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Service Design at the Royal College of Art

Overview

A new frontier for designers

Key details

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

School or Centre

Application deadline

  • 12 Jan 2022
  • Still accepting applications

Transform customer and citizen experiences.

This programme is subject to validation

Service Design is the application of human centred design methods to complex systems in order to create pragmatic and visionary services that improve and transform human experiences and outcomes.

The Service Design programme equips students with the tools to provide human insight, create and prototype new futures and an understanding of complex systems to become an effective changemaker in the modern world. You will develop your practice through exploration of service design theory, intellectual critique and experience of working in the real contexts of live projects.

The aim of the Service Design programme is to inspire and equip students from a broad range of design and innovation backgrounds to apply design thinking methodologies in order to answer the challenges of technological, social and environmental futures in commercial, social and public contexts. Using a human centric approach to systems, technology and societal trends, the programme delivers the practical tools, the intellectual frameworks and the professional practice required to deliver transformational change.

The programme is built on an academic foundation of design methodologies and principles that is applied to real scenarios through partner organisations working in enterprise, social and public roles who bring real issues and opportunities that respond to current and future disruption or innovation. Working in collaborative teams you will move through the design process of deep research, issue reframing, creative concept generation, prototyping and user testing you will understand and experience how design tools enable you to imagine and then deliver sustainable solutions.

Explore further

Visit 2021.rca.ac.uk to view graduate work from the class of 2021

Catch the replays from our November 2021 online Open Day.

Gallery

Facilities

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.

  • Service Design studio

    Service Design studio

  • Service Design seminar

    Service Design seminar

  • Service Design studio (detail)

    Service Design studio (detail)

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

This programme is subject to validation

The programme is delivered across three terms and includes a combination of programme, School and College units.

Term 1

Service Design Foundation Methods and Materials encompasses the whole trimester and consists of a series of lectures on the foundational methods and materials of Service Design, accompanied by three project sprints in which these methods are applied.

Service Design Foundation Methods and Materials will develop an understanding of core design processes and skills and demonstrate learning from the taught aspect of the programme through practical exercises that are applied to a live student project. The initial project develops a theoretical and practical understanding of the ecosystems of services, develops skills in research, design sprints and the interaction between human, technology and systems.

Across Terms 1 and 2, you will participate in the College-wide unit. This unit aims to support students to meet the challenges of a complex, uncertain and changing world by bringing them together to work collaboratively on a series of themed projects informed by expertise within and beyond the College. These projects will challenge you to use your intellect and imagination to address key cultural, social, environmental and economic challenges. In doing so, you will develop and reflect on the abilities required to translate knowledge into action, and help demonstrate the contribution that the creative arts can make to our understanding and experience of the world.

Term 2

The second term will deliver teaching in Advanced Service Design Methods, looking at the role of the service designer in developing transformational programmes to reframe projects, work in organisational cultures including working at a strategic level, specifying metrics and Minimum Viable Experience, delivery across channels the human and ethical relationships with emerging technology platforms such as Artificial Intelligence.

You will also have an Elective choice in term 2.

In term 2 all School of Design students will participate in the Grand Challenge, School-wide unit. The aim of this unit is to connect and challenge all students in the School through the introduction of a ‘wicked’ design problem that requires a cross disciplinary approach to problem solving involving an external international scientific or industry partner (or both). This unit and lecture series has been hugely successful in connecting and disrupting disciplines, people, philosophies and approaches to design thinking whilst providing our student body with very unique networking opportunities.

Term 3

The Independent Research Project is a self-directed project in collaboration with an organisation or industry partner. The project will be agreed in term 2 and associated partner engaged. The project will develop innovative, transformational outcomes based on research, creativity and prototyping.

You will work on a range of live projects from industry that align to different Challenge Labs: 

  1. Sustainable Experience, from global fashion to EV charging and Energy
  2. Social Impact, from Governnent ministries to NGS's and 
  3. Life Services from healthcare to financial services.  

The curriculum works across the RCA and our partner establishments, blending design expertise across all departments with technology and business management from London business schools and the Department of Computing at Imperial College London.

Requirements

What you need to know before you apply

We invite candidates from around the world who have a passion for design as a transformational tool and wish to take that to a Masters level. Our selection process looks for a desire to take on challenging issues, to be curious in uncovering reality and bring creativity to finding and delivering new solutions.

The Service Design MA programme takes students with and without a design background who show the right qualities and the intellectual ability and desire for creative innovation as demonstrated through your portfolio. You should have a BA, BSc or similar or minimum of five years professional experience

Students may come from product, communication, digital and user experience design who wish to expand to their capabilities, be recent high performing graduates from other design disciplines as well as from computing and other technical disciplines, be budding entrepreneurs interested in launching new service-led business ventures and mid and senior professionals from industry and the public sector, with evidence of their creative talents as demonstrated by leadership of innovative projects.

What's needed from you

Your portfolio is a showcase of your work as an artist or designer and can be made up of images, videos or writing examples. Your portfolio helps us to better understand your application and allows you to show evidence of your ability and motivation to undertake a given programme.

Generally, we’re looking for you to demonstrate your:

  • Creativity, imagination and innovation
  • Ability to articulate the intentions of the work
  • Intellectual engagement in areas relevant to the work
  • Technical skills appropriate to the work
  • Potential to benefit from the programme

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 2022 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

Home
(subsidised)
£13,500*
Overseas and EU
£32,000*

Deposit

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.

Home
£1,000
Overseas and EU
£2,000

* 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

Scholarships

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

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.

Payments

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 2022

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

Before you begin

1.
Make sure you've read and understood the entrance requirements and key dates
More information about eligibility and key dates
2.
Check you have all the information you need to apply.
Read our application process guide
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.

Email us at
[email protected]
RCA Kensington cafe