you'll have the opportunity to further define your learning journey by choosing electives throughout your studies.

Applications for the September 2024 intake are open and will be assessed on a rolling basis. Programmes will close for applications when the maximum number of places have been awarded, or at the final deadline on 14 August, 12noon (UK time).

Explore further

Catch the replays from our latest online Open Day

Listen to the RCA Podcast Series 1, Episode 5: Addressing local and global design challenges.

Hear from Dave Webster, Assistant Dean of the School of Design, on the role of designers in finding creative solutions based on research data that help solve the world's grand challenges.



We are the only UK art and design university where all academics are research active – meaning everything we teach is related to cutting-edge research. Teaching staff are subject to change.


The RCA has facilities at Kensington, Battersea and White City. MDes students will benefit from being supervised by world-leading academics at the forefront of research and practice.

View all facilities

You will also have access to College-wide workshops on an individually planned and negotiated basis. Please note, this programme isn’t for those who want to try out a range of bespoke technical resources.

  • RCA Studios

    Group discussion

  • Workshop


  • Service Design masterclass

    User journey mapping

What you'll study

Flexibility and choice are at the heart of the offer, with a combination of Core and Elective units enabling you to create a bespoke programme of studies that best suits your approach, context and interests.

What you'll cover

You'll be supported in your studies through a combination of lectures, workshops, tutorials, group tutorials, seminars and peer-led learning opportunities. These will be supported by a shared studio space and online learning environment.

Term 1

You'll begin by taking Interdisciplinary Research Methodologies, which provides a toolkit for tackling diverse and challenging issues delivered through a series of ‘methods sprints’ that connect theory to creative practice.

You'll also take Complex Systems, which introduces a range of concepts allowing designers to build familiarity with leverage points, wicked problems, causal loops, theories of change and entanglement.

During this term you'll also choose one one school-wide elective and one college-wide elective.

Term 2

In term two you take Envisioning Futures, which combines futures methods with advanced digital and analogue envisioning methods bringing to life near and deep futures prospecting from a multi-species perspective.

You'll start to plan your Individual Research Project by developing a research proposal to demonstrate the need for research on your chosen topic, articulate any gaps of knowledge and how your research proposal intends to address this.

During this term you'll also choose one school-wide elective and one College-wide elective.

Term 3

The final term is devoted to the development and realisation of your Independent Research Project. You will set the parameters of the project, applying design futures strategies to create outcomes in response to your research. Finally, you will communicate your project in ways that are relevant to the audiences and contexts you identify.

In parallel, you’ll take Entrepreneurship, which examines the business, management, enterprise and entrepreneurial skills required to transform an innovative design or communication concept into a compelling value proposition.

Download the Design Futures Programme Specification 2023/24 (PDF)

All students will select elective units to determine their own journey through the programme, choosing from a range of electives that are available across all Schools and campuses, and online. The available electives may include:

Term 1

  • Interventions (School of Communication, on campus)
  • Digital Storytelling (School of Communication, online)
  • Education for Change (Academic Development Office, online & blended options with mix of online and on-campus sessions)
  • Collaboration and Inter-disciplinarity as Method (Academic Development Office, online & blended options with mix of online and on-campus sessions)
  • Housing and Social Reproduction (School of Architecture, mix of online and on campus sessions)
  • Mobility and Debility (School of Architecture, mix of online and on campus sessions)
  • Design Innovation: Models and Life Cycle (School of Design, mix of online and on-campus sessions)
  • Design Ethics: Design for Good Practice (School of Design, online)
  • Performing Practice (School of Arts and Humanities, on campus)
  • Health and Care: Futures of Care (School of Arts and Humanities, online)
  • Material Engagements: Embodied Practice (School of Arts and Humanities, on campus)

Terms 1 and 2

AcrossRCA (30 credits) (Academic Development Office, majority online, but some on-campus sessions)

Term 2

  • Industry Embedded Project (School of Communication, online)
  • Sound (School of Communication, on campus)
  • Public Engagement as Method (Academic Development Office (MRes), mix of online and on-campus sessions)
  • Developing Research Proposals (Academic Development Office (MRes), mix of online
  • Making Pedagogies (Academic Development Office (MEd), mix of online and on-campus sessions)
  • Capital’s Shadow (School of Architecture, mix of online and on-campus sessions)
  • Milieu Milieu Me (The Economy) (School of Architecture, mix of online and on campus sessions)
  • Design Resilience: Sustainability (School of Design, mix of online and on campus sessions)
  • Design Innovation: Venture Creation (School of Design, mix of online and on campus sessions)
  • Sites and Situations: Spatial Feelings (School of Arts and Humanities, on campus)
  • Synthetic Encounters: Shapeshifting the Digital (School of Arts and Humanities, online)

Depending on demand and availability, not all electives will be available. Students will be asked for ranked preference and allocated to electives based on those preferences.


What you need to know before you apply

Candidates are selected entirely on merit. We welcome applications from all over the world, as well as from mid-career designers and career changers.

The selection criteria considers creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your portfolio or equivalent professional experience, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve the MDes standard overall.

What's needed from you

As part of your application, you must submit a single illustrated document (PDF, maximum 20 pages) showing us a diverse range of projects from either previous studies, professional work or self-initiated work. This should show clearly through writing and images of your own work your interest in pursuing Design as an interdisciplinary field that seeks to address current and future challenges.

If you are currently a designer or design student, select a few of your most creative, original and ingenious pieces of work, including your process and decision-making, the skills and tools used, its purpose and final outcome.

If you're not a designer or a student from a different discipline, don’t worry – show us how you’ve achieved excellence in your own field, and communicate this both in writing and visually. Make it personal, evidencing your unique creativity and how this might be relevant to design.

In both cases, we are interested in how you think, what excites you, your desire to learn new skills, and your ability to build and grow ideas that contribute to the future of design and the planet.

You must also submit a 500-word project proposal: an indicative statement about what you intend to undertake as a Design Futures issue on the programme. It is recognised that this project will change and develop whilst you are studying on the programme.

Your proposal should follow this structure:

  • Proposed project title
  • What issues or areas do you wish to critically appraise as a Design Futures issue? (150 words)
  • What other research or work has been done to address this area or field? (150 words)
  • What types of outputs or impact do you hope to produce or envisage on the Programme? (150 words)
  • How will a place on the Design Futures programme support this project? (100 words)

You should also submit a short (two minutes max length) video where you briefly introduce yourself and articulate what knowledge, skills and opportunities you think that a place on the Design Futures programme will offer you to develop.

Please note, we are not judging you on your technical, production skills, but are using the video as an introduction to yourself and your aims for the programme.

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic or UKVI score of 6.5 with a 6.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE) and at least 5.5 in other skills. Students achieving a grade of at least 6.0, with a grade of 5.5 in the Test of Written English, may be eligible to take the College’s English for Academic Purposes course to enable them to reach the required standard.

You are exempt from this requirement if you have received a 2.1 degree or above from a university in a majority English-speaking nation within the last two years.

If you need a Student Visa to study at the RCA, you will also need to meet the Home Office’s minimum requirements for entry clearance.

Find out more about English-language requirements

Fees & funding

For this programme


Fees for September 2024 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

Full time: £16,550*
Part time: £10,750 per year
Overseas and EU
Full time: £38,600 *
Part time: £25,100 per year


New entrants to the College will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure their place. This will be offset against the tuition fees for the first year of study.

Overseas and EU

Progression discounts

For alumni and students who have completed an MA or MA/MSc at the RCA within the past 10 years, a progression discount is available for MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd study. This discount is £5,000 for full-time study, or £2,500 per year for two years of part-time study.



The RCA scholarship programme is growing, with hundreds of financial awards planned for the 2024/5 academic year. Examples of financial awards offered in 2023/24 are given below.

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligibility criteria: Students from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, USA

Eligible fee status: Overseas fee status

Value: £7,000 towards fees

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligibility criteria: Students from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey

Eligible fee status: Overseas fee status

Value: £7,000 towards fees

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £5,000 towards fees

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligibility criteria: Students who identify as D/deaf or disabled

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £6,000 for living costs

For: All programmes excluding PhD & short courses

Eligibility criteria: Black or Black British Caribbean, Black or Black British African, Other Black Background, Mixed - White and Black Caribbean, Mixed - White and Black African

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: Full fees & maintenance

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £5,000 for living costs

Applying for a scholarship

You must hold an offer to study on an RCA programme in order to make a scholarship application in Spring 2024. A selection of RCA merit scholarships will also be awarded with programme offers. 

We strongly recommend that you apply for your programme as early as possible to stand the best chance of receiving a scholarship. You do not apply directly for individual awards; instead, you will be invited to apply once you have received an offer.

More information

Additonal fes

In addition to your programme fees, please be aware that you may incur other additional costs associated with your study during your time at RCA. Additional costs can include purchases and services (without limitation): costs related to the purchase of books, paints, textiles, wood, metal, plastics and/or other materials in connection with your programme, services related to the use of printing and photocopying, lasercutting, 3D printing and CNC. Costs related to attending compulsory field trips, joining student and sport societies, and your Convocation (graduation) ceremony. 

If you wish to find out more about what type of additional costs you may incur while studying on your programme, please contact the Head of your Programme to discuss or ask at an online or in person Open Day.   

We provide the RCASHOP online, and at our Kensington and Battersea Campuses – this is open to students and staff of the Royal College of Art only to provide paid for materials to support your studies. 

We also provide support to our students who require financial assistance whilst studying, including a dedicated Materials Fund.

External funding

There are many funding sources, with some students securing scholarships and others saving money from working. It is impossible to list all the potential funding sources; however, the following information could be useful.

Start your application

Change your life and be here in 2024. Applications now open.

The Royal College of Art welcomes applicants from all over the world.

Before you begin

Make sure you've read and understood the entrance requirements and key dates
More information about eligibility and key dates
Check you have all the information you need to apply.
Read our application process guide
Consider attending an Open Day, or one of our portfolio or application advice sessions
See upcoming sessions
Please note, all applications must be submitted by 12 noon on the given deadline.
Visit our applications portal to get started

Ask a question

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or have any questions.

Register your interest with us here
Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) Burning, September 2015: NASA Satellite Imagery.