School of Art, Design and Architecture

MA Design

Do you want to design innovative products in a sustainable way? Or to imagine and plan the spaces and places of tomorrow? The UK leads the world in the creative industries and we offer the only MA Design course in the country that allows you to specialise in a key area that’s right for you. Join us to foster and focus your skills in a fast-paced environment. Choose to progress into the design industry, further study or personal creative practice. Design is evolving. Play your part in its future.

“Design thinking requires bridging the “knowing-doing gap.” The tools of the design thinker, getting out into the world to be inspired by people, using prototyping to learn with our hands, creating stories to share our ideas, joining forces with people from other disciplines, are ways of deepening what we know and widening the impact of what we do.” Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO.

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No 1 overall Young University for Art, Design and Architecture in the UK

Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2018

Key features

  • Foster and develop the skills you need to succeed on this interactive course that we designed with industry leaders, to make sure you leave ready to go straight into the workplace as a designer. Many of our students reach positions where they influence design policy in companies from China to Madagascar, Budapest to Bristol.
  • Work with public bodies on real-world practice scenarios. In the past, we have worked with organisations including Plymouth City Council, The Eden Project, Timber Intent and NHS Trusts.
  • Access exclusive talks and insights from industry leaders including Sir Kenneth Grange and from our successful alumni working in some of the world’s prestigious design studios.
  • Experiment in your own, personal studio, open until midnight, seven days a week. Take advantage of our equipment hub, staffed by approachable technicians. Here you’ll find image and sound equipment and studios, digital labs, Computer Numerical Control (CNC), a steam bending wood workshop and digital making, including a ceramics 3D printer.
  • Benefit from our links to industry leaders including the Royal Society of Arts and the Chartered Society of Designers.
  • Build an understanding of the relationship between design, industry and the public for the 21st century. Examine the delicate balance between the needs of consumerism and the problem of diminishing resources. From new technologies and markets to the impact of global politics and the wider sustainability agenda, you’ll analyse and critically evaluate factors influencing design today.
  • Contribute to our community of students from different backgrounds and nationalities. Share ideas and collaborate within this diverse melting pot of talent as you study your three core modules and draw on the collective experience as you progress to your final project.
  • Be inspired by teaching staff who are internationally renowned design practitioners bringing you the very latest thinking and allowing you the room to experiment and find practical solutions to today’s design problems. 
  • Distinguish yourself from the competition with the only MA Design course in the UK to offer a choice of four exit awards so you can plot a solid course for your future career. Explore the broad, multiple disciplines of design practice before choosing a specialist focus on sustainable design, spatial design, product design, or maker and materials.

Course details

  • Programme details
  • Study three core modules before selecting a specialist focus leading to your final major project. Opt for a one year full-time programme or study part time over two years. All modules are assessed through coursework, so there are no exams. The core modules are: creative processes - fast-paced mini projects take you through the design cycle from inspiration to innovation, with users at the centre; design thinking - examines products in a broader social, cultural, economic and technical context; design and business - teaches you project management techniques and communication skills with an industry-led design assignment; and the final project - underpins specialist independent study with research, analysis and critical reflection.
    Core modules
    • MADS701 Creative Processes

      Through a short series of fast-paced mini projects students will experience and complete a comprehensive design cycle, from inspiration to innovation. This will provide students with an understanding and appreciation of creative design processes that puts `users¿ at the centre of design.

    • MADS702 Design Thinking

      This module explores both historical and contemporary critical contexts of Design research, with an emphasis on the way Design is described and shaped. This will include the examination of artefacts and products as well as their broader, social, cultural, economic and technical implications, such as consumption and sustainability with the process of design.

    • MADS703 Design and Business

      Project management and communication skills are essential for successful outcomes; students will undertake a design assignment that helps them understand and develop different design management techniques and behaviours. These will include planning different types of projects, stakeholder management, team working, personal learning and problem solving.

    • MADS704 Final Major

      This module provides the opportunity to develop an MA project and a critically underpinned project report. The practice-based project encourages innovation in addition to refinement of practice and skills and will result in a body of work on a selected topic, which will be underpinned by relevant research, analysis, critical reflection and professional preparation.

    Optional modules
    • MADS705 Designers Eye

      This independent study module provides the opportunity to develop an MA project and a critically underpinned project report. The practice-based project encourages innovation in addition to refinement of practice and skills and will result in a body of work on a selected topic, which will be underpinned by relevant research, analysis, critical reflection and professional preparation

    • MADS706 Space Topologies

      The module rigorously examines space through the interface of the body, exploring themes of intervention & interaction. Investigations will explore immersive/ambient/adaptive design strategies relating to sensory design, interior design, architectural environments & retail design.

    • MADS707 Maker Contexts

      Based on a negotiated studio project, this module focuses on the issues and the potentials of designer maker practice. Contexts of practice and the development of your professional profile are explored. This may include the design of products/artefacts for an exhibition, a work placement or site-specific work.

    • MADS708 Sustainable Futures

      This module is predominantly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary by nature and will allow students to explore ideas and materials that forward sustainability concerns and ethical issues. Designers have to respond to changes in environment and the use of materials, which contribute to the impact on the planet. This module would discuss methods and uses, framed in theoretical and practical debate, which offer some solutions to the challenging role of design practice at both industry and craft level such as consumption, materiality and sustainability within the process of design.

    • MADS709 Design Thinking for Social Innovation

      This is a practice based elective module for MA DESIGN students and is designed to develop critical and reflective tools and techniques used in the field of social innovation to support students¿ design thinking skills. The module will provide students with knowledge of current debates relating to approaches, theories, practices, skills and methodologies of research within the fields of Design Thinking and Social Innovation.

    • MADS710 Design for Information

      This is a practice based module for MA DESIGN students and is designed to develop critical and reflective tools and techniques used in the field of Information Design that support students¿ practical skills. The module will provide students with knowledge of current debates relating to approaches, theories, practices, skills and methodologies of Information Design within the fields of Art, Design and Architecture.

    • MADS711 Designing Brand

      This is a practice based elective module for MA DESIGN students, it is designed to develop practical, critical and reflective tools and techniques for `branding¿ in selective/specilaist design related fields. The module will provide students with knowledge of current debates relating to approaches, theories, practices, skills and methodologies of `branding¿ within the fields of Design.

    • MADS712 Design for Engineering Systems

      This is a practice based elective module for MA DESIGN students and is designed to develop critical and reflective tools and techniques used in understanding designed systems. The module will provide students with knowledge of current debates relating to approaches, theories, practices, skills and methodologies of research within the fields of Design, Systems, Fabrication and Engineering.

    • MADS713 Service and Interaction Design

      This is a practice based module for MA DESIGN students and is designed to develop critical and reflective tools and techniques used in Service and Interaction Design. The module will provide students with knowledge of current debates relating to approaches, theories, practices, skills and methodologies of research and practice within the fields of Service Design and Interaction.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA Design Programme Specification 2018 19 4688

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

You will normally require:

  • A first or upper second (2:1) degree with honours or an equivalent professional qualification.
  • An ordinary or foundation degree, a higher national or university diploma, accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field.
  • Provide a portfolio of work for discussion at interview.
  • If you have overseas qualifications, you can check their compatibility with the UK equivalent through NARIC, who provide an advisory service.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 6.5. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office at international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

If you would like an informal chat about MA Design please contact the programme leader at ada@plymouth.ac.uk.

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2018 2019
Home/EU £7,500 £7,725
International £14,000 £14,400
Part time (Home/EU) £420 £430
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

From September 2018, the University applies a discretionary alumni reward where alumnus meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • a 20 per cent discount on home/EU tuition fees
  • or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.

PGCE programmes, Master of Architecture, MChem, MEng, MGeol, MPsych, MSci, ResM and postgraduate research degrees are not included in this reward.

For further details, and contact information, please review our alumni discount policy.

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September, with some January starts also available. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.

If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Email: admissions@plymouth.ac.uk 

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Joe Kennedy - Designer Maker


Inspired by his grandfather's traditional craftsmanship and his own Cornish heritage Design graduate, Joe, is now an award-winning designer maker


Read more about Joe's path to success

Freelance Spatial Designer - Lee Valentine


“The nature of freelance design is that you have to adapt. I also do photography work, website design, and school prospectus and communication design. My main passion and work is within the architectural industry, but my work is always varied.”


Find out about the projects Lee has worked on

Lee Valentine

MA Design student Hitanshi Agrawal explains her work on heritage and legacy as part of the Final Show.

"Our ethos is that design can be a force for change and good, in our design thinking we use cooperation, co-design, material challenge and need, as objectives."

Discover more about our MA Design course