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Air-It-Yourself, Jihee Moon 2019 (photo: Stephen Pover)


Developing design discourse

Key details

  • 180 credits
  • 1 year programme
  • Full-time study

School or Centre

Next open day

Application deadline

  • Still accepting applications

Career opportunities

  • Graduates are creative catalysts and visionaries who go on to lead in design consultancies, join large established companies, and to set up their own design studios and start-ups. Our graduates are change makers driven by their vision of tackling and redefining industries.

Responding to and creating design discourses.

Design Products explores new terrain for designing products aiming to evolve new design disciplines and practices. We question ‘what is a product?’ and the assumption of adding products to uncover critical questioning to inform cutting edge creative practices for designing better futures. Our programme ethos focuses on a range of ideas for exploring these new areas for product design practice including design subtraction, multi-species design, circularity, questions for action, products delimited, design doing, design justice and decolonising design. We anticipate that these areas will evolve and adapt year-to-year.

We work in collaboration with industry but also explore new locations and relationships for designing products: the experiences and impacts they generate whether these are design interventions or working with start-ups, governments, or global agencies. We measure the success of our design impacts against the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal’s and the design territory of products within systems.

Still accepting applications for 2023 entry. See the Eligibility and key dates webpage for round 3 details.

Explore further

Visit 2022.rca.ac.uk to view graduate work by our students.

Catch the replays from our November 2022 online Open Day.



The School of Design is based across our Battersea and Kensington sites.

View all facilities

Students have access to the College’s workshops, with traditional facilities for woodworking, metalworking, plastics and resins, including bookable bench spaces. Computer-driven subtractive milling equipment is available, as well as additive rapid prototyping.

  • Design Products workshop

    Darwin workshop

  • Design products metalwork

    Kensington metal workshop. Photograph: Richard Haughton

  • Design Products lending library. Photograph: Richard Haughton

    Design Products lending library. Photograph: Richard Haughton

  • School of Design Workshops (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Design Products studio. Photograph: Richard Haughton

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

The programme is delivered across three terms and includes a combination of programme, School and College units. Learning will develop during the programme through terms 1 and 2 via a series of short projects focussed on experimentation and developing a strong and adaptive personal creative process, building a portfolio of projects culminating in the independent research project in term 3.

Term 1

In the first term we help you locate their own practice at the forefront of the design products landscape in the unit Locating Practice. This is supported by enhancing research skills and identifying additional technical and intellectual skills to develop new and improved design methods and approaches connecting research and making.

Experimental Design allows you to expand the range and ambition of their design practice through various forms of experimentation to uncover new skills, methods and ideas. This unit covers a broad spectrum of experimentation from methods to materials, technology, making, manufacturing, futures, social and participatory.

Across Terms 1 and 2, you will participate in AcrossRCA, the College-wide unit. See below for more details.

Term 2

The second term engages with Advanced Practice by deepening your own creative methods through specialist focus via elective programme platform options, based on programme ethos themes and School-wide electives. Programme specialist design input is delivered via platform electives in the Advanced Practice unit.

You will also collaborate with other School of Design programme disciplines in a team-based School-wide Grand Challenge, tackling a major emerging strategic design issue. There are also opportunities to take part in commercially sponsored projects in terms 2 and 3 depending on availability.

Term 3

In the third term you will demonstrate that they can draw together learning from terms 1 and 2 by independently developing, managing and delivering a high-resolution advanced Design Products project (Independent Research Project). The emphasis here is showing how you have brought together skills, learning and design practices from across terms 1 and 2 to design and deliver a project that sits at the forefront of the design products landscape and enables the delivery of a design discourse that argues for the new design space within which it sits.

The Independent Research Project (IRP) will be delivered through a supervision model, and it is expected that students will spend the majority of their time on personal study and making. We anticipate that students will have the option of completing term 3 (IRP) remotely or in their own studio/employment/placement/designer in residence subject to a satisfactory IRP proposal agreed in advance.

Situated at the core of your RCA student experience, this ambitious interdisciplinary College- wide AcrossRCA unit supports how you respond to the challenges of complex, uncertain and changing physical and digital worlds by engaging you in a global creative network that draws on expertise within and beyond the institution. It provides an extraordinary opportunity for you to:

  • make connections across disciplines
  • think critically about your creative practice
  • develop creative networks within and beyond the College
  • generate innovative responses to complex problems
  • reflect on how to propose ideas for positive change in local and/or global contexts.

AcrossRCA launches with a series of presentations from internationally acclaimed speakers that will encourage you to think beyond the discourses of art, architecture, communication, and design, and extend into other territories such as economics, ethics, science, engineering, medicine or astrophysics.

In interdisciplinary teams you will be challenged to use your intellect and imagination to respond to urgent contemporary themes, providing you with an opportunity to develop innovative and disruptive thinking, critically reflect on your responsibilities as a creative practitioner and demonstrate the contribution that the creative arts can make to our understanding and experience of the world. This engagement with interdisciplinary perspectives and practices is designed both to complement your disciplinary studies and provide you with a platform to thrive beyond graduation.


What you need to know before you apply

Candidates are selected entirely on merit and applications are welcomed from all over the world. The selection process considers creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your portfolio, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high MA standards overall.

For MA Design Products, you should have a good undergraduate degree or equivalent in an area of design, or related background and proficient written and spoken English. Several years of professional experience, either before or after a first degree, is a benefit, and you must be able to demonstrate critical and innovative thinking, a design curiosity and the ability to thrive in student led projects.

Applications are welcomed from candidates from related backgrounds, such as engineering, architecture, communication, sports science, medical/health, international development/NGO, economics/business, material science, technology development and user experience.

What's needed from you

Your portfolio submission should include the following three things:

  1. A portfolio of products (mandatory)
  2. A research agenda (mandatory)
  3. Your interests (optional)

Portfolio of projects

We encourage you to show a depth of quality in your design work, demonstrating your skill set and/or evidence of:

  • design work
  • technical knowledge
  • work in progress
  • making, trials, tests
  • research techniques
  • software
  • interaction design
  • sculpture, material, manufacture and more.

If you have had a hand in it, we want to see it. We want to gain a unique understanding of how you approach design work. Your approach, interest and creative ambition are just as important as your technical skills. Your portfolio is not just about finished projects, but also the processes in which you make work. Evidence of deploying work in the public domain is exceptionally valuable, even if it was unsuccessful.

We encourage collaboration(s): if you have group work in your portfolio, please attribute everyone appropriately, being clear about your role within the work. Please ensure clear communication of a project’s objective and audience, i.e. who is it for? Was it successful? You are welcome to be self-critical. If possible, combine your projects as a PDF, so it can be reviewed in its entirety. Avoid creating PDFs ‘pages’ which are in fact giant posters that need to be zoomed in excessively. Your ability to curate, edit and communicate your work concisely is evidence of communication skills and also of your thorough understanding of your work. Ideally landscape versions are easier to review on screens.

Research/project agenda (600–800 word PDF)

Your research/project agenda can have images and should have clear references to anything that is not your own work. This is a piece of writing defining an area of interest within the field(s) of design. It is separate from the research you include as part of specific projects in your portfolio. It is not exclusive to manufacture, technology, sustainability, user-centred design or other. However, it should be well grounded within the discipline of design. It can be a personal provocation or something that you want to build. It should propose a research question that you are interested in exploring whilst on the MA Design Products programme. The agenda does not have to define the ‘final outcome’ but the potential. Make good use of visual materials, references, etc – anything that helps illustrate the potential in the field and your personal perspective on it. Do not feel obliged to produce a piece of academic writing.


If you have active interests in making, craft, electronics or other, then we want to know. Maybe you work in a FabLab, or volunteer; regularly visit manufacturers/factories; work in a foundry or have experience in a code club? Maybe you collect antiques, or visit a lot of different places and cultures? Anything that enriches your process and learning. It could include exhibitions you visit, or a collection of your favourite design vernaculars. You should not be overwhelmed by this, the staff are trying to see how you look at the world, inform your interests and potential design directions. We suggest this is compiled into one PDF.

Your video should take the form of a design reflection. We encourage you to unpick and reflect on one of your own projects. Alternatively, it can critique ‘a designed work’ in the public domain, reflecting on its success, application and/or negative attributes. This is not a pitch, but a self-reflection of how you would re-do a project that you have already completed. While we always want to achieve the best within our discipline, we also openly realise that there are constant improvements that can be made on the items, interactions and systems we use and/or interact with.

We think designers should be critical thinkers, reflective and encouraged to look well beyond material value and consider the impact and positive effects they are having on the world. The design reflection can build on the ‘research/project agenda’, demonstrating a critical approach. This is an opportunity to articulate your attitude to design using your own work or other references or current state of affairs in design to help us understand how you perceive the role of design. Beware the clichés.

The two minute film must attribute the designer(s), (if it does not critique your own work) and be a self executing MP4 file.

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic 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 new students

Fees for September 2023 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

Overseas and EU


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.

Overseas and EU

Progression discount

For alumni and students who have completed an RCA Graduate Diploma and progress onto an RCA Master's programme – MA, MA/MSc, MFA, MDes, MArch, MEd or MRes – within 10 years, a progression discount of £1,000 is available.

* Total cost is based on the assumption that the programme is completed in the timeframe stated in the programme details. Additional study time may incur additional charges.



Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.

Supporting students on any MA programme from the UK (Preferably is a Scottish national), experiencing financial hardship.

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship, Student preferably of Scottish origin

Eligible fee status: UK fee status, Full time

Value: £10,000

The Scholarship supports 21 UK MA, MRes and PhD students every year from across all RCA MA, MRes and PhD disciplines.

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship, Students with Black African and Caribbean diaspora heritage, or mixed Black African and Caribbean diaspora heritage

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: £21,000

The RCA Cost of Living Bursary supports living costs for home students across all MA programmes.

Value: Bursaries of £5,000 each, for use towards living costs

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The RCA Disabled Students Bursary supports living costs for home students with a declared disability across all MA programmes, recognising the contribution that UK students with disabilities make to the RCA

Value: Bursaries of £6,000 each, for use towards living costs

Eligibility criteria: Students with a diagnosed physical or sensory disability, or specific learning difficulties.

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarship supports academic excellence by rewarding talented home applicants with the highest scoring portfolios on application to RCA, with a partial fee scholarship

Value: Scholarships of £2,500 each, to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: Academic excellence

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s International Scholarship is aimed at international students applicants from selected countries and territories, and on selected programmes

Value: Scholarships of £3,500 each, to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: If oversubscribed, this bursary is awarded on academic merit or financial need.

Eligible fee status: International fee status, from: Canada, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, USA

The Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarship - International supports academic excellence by rewarding talented applicants with the highest scoring portfolios on application to RCA at Round 1 and Round 2 of applications, with a partial fee scholarship.

Value: Scholarships of £2,500 each to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: Academic excellence

Eligible fee status: International fee status

To provide scholarships to students onto any RCA programme, from underrepresented communities, and facing financial challenges. Preference will be given to those identifying as Black or Black British; Asian or Asian British; or from a mixed background.

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship, Students from underrepresented communities who identify as Black/Black British; Asian/British Asian; or or mixed heritage.

Eligible fee status: UK fee status, Full time

Value: Up to sixteen full fee scholarships

Supporting School of Design students from the UK from under-represented communities. Preference for those identifying as Black or Black British (Caribbean); Black or Black British (African), or other Black background.

Eligibility criteria: Students with Black African and Caribbean diaspora heritage, or mixed Black African and Caribbean diaspora heritage

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: One scholarship valued at £35,000

More information

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.


Tuition fees are due on the first day of the academic year and students are sent an invoice prior to beginning their studies. Payments can be made in advance, on registration or in two instalments.

Start your application

RCA students at work (photo: Richard Haughton)

Change your life and be here in 2023. 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
RCA Kensington cafe