Digital Design Futures 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

Masters student trying oculus rift

Through the Digital Design Futures course, you will acquire the necessary theoretical understanding and practical skills to thrive in the fast-paced and ever-changing field of digital design. This course will expose you to the theories of immersion while providing hands-on experience with the latest software and hardware in our dedicated studio, XLAB. By using design thinking and human-centered design principles, you will develop the ability to create systems and solutions that effectively cater to the needs of your target audiences.

Furthermore, you will develop an entrepreneurial mindset that enables you to leverage the creative possibilities presented by emerging technologies such as VR/AR/MR, IoT, AI, and UX, as well as the vast opportunities provided by big data. You will explore how XR and AI can enhance creative processes and generate new possibilities.

Through collaborations with industries and third-sector organizations across the UK, you will gain insights into the diverse applications of technology in sectors such as branding and marketing, retail and fashion, and health education.

As the global demand for digital skills continues to rise, this course offers a unique opportunity to unleash your creative potential and align your skillset with the evolving needs of industry and society. Upon graduation, you will be ready and equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to forge a successful career in the exciting and innovative digital design sector.

The School of Design is ranked 5th in the UK for art and design (Complete University Guide 2024), providing you with access to timely world-leading expertise in the field. You will also be provided with:

  • the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience by working directly with the latest software and hardware in our state-of-the-art studio XLAB. Through a series of creative projects, you will apply your skills in a practical setting.
  • projects that adhere to industry standards.
  • training workshops and support to strengthen your XR developments.

Specialist facilities

We offer a wide range of facilities at the School of Design to ensure that you can maximize your time here. Our immersive technology lab (XLAB) is equipped with an impressive array of resources that are available for your project development. The lab provides standalone VR/MR headsets, allowing you to create and test various XR prototypes. Additionally, we have advanced research facilities such as an eye-tracking measurement system with mobile glasses, which enables us to understand how users interact with your design solutions. Our EEG (electroencephalography) equipment helps us study user interactions within the VR environment.

Furthermore, our lighting and colour lab is equipped with state-of-the-art tools for color measurement and communication, allowing exploration of color's role in the design and retail industry, as well as the impact of light on health and well-being. To support your idea development, we have a laser cutting and 3D printing workshop available.

In addition to these facilities, the School provides various forms of support to enhance your student experience and prepare you for the professional world. This includes access to dedicated software, comprehensive technical induction programs, free LinkedIn Learning tutorials, and the opportunity to engage with visiting speakers who are renowned figures from industry or other institutions around the world.

Course details

Semester 1:

During your first semester, you will explore current thinking on design research and a range of research methods with practical applications in design. You will also learn about experiential practice and designing for immersion and engagement, which will help develop your digital design approach. We will critically examine the nature of the design discipline, allowing you to address the impact of new technologies such as VR, AR/MR, and AI in a critical and creative manner. How can these technologies enhance our creative processes, and what new opportunities and applications can they bring? Furthermore, we will consider the implications of using these technologies for addressing the needs of individuals and how they can be utilized to better meet those needs.

In addition, you will be introduced to various creative uses of these technologies in design through the examination of case studies and talks by practitioners in different design fields. You will also be introduced to immersive experiences that effectively engage users, while exploring the principles of 3D modeling and XR development. By mastering these skills, you can create seamless experiences that facilitate engagement.

Semester 2:

You’ll continue to explore immersion and engagement theory and knowledge in your second semester, as well as design speculation. This includes engaging in creative problem-solving scenarios around certain design problems or situations.

Semester 3:

The third semester will focus on the delivery of your final project. You will receive support throughout the project journey from a dedicated member of staff who will guide you and provide feedback on your work. By the end of the third semester, you will have developed and delivered a specialized project focused on a digital design solution.

The Programme Leader for this course is Dr Hosam Al-Samarraie.

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

Research Methods for Digital Design Futures (15 credits)
This module will review current thinking on design research and will introduce a range of research methods with practical application to digital design futures, which may be employed in the student's specialist project. Social and ethical issues will be discussed. Students will read widely on their topic and select the most relevant sources.

Designing for Immersion & Engagement (45 credits)
This module explores the implications of increased deployment of technologies such as VR, AR/MR, and AI in the field of design. We will critically examine the nature of design as a discipline to enable you to creatively address the impact of these emerging technologies. The module will investigate how VR, AR/MR, and AI can enhance our creative processes and uncover new opportunities for application. It will also delve into the significance of these technologies for addressing people's needs and how they can be leveraged to better meet those needs. Through the analysis of case studies and presentations by industry practitioners, you will gain insights into the diverse creative applications of VR, AR/MR, and AI in design.

Experiential Practice (30 credits)
This module will introduce you to design principles for user experience, user interface, and interaction design, covering technologies and platforms such as mobile apps, embedded computing, virtual and augmented reality. You will engage in lectures, tutorials and online learning material, as well as individual and collaborative practical sessions in the lab. Through experiential practice, you will combine knowledge on existing principles, practices, and underlying theories with first-hand experiences in a reflective manner. You will also conceptualise and prototype solutions, in a hands-on approach, to a variety of scenarios across different sectors, such as entertainment, healthcare, and science, while keep a recording of their rationale and creative process.

Design Speculation (30 credits)
Speculative design is a design practice whereby designers use critical thinking to rethink current systems, products and ways of living to produce alternative tangible futures which can then be interrogated by stakeholders. In this module through lectures and case studies, you will be introduced to this area of design practice and will use the acquired knowledge to produce a creative speculative project.

Specialist Project (60 credits)
In this module, you will explore the potential of digital, interactive, and immersive techniques for branding and third sector organizations, and learn how to apply this knowledge in commercial or social contexts. The module offers you the opportunity to showcase your critical and creative expertise by delving into a specific issue or topic within this field of design. Through advanced study and the development of a self-selected creative project, you will demonstrate your mastery in addressing and tackling relevant challenges.

Learning and teaching

Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, tutorials, oral presentations, practical experimentation, prototyping, and online discussion. The programme also places a strong emphasis on research-based learning in each of the modules. The curriculum requires traditional academic research in the form of literature reviews, market surveys, critical analysis, primary field research (participant observation, interviews) as well as design/development research (co-creation).

Creative and critical problem solving is central to 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 workshops 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 for your classes. You’ll attend lectures which are carefully designed to invite engagement and participation, seminars to enable you to delve deeper into key topics, workshops to experiment and learn practical and creative skills, and tutorials so that you can discuss your work in progress. Your module tutors have dedicated office hours, which means there’s always the opportunity to ask questions. 

A typical week may include in-person and online study which 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. This is space where you can reflect and critique materials from taught sessions, including further reading, writing, and creative development. You will be guided through this process by your tutors to help you develop your knowledge and research skills. The ability to work independently is a key skill to your development as a creative and professional thinker. You’ll also have the ongoing support of your Academic Personal Tutor.  

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 academic proposals, design portfolios, online exhibition, presentations as well as more traditional essays. 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 design solutions in response to problem-based issues. 

The nature of assessment will change as you progress and develop throughout your programme.  

  • In Semester 1, your assessments will assess your ability to critically and creatively evaluate current design issues, research and advanced scholarship in the discipline. 
  • In Semester 2, your assessments will examine how you use convergent and divergent thinking in the processes of observation, investigation, speculative enquiry, visualisation and/or making. 
  • In Semester 3, you will undertake a specialist project which will require you to demonstrate in-depth, specialist knowledge and mastery of techniques to your design solution. 

You will be provided with formative and summative assessment throughout your study period. 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, 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.  


Entry requirements

Bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) or higher, or equivalent qualification, preferably in art and design, architecture, product design, computer science, social science, business, healthcare and psychology.

You will need to submit an online portfolio of your digital design work (eg, 3D/2D modeling work, Web/mobile design projects, and other digital design ideas and concepts) when applying for this course.

You are also expected to answer the questions in the supporting statement section of the online application form, including insights about the skills and digital design specialism you wish to gain from this course.

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.

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

Contact us

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

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/if 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 £500 - £2,500. You might also consider buying an external drive to back-up your work on a regular basis, which may incur another additional £50 - £150. Alternatively you can choose to store your work using cloud storage or your personal M:Drive, provided by the University.

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.

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

Immersion and Engagement Design is a rapidly growing field of employment in diverse sectors such as entertainment, education, architecture, and healthcare. The sector is experiencing significant growth in response to the widespread adoption of digital technologies both in the UK and internationally. With a digital component present in almost every industry and service, there is a growing demand for expertise in this area. This course not only prepares you to become highly desirable candidates for established design companies but also empowers you to establish your own start-ups and consultancies.

Given the strong theoretical foundation of this program and the numerous research opportunities in this field, it is anticipated that a number of you will choose to pursue a PhD, potentially remaining within the XLAB.

Furthermore, we aim to develop you as the future workforce by reinforcing your core skills and competencies, which are fundamental to Design and in high demand. Our graduates will be equipped with skills that have been identified by the World Economic Forum as essential for future employers across all sectors. This will make you versatile and well-rounded professionals, with skills such as problem-solving, abstract and strategic thinking, critical thinking, creativity, and an understanding of human perception.

On successful completion of the course, you will have the opportunity to pursue roles in various areas such as UI and UX design, interaction design, game design, concept design, and VR/AR/MR design and development.

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.