Design MA

Year of entry

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Start date
September 2024
Delivery type
On campus
12 months full time
Entry requirements
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in a relevant design subject.
Full entry requirements
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component
UK fees
£15,250 (Total)
International fees
£30,250 (Total)

Course overview

Students in class

This Masters course focuses on user-centred design and empowers you to develop research and practice-based design solutions to respond to a demanding industry and rapidly changing society.

Whether your background is in design or in another discipline, you will gain the skills and knowledge you need to develop, test and evaluate innovative design strategies and solutions for real-life situations. You will gain first-hand experience of current needs and trends across a range of sectors and focus on a large-scale design project within one of the specialisms offered.

Taught by staff with a wide range of design expertise and internationally recognised profiles in research and practice, you will build an interdisciplinary approach to design in a stimulating environment while being exposed to and involved in cutting-edge research. You will also gain a variety of practical and research skills to prepare you for a wide range of careers.

Specialist facilities

The School of Design offers excellent facilities and technical support for developing your creative skills. We have a range of dedicated spaces where students can work independently. We also have a number of practical workshops, studios and specialist facilities: Sculpture Studio; 2D Art Studio; Fashion Design Studio; Knit and Weave Studio; Photography Studio; Digital Print workshop; Laser cutting and 3D Print workshop; Printmaking Workshop; XLab for Immersive Technologies and 3D workshop. We provide access to a team of excellent technicians across the full range of skills who can help you to realise your work to reach its potential.   

The School also provides a range of other support to enhance the student experience and prepare students for the workplace: free dedicated software; a wide range of technical induction programmes; free access to Linked-in-Learning Tutorials; free cameras and video recorder on loan; supporting a Degree Show; external promotion; Visiting Speakers, who are well known figures from industry or other institutions around the world. 

As an MA Design student, you’ll have timetabled technical support in semesters 1 and 2 to help you develop the specialist skills you need for your design projects.

Course details

In the first semester, you’ll study a set of compulsory modules that will allow you to develop a range of research, conceptual and practical design skills and tools to lay the foundations for the rest of the programme. You’ll have the chance to learn through case studies, practical exercises and work on briefs encompassing all specialisms offered.

In the second semester, you’ll have a choice of optional modules that focus on current and emerging trends in design thinking, practice and research. These optional modules will give you the opportunity to work on practical projects in specialist areas of design practice such as: colour design, design for social innovation, design thinking and strategic innovation, digital and interactive design, graphic and visual communication design, information design, instructional design, social design, sustainable design, and typographic design. You’ll work on group and/or individual projects to explore more advanced knowledge, skills and tools in your areas of interest.

In Semester 2, you’ll also choose and develop a specialist project in which the tools and skills learnt in Semester 1 are applied. The integration of research and practice will help you develop advanced skills to strategically explore the role of design as a problem-solving practice. A variety of interdisciplinary projects are offered to give you an opportunity to apply an integrated design approach to a design brief that suits your interests and career ambitions. Projects encompass a range of design themes and applications. In Semester 3 you can choose one of two pathways: 1) Continue with your specialist design project, develop it at a professional level for evaluation (with suitable participants) for evaluation; 2) Produce an independent research dissertation based around a relevant field or topic within the specialisms offered.

The Programme Leader for this course is Dr Rafiq Elmansy.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

Compulsory modules

Creative research skills
This module will review current thinking on creative research and explore the integration of research and practice. The module will introduce a range of research principles, skills and methods and discuss the ethical and social considerations for creative research and human-centred design solutions. These approaches form a foundation for the research-led practice students will apply in their specialist projects and projects developed in the specialist optional modules.

Design Explorations and Practice
This module explores the way designers and companies think about and approach design projects in different areas of design. This will be done through theoretical concepts, literature review, and design practice. The module is divided into three main sections: 1) a theory-focused section; 2) a practice-focused section; 3) a digital execution section.

Design Research and Integration
This module gives students the opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and creativity that they acquired during Semester 1. Students will start working on their specialist project and complete the first three stages of the design process: 1) identification of problem/need; 2) research; 3) concept development. Key generic lectures and workshops will impart information to students about the nature of the module and aspects of project development that are independent of the individual's specific project specialism. These will be delivered to the complete cohort. Group tutorials and individual supervision tutorials, on the other hand, will be provided to cater for the specialist aspects of the project. Group tutorials will stimulate discussion and enable group feedback, which are beneficial for the effective development of the project work. Individual supervision tutorials will guide each student in terms of specific aspects of their specialist project, as well as monitor the progress of that student and how effectively the assessment criteria are being adhered to.

Optional modules

Design Management: Design Thinking and Strategic Innovation
Designers must extend their knowledge to think strategically, add a design value, and build a design leadership ability. This practical module introduces design management and design thinking for students to achieve the above targets. Students will expand their knowledge about design as an added value for business and as a strategy to reach innovative products and services. To achieve this goal, students will use design thinking as a strategic tool to identify and analyse the root causes of problems. Additionally, students will explore how to identify the target user and build a consumer-centred design solutions. Then, they will use different creative methods and tools to solve problems, identify effective solutions and evaluate them. Students will be able to see the design business from the perspective of market competency and will learn how to use the different innovation models to achieve market success through implementing the strategic design in both product and service design sectors. Students will explore how to establish a design management strategy across the organisation and how to implement it in managing creative teams. Then, they will learn how to measure the impact of design strategies in business.

Graphic, Typographic and Colour Design
This module introduces theories and principles of Graphic, Typographic and Colour Design and discusses how they can be used to create the most effective human-centred design solutions. Graphic Design, Typographic Design and Colour Design complement each other when the objective is to produce user-friendly outcomes. Good use of typography can help graphic designs reach a wider audience by communicating the message with clarity. Good use of graphic elements can help typographic designs evoke emotion and increase inclusivity (i.e. include people with low literacy, reading disabilities, etc.). Colour has both the ability to convey information clearly and to emotionally engage users with products, services and environments. Areas covered by Graphic, Typographic and Colour Design include: editorial design, experimental typography, colour in marketing, branding, packaging, poster design, advertising, illustration, photography, storytelling, etc.

Information, Digital and Interactive Design
This module introduces and explores theories and principles of Information, and Digital and Interaction Design, as well as techniques in Digital and Interactive Design at an advanced level. When used together, Information, Digital and Interactive Design create the most effective, usable and understandable human-centred design solutions. Information Design helps people to access, understand, use, learn, and apply information. Digital and interactive design allows for better ways of engaging with interactive systems through effective interfaces, covering areas such as User Interface Design (UI), User Experience Design (UX), and Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR). Some examples of information design outputs that require both information and digital and interactive design are: apps; motion graphics; infographics and data visualisation (static and interactive); websites and online information; online questionnaires, forms and subscriptions; online patient and medicine information; online product instructions; online transport routes and journey plans, etc.

Service and Social Design for Innovation
This module will deliver a combination of lectures and practical sessions. Lectures will engage students with the theory, research and professional approaches to Service and Social Design for Innovation. The lecture content will be built around (and inform) each stage of the research and design process. Practicals will give students the opportunity to put their knowledge and theory into practice by planning, designing, developing and evaluating their creative project, as well as their research.

Design Prototyping and Evaluation
Students will continue to apply the knowledge, skills and creativity that they acquired during Semesters 1 and 2. Students will finish their specialist design project by completing the two last stages of the design process: 4) prototyping; 5) evaluation. The project will be developed at a professional level and applied in real-life scenarios (with suitable participants) for evaluation. Students are also required to produce a research paper that includes: Abstract; Background (including literature review and objectives); Method; Results; Discussion (including interpretation of results and implications); References, as well as a professional project report.

Students will produce an independent research dissertation based around a relevant field or topic within the following areas: Branding Design, Digital Design, Interactive Design, Graphic and Visual Communication Design, Information Design, Instructional Design, Service Design, and Typographic Design.

Learning and teaching

Creative problem solving and design thinking methods are central our teaching in the School of Design.  Your learning will be enhanced by a range of contemporary teaching methods which encourage active learning and are underpinned by inclusive and authentic learning activities, including team working, creative sprints and industry facing scenarios. 

We follow a campus based blended learning approach; you’ll have a range of resources in the virtual learning environment which are accessible at all times, including videos and pre-work to help you prepare. You’ll attend lectures which are carefully designed to invite engagement and participation, seminars enable you to delve deeper into key topics, workshops to learn and practise design making, crit sessions and tutorials to discuss work in progress.  

Your module tutors have dedicated office hours, which means there’s always the opportunity to ask questions.  

Collaboration with staff and your peers is the foundation of our teaching and learning, giving students input into their learning journey. Some of your core modules will be studied with students from other design disciplines, here you will benefit from our community of learners, to contribute their diverse perspectives, and to encounter those of others, with global industry practices in mind.  

A typical week may include a mix of lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops and studio sessions. As your project work evolves, you’ll have fewer lectures/seminars and more supervision tutorials to support your independent study in your areas of specialisation. These activities provide a rich resource to support further investigation in your private study time.  Private study is important at university and a potentially significant change from the way you have been taught previously. As postgraduates, you’ll be undertaking high level projects that integrate research and practice. Private study is space where you can reflect and critique materials from taught sessions, including further research and reading, writing, designing and making. You will be guided through these processes by your tutors to help you develop your knowledge, practice and research skills. The ability to work independently is a key skill and essential to your development as creative professional and thinker. 

You’ll also have the ongoing support of your Academic Personal Tutor. 

On the MA Design programme you’ll be taught by expert academics, many of which have also industry practise. There is an active visiting lecturer programme, formed of industry and academic experts, including alumni. 

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


In the School of Design you will be assessed through a variety of methods, these include visual 2D and 3D responses, portfolios of text and image, blogs, short videos, presentations as well as more traditional essays and reports. Some of your assessments will be based upon collaboration with your peers. This collaboration could be in the development of artefacts, proposals and/or various forms of visual and textual communication in response to problem-based issues. 

The nature of assessment will change as you progress through your programme: 

  • Semester 1:  Assessments will focus on your understanding and acquisition of new knowledge, academic, creativity, digital and professional skills.  
  • Semester 2:  Assessments will focus more on establishing how well you understand, analyse and apply this new knowledge and these new skills in relation to real-world, local and global settings.    
  • Semester 3: Study will become more self-directed major project or dissertation often being negotiated and agreed with tutors.  

Throughout the year, it is to be expected that you will find that assessments are progressively more challenging. To support you as you navigate assessment, we provide formative as well as summative assessment. Formative assessment gives staff an opportunity to give you feedback on personal progress, in good time before a summative deadline. Given the range of assessment types in any one level of study, formative assessment and feedback enables you to reflect upon your personal progress and establish which forms of assessment allow you to play to your strengths.  

Authentic assessment means relevant assessment; relevant in terms of contemporary contexts and also relevant to your personal interests and your future aspirations. The authenticity of assessment is an important consideration in how we design assignments and project briefs. This means that we think carefully about the relevance of assessment outcomes; not only in academic terms but also in terms of your chosen career path, skill development needs and the future of work in your chosen discipline. Where appropriate, there will be an element of choice in your assessment. Some projects will allow you to choose the focus and format of your submission.  

Dialogic teaching methods emphasise in-class discussion and support staff / student debate. This approach to teaching and learning enables staff to hear all student voices. In turn, for some modules, this in-class dynamic may facilitate and inform the co-production of assessment tasks. Co-production of assessment tasks means that staff and students work together to devise fair and inclusive assessment; both formative and summative. This allows staff to consider the requirements of a module alongside opportunities to allow students to harness their strengths.   

While remaining considerate of module and programme learning outcomes, where relevant and beneficial, we strive to adopt a flexible approach to assessment design. This flexibility allows us to respond to student voice, maintain an agility that allows us to react to global, social and cultural change and respond swiftly to opportunities to devise projects with our industrial partners. We aim for all assessment to be relevant, meaningful and engaging. 


Entry requirements

You’ll need a bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) or equivalent qualification in a design or art degree specialising in one the following subjects: graphic design, visual communication design, information design, branding, design for sustainability, colour design.

You’ll be required to submit a portfolio of recent practical work. You’ll also be required to respond to the questions in the supporting statement section of the online application form, including details of the design specialism you wish to study as part of the MA Design.

Please note that meeting the entry requirements of this course doesn't guarantee an offer of a place.

Applying from China

Due to the large numbers of applications we receive, we’re only able to offer places to applicants who have attended selected Chinese institutions. With regret, any applications we receive from applicants awarded a qualification in China from an institution that isn’t on this list will be rejected.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

International students who do not meet the English language requirements for this programme may be able to study our postgraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.

This pre-sessional course is designed with a progression route to your degree programme and you’ll learn academic English in the context of your subject area. To find out more, read Language for Arts and Humanities (6 weeks) and Language for Social Science and Arts: Arts and Humanities (10 weeks).

We also offer online pre-sessionals alongside our on-campus pre-sessionals. Find out more about our six week online pre-sessional.

You can also study pre-sessionals for longer periods – read about our postgraduate pre-sessional English courses.

How to apply

Application deadline:

We operate a staged admissions process for our courses, with selection deadlines throughout the year.

If you do not receive an offer at a particular stage in the process, you will be either notified that your application has been unsuccessful, or that is has been carried forward to be considered at the next stage.

Please see our How to Apply page for full details and the application deadlines for each stage.

The ‘Apply’ link at the top of this page takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.

If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Documents and information you need

  • A copy of your degree certificate and transcripts, or a partial transcript if you’re still studying (please submit an official English translation if necessary)
  • Evidence of your English language qualifications, if English is not your first language
  • A personal statement in response to the questions asked in the supporting statement section of the application form, which explains why you wish to study this particular course and your career plans
  • An electronic link or pdf to your digital portfolio. The portfolio will demonstrate research, idea development and presentation of final concepts for each project. If any group work is included, the candidate must clearly state this and indicate what their individual role in the project was.
  • ​​​​​​​Applicants from non-design backgrounds must also have a portfolio – this can include a variety of materials which you feel best demonstrates your creative ability

Watch a video giving advice on your application

Next steps

Applicants may be invited to attend an interview with the programme manager either by phone, Skype or in person.

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures receives very large numbers of high-quality applications and regrets that it cannot make offers to all of its applicants. Some particularly popular schools may have to reject many that hold the necessary academic qualifications.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Admissions Policy 2025

This course is taught by

School of Design

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Postgraduate Administrator



UK: £15,250 (Total)

International: £30,250 (Total)

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Read more about paying fees and charges.

Additional cost information

There are additional costs of study that students need to cover. We estimate that these additional costs could be as described below, but this amount may vary depending on how you decide to respond to university briefs and the range of materials and techniques you decide to adopt. 

It is possible to undertake project work without incurring additional costs. However, depending on the kinds of projects students elect to undertake, additional individual costs (typically between £0 and £150 per module) might be incurred to cover materials chosen to prototype, print, or craft design artefacts and/or entry and travel costs associated with events, exhibitions, and fieldwork that a student might elect to do.

Equipment and material costs 

Students need to cover the cost of printing their work during the course, including specialist print workshop costs. Students also need to cover costs of copying and supplying their own basic materials (eg pens, pencils, cutting tools, paper, ruler, etc.) and more course specific materials (eg sketchbooks, specialist papers, specialist fabrics, sculpting materials, specialist tools, etc.), as well as print portfolios. 

Computers and digital equipment

To ensure you can make the most of your studies at Leeds, you’ll need to make sure your laptop meets the system requirements for your course.

Some of our courses require the development of work using Adobe Creative and other relevant software. As required by your programme, the School will provide you with a free Adobe CC account when you arrive. We also use a blended learning model where you’ll need to access course materials and video conference using a computer or mobile device (eg laptop, tablet, smartphone). Costs for a laptop will vary depending on the exact specification. You should expect to pay between £800–£2,500. 

If you’re buying a new laptop for your studies, then we recommend that you wait until you’re registered as a student so that you take advantage of discounts given to university students. Delaying purchasing also allows you to find out from your programme leader what you need and what you do not need. Depending on your circumstances you can benefit from a laptop loan or further support from our Financial Assistance Fund.

You’ll also have access to further digital equipment in our studios and using our loan scheme. But, you may decide to purchase your own equipment (from Year 1 or as your studies progress) which will result in additional optional costs. Examples are: Drawing tablet (£50–£500); Digital camera (£200–£1500); etc. 

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more about additional costs. 

Scholarships and financial support 

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There is help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government. Find out more in our Masters funding overview.

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more on our living costs and budgeting page.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

Career opportunities

Flexibility, resilience and transferable skills are desirable attributes for creative industry professionals. In the School of Design, as well as providing you with research led, industry informed subject-specific knowledge, we aim to equip you with the best possible skills for a variety of future careers. Design thinking, combined with excellent research and criticality skills are increasingly valued across a wide range of sectors; therefore, your degree from the University of Leeds opens opportunities across disciplines and multiple industries, as well as in your programme related specialism. Our MA Design graduates find employment in a range of graphic communication and digital design roles, often linked to the areas of specialist practice they have focused on during their studies. Some MA design graduates decide to undertake research degrees.

On completing this course, you’ll have strong visual and critical awareness, as well as integrated research and practical skills for creative problem-solving. You’ll have developed research and critical skills that make you an independent thinker, reflecting critically on the information you have and then drawing your own conclusions. All of these qualities are highly valued by employers in a range of industries. 

Graduates have entered careers in a number of different fields. Many continue with their professional practice, pursuing a variety of careers in graphic design, user experience research, motion design, art direction, UX/UI design, or are well placed to continue in academia though PhD research.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more about Careers support.


You’ll have the opportunity to develop projects in a wide range of topics. These fall into specialisms that reflect the research and expertise of School staff and are increasingly in demand from both industry and research bodies:

  • Colour Design: creative and effective communication of ideas and solutions to problems within the context of colour design, including colour in marketing, branding, packaging, websites and apps, motion, infographics, wayfinding, storytelling, etc. Learn more about colour design on the Colour Group of Great Britain and International Colour Association websites.
  • Digital and Interactive Design: creative and effective communication of ideas and solutions to problems within the context of digital and interactive design, including UI and UX Design, AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) as well as online, social and mobile media channels. Learn more about digital and interactive design on the Design Council website.
  • Graphic and Visual Communication Design: creative and effective communication of ideas and solutions using graphic design language and methods in areas such as editorial design, book design, experimental typography, branding, packaging, poster design, advertising, illustration, photography etc.
  • Information Design: creative and effective communication of information in order to make it easy to access and simple to use, such as health and financial information, instructions for products or services, educational materials, maps and transport routes, signage and wayfinding, data graphics, etc.; and by exploring techniques such as information visualisation, infographics, motion graphics, etc. Learn more about information design on the International Institute for Information Design website.
  • Service Design: creation or improvement of services to make them useful, usable and desirable for people as well as being effective for organisations within business, healthcare, retail, banking, transportation, utilities and other sectors. Some examples of successful cases are: Airbnb, Virgin Atlantic, GOV.UK, Spotify, etc. Learn more about service design on the Design Council website.
  • Social Design: creative and effective solutions to social and economic problems through collaborative working, experimentations and prototyping. Social Design directly benefits social, community, environmental and humanitarian causes with the aim of increasing inclusivity, equality, sustainability, social justice, creativity, etc. Consequently, it also benefits businesses, governments, city councils, communities, and so on. Learn more about social design on the Social Academy Innovation website.
  • Typographic Design: creative and effective communication of ideas and solutions using typography as the main design element and as an inherent part of the design process. Typographic design and legibility are vital in numerous design contexts: design for reading, design for inclusivity (to include people with special needs, with low literacy, older people and children, etc.), as well as design to communicate, to inform, to instruct, to persuade, etc. Learn more about typographic design on the International Society of Typographic Designers website.
  • Interdisciplinary Art and Design: reflects the trend of the increasingly hybrid nature of art and design. Practice that operates at this interface in contemporary culture often provokes diverse audiences to speak out and think critically and creatively. Examples of these integrated/hybrid Art and Design practices might include participatory and community arts/design projects, digital and physical mapping projects, artist books, publication as practice, interpretation of archival and historical materials, speculative design projects, environmental, landscape and place-based work. Here's an exhibition which explores the common ground between design and art.