MA Communication Design

Applications for 2016/17 entry are now closed.

Application for 2017/18 entry will open in November.  Please check back in November when online applications will open for new applicants.  We look forward to receiving your application.

Please note: this course is being redeveloped and will be called MA Graphic Communication Design from September 2016.

If you are a prospective student, you will be applying to MA Graphic Communication Design with an updated curriculum. This page contains information about the current course and tells you most of what you need to know about our environment and philosophy. More specific details about changes to the curriculum will be provided on the new course page as they are finalised. Online applications can be made from either page. 

Graphic Communication Design is the carrier signal for the twenty-first century. MA Communication Design at Central Saint Martins brings together design-led and research driven approaches to an increasingly important practice and field of study. We take a critically informed and widely experimental approach to the production, form, and circulation of knowledge. We facilitate our students to become versatile makers, astute commentators, and positive agents of socio-economic, cultural, and technological change.

This course is part of the: Graphic Communication Design programme

Scholarships, Awards and Funding available:

Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarships:
Home/EU | International

Alan Fletcher Scholarship
Jane Rapley Scholarships

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 are now available for eligible UK and EU students. A full list of eligibility criteria and information on applying can be found on the postgraduate loans webpage.

Reasons to apply

  • We are designers and researchers. We take a hybridised approach to communication. Through a critical engagement with our changing media environment, we transform and extend the traditional practices and tools of graphic design, type and image. We draw on a wide range of fields and disciplines ranging from cultural studies to engineering
  • We collaborate and we challenge. As designers, we seek meaningful change on behalf of a diverse range of communities and publics. Our recent project partners include Camden Council, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Dartington Social Research Unit, Kings College, the Financial Times and Hewlett Packard
  • We are innovators and inventors. You will be challenged to position yourself as a leader. Our graduates have gone on to launch their own studios and publishing companies, work for large-scale institutions and corporations around the world, freelance in their chosen areas, or develop their own new models for design practice. An increasing number of our graduates are following the MA with PhD study and choosing to pursue a design research career
  • We exchange and we engage. Both the Graphic Communication Design Programme at CSM and the Postgraduate Community at University of the Arts London play host to a range of talks and workshops featuring a vibrant range of internationally acclaimed designers and thinkers. Recent visitors and speakers to the college include Jessica Helfand, Fred Deakin, Peter Hall, Nick Bell, Michael Wolff, Connie Fryer, and Prem Krishnamurthy. The programme’s current practitioner in residence is Paul Elliman. Lucienne Roberts and Jack Schulze are our current fellows
  • MA Communication Design has been designed to enable you to pursue your studies whilst also undertaking part-time employment, internships or care responsibilities.


Course Leader

Rebecca Ross

Course Location

King's Cross, London. Tel: +44 (0)20 7514 7023

Study LevelPostgraduate
Study ModeFull time
Course LengthFull time: 2 years (60 weeks)
Home/EU Fee

Tuition fees for 2016/17: £4,900 per year.

Please note that fees for second year of study will be subject to inflationary increase.

£500 per annum discount for all students who have completed a PG Dip/Cert or an undergraduate course including Grad Dip/Cert, at UAL.

You can pay course tuition fees in instalments for this course. 

Use our Fees and Funding Calculator to estimate how much your studies may cost you in your first year, and what funding may be available to you.

International Fee

Tuition fees for 2016/17: £12,365 per year.

£500 per annum discount for all students who have completed a PG Dip/Cert or an undergraduate course including Grad Dip/Cert, at UAL.

You can pay course tuition fees in instalments for this course. 

Use our Fees and Funding Calculator to estimate how much your studies may cost you in your first year, and what funding may be available to you.

Start DateSeptember 2016
Autumn Term DatesMonday 26 September 2016 – Friday 9 December 2016
Spring Term DatesMonday 9 January 2017 – Friday 17 March 2017
Summer Term DatesTuesday 18 April 2017 – Friday 23 June 2017
Application Route

Direct application

Content and structure

In 1964, Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously flattened the distinction between ‘medium’ and ‘message’ and our understanding of communication has never been the same since. In the same year, British designer Ken Garland published the first version of the 'First Things First Manifesto' in which he challenged a new generation of graphic designers to reclaim purpose and meaning. Fifty years later, the time has come to more fully integrate and thus amplify these two powerful proclamations.

As the 'operating system of the 21st century', communication design touches every sphere of human and political interest, impacting profoundly on culture, technology, social justice, economics, the built environment, globalisation, policy, sustainability and much more. MA Communication Design promotes a shared exploration of an ever-changing subject whilst encouraging and supporting the development of individually negotiated projects.

Unit 1: Shared Language

This unit acts as an induction into the college and the subject. You will participate in a range of taught coursework including design briefs, workshop introductions, and history and theory lectures. Alongside studio activities, you will engage in research and writing tasks. By working with academic staff and students from varied professional, cultural and academic backgrounds, you will be challenged to recognize and refine your practice’s critical position in relation to an evolving field. This initiates a major project that will become a basis for transforming your practice.

Unit 2: Communication question

The emphasis of this unit is interrogation of both your practice and the broader field. Tutorials and critiques focus on continuing your development of a well-contextualized body of written and visual outcomes. Through independent projects, you are facilitated to develop and refine your unique position as a designer. Towards the end of the course, you will present your work at a college-hosted symposium.  This event is an occasion for considering how you are contributing to the formation and re-formation of the subject of communication design via your own practice as well as how you engage with the field more broadly. To conclude the course, you will work in partnership with fellow students to design and exhibit your work at a degree show open to the public.

About the course

MA Communication Design is offered in a two-year, 60-week, extended full-time (EFT) mode.

MA Communication Design is credit-rated at 180 credits, and comprises two units. Unit 1 (60 credits) lasts 20 weeks and includes a range of taught coursework. Unit 2 (120 credits) lasts for 40 weeks, from term 3 in year one, and contains regular formative assessment opportunities.

Students must pass both units to be considered for the award of MA, but the classification of the award of MA derives from your mark for Unit 2 only.

We expect you to commit approximately 30 hours to your studies per week. In year 1, taught delivery is normally timetabled across three days per week including self-directed study. In year two your study is predominantly self-managed and is supported by regular supervisory points of contact.


Course Leader: Dr. Rebecca Ross

Programme Leader: Rebecca Wright

Graphic Communication Design Lecturer: Luise Vormittag
Graphic Communication Design Lecturer: Jaap de Maat

Associate Lecturer: Sheena Calvert
Associate Lecturer: Marcus Leis Alion
Associate Lecturer: Paul Finn
Associate Lecturer: Max Colson
Associate Lecturer: Ken Hollings
Associate Lecturer: Andrea Lioy

Typography Subject Leader: Professor Phil Baines
Printmaking & Bookbinding Subject Leader: Douglas Bevans
Advertising Subject Leader: Clive Challis
Moving Image Subject Leader: Esteban Gitton
Illustration Subject Leader: Andrew Hall
Context Subject Leader: Dr Paul Rennie
Photography Subject Leader: Gary Wallis

Practitioner in Residence: Paul Elliman

Visiting Practitioner: Guglielmo Rossi


We are interested in the possibilities of visual form, but not as an end point in and of itself. It's more affordable and accessible to print a newspaper or a book, publish a web page, or shoot and edit a video than it's ever been before. We find this democratisation of media to be exciting, but it leads us to ask, what then becomes of design?

By asking important questions such as why we do design, what it means, and where it’s taking us, graduates of MA Communication Design are well equipped to take a creative approach to building their futures. Their activities and achievements in turn transform the possibilities of the broader field. 

For details of the wide range of careers support provided to students, please visit the Student Jobs And Careers section.

Entry requirements

Selection to MA Communication Design is determined by the quality of your application (including a written statement and supporting material). You'll also need to meet the minimum entry requirements as indicated below, but please note that these qualifications alone won't be sufficient to secure entry to the course. 

Minimum entry requirements

We consider applicants who have already achieved an educational level equivalent to an Honours degree. You can demonstrate this educational level by:

  • Having a relevant Honours degree or an equivalent academic qualification
  • Having a professional qualification recognised as equivalent to an Honours degree
  • Evidence of experiential learning equivalent to a degree
  • A combination of formal qualifications and experiential learning that, taken together, can be shown to be equivalent to formal qualifications otherwise required.

English language requirement 

All classes are conducted in English. If English is not your first language, we strongly recommend you send us an English language test score together with your application to prove your level of proficiency. If you have booked a test or are awaiting your results, please clearly indicate this on your application form. When you have received your test score, please send it to us immediately. The standard English language requirement for entry is IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in any one paper, or equivalent. For further information visit the Language Centre website.

Applicants who will need a Tier 4 General Student Visa should check the External English Tests page which provides important information about UK Border Agency (UKBA) requirements.

What we look for

MA Communication Design is aimed at graduates with a suitable background in any creative discipline. This includes graphic design, photography, illustration, film, or a similar studio-based discipline or a high level of achievement in any related academic field. Immediately related academic fields include media and communication studies but applications are invited from backgrounds ranging from engineering to anthropology.

Students applying with an undergraduate degree in art and design, in addition to demonstrating a depth of craft and visual agility in their portfolio, should demonstrate an interest in and capacity for approaching their work from an intellectually informed perspective.

Students applying without a relevant studio background at degree level do not necessarily need to submit polished design work but will need to demonstrate a capacity for meaningful visual experimentation.

We value flexibility, self-awareness, independence, and open-ness to new ways of thinking and making

Student selection criteria

In the first instance, we will assess your application and supporting materials according to the following criteria:

  • Creative intelligence and aesthetic sensitivity demonstrated by design portfolio
  • Flexibility, self-awareness and ability to think critically
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Awareness and understanding of the field
  • Personal vision and a sense of purpose
  • Relevant previous experience
  • Alignment of personal aims and objectives to the course

If we are considering offering you a place, we will invite you for interview.

Portfolio and interview advice

References and interviews help determine whether your personal and professional aspirations are compatible with the aims and outcomes of the postgraduate course. The interview also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate an objective, critical and reflective relationship to your work. If possible, it's a good idea to bring examples of current work.

How to apply

Applications for September 2016 entry are now closed.

You can apply for this course using our online application form – the link to this is below. Before you apply, we recommend you take some time to read the following details about the application process, including guidance on the extra information we will ask you to provide.

Required information for all postgraduate course applications

You will need to enter the following information in the online application form:

  • Personal details (including full name; date of birth; nationality; permanent address and English language level)
  • Current and/or previous education and qualification details
  • Employment history
  • Referee details (this course requires two, one of which should be an academic or professional reference). 

Before you can submit the form, you’ll also need to agree to the terms and conditions for how we process your data – these are explained in the form.

Extra information required for applications to this course

Once you have submitted the form, you will receive a confirmation email that includes links to where you should submit the extra information we require for the selection process:

Personal statement

You’ll need to submit a personal statement addressing the following (200-250 words on each):

  • What are your motivations for applying to MA Communication Design at Central Saint Martins? What kind of background, skills, interests and ambitions would you bring to your studies?
  • Choose any work of design or art (besides your own) that you think is important. Explain to us why you believe the chosen work is important and how it relates to your own academic or design practice. You may wish to reference relevant literature.


Please submit a PDF portfolio of between 15 and 40 pages: The first 1-2 pages of the portfolio should be a current CV detailing all professional and academic experience. For academic credentials, please include any marks or grades. Your CV should be followed by images from between 5 and 10 projects that demonstrate your interests and experience. Please provide captions or short explanations that put things into context but keep them brief (a sentence or two). If you have worked on a project as part of a group or team, be sure to indicate the specific nature of your role or involvement in the particular project. Feel free to include hyperlinks to web-sites, videos, or other media on the internet.

Note that the portfolio form does not allow you to upload files. Please upload your PDF to a personal web site or online service of your choice (such as dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive) and provide us with the URL for direct download. A PDF is strongly preferred to any other web-based format.

Start your application now

Applications can be submitted throughout the year. Places are limited, however, so we advise you to submit your application as early as possible (March/April) to avoid disappointment. We start interviews in February.

The application form can be saved as you fill it out, so you don’t need to complete it all at once. You will also have the chance to review all the information and make any necessary amendments before you submit the application form.

We will send you emails as you progress through the application process, so do check your inbox (and junk folder, just in case). These emails will contain important information about your application, and links to the online forms you should use to submit the extra information required.

What happens next?

We read and consider all application forms and personal references. Please note in making selections for interview, we give particular attention to your portfolio, personal statement and references.

Subject to your meeting the entry requirements and consideration of your application form, preliminary selection is based on your communication programme of study documentation of work and supporting information. You may then be invited to attend an interview. For candidates applying for external funding, interviews will be scheduled prior to funding body deadlines.

Can’t attend the interview

If you’re a home/EU or international applicant unable to attend for interview, the MA Communication Design Course Leader would hope to discuss your application by telephone or email.

In the case of applicants unable to attend for interview and unable to discuss their application by telephone or email, a decision regarding the offer of a place on the course will be made on the basis of a review of the application materials. We keep notes about decisions made following the initial application review and the interview process.

Selection is by the Course Leader and offers of places are made on the basis of our selection criteria. Applicants are informed of the decision via either the Student Administration or the International Office.

Open days 

Open days are a great opportunity to meet staff and students and to find out at first hand about courses, teaching and student life. Visit the open day section for dates to book your session. Bookings can only be made online, not by phone or email.

Industry collaborations

The Graphic Communication Design Programme offers a variety of optional client briefs that students may wish to become engaged with as a supplement to their main studies.

Working with paying clients on live briefs will give you valuable commercial experience which may mean your work being taken forward for production or, if so desired, in the purchase of your intellectual property. All paid projects are conducted within a carefully developed legal framework, which includes student agreements to protect your work and help you realise its commercial value. 

Recent client projects in the Graphic Communication Design Programme include: TetraPak, Karstadt, Sony Music, Beefeater Gin, Fabriano, Kagome, Hewlett Packard, Tod's and Fresh. Find out more about the Lacoste client project. 

Once you’ve graduated, you may be picked as part of a small team to work on a live creative brief, organised by our Business and Innovation department, under the supervision of an experienced tutor. This can be a valuable first step in working professionally in a chosen discipline and has resulted in graduates being hired by clients.

Enquire about this course

If you haven’t found the information you’re looking for or want to ask us a question about this course, please fill out our enquiry form.

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