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MA Narrative Environments

Two hands emerging through hole in a pink screen holding a green item
Image courtesy of UAL, Setup by Lucy Hayhoe in the photographic studios. Photo: Alys Tomlinson
Central Saint Martins
Start date
September 2024
Course length
Two years (60 weeks)
Extended full-time

MA Narrative Environments designs spatial stories.

This course is still open to applications and will remain open until all places are filled.

Applying for more than 1 course

You can apply for more than 1 postgraduate course at UAL but we recommend that you apply for no more than 3. Find out more in the Apply Now section.

Narrative environments are spatial stories that can be found across cultural, civic, technological and digital spaces. Narrative environments activate dynamic histories, forward immersive presents and propose futures. On this course, you will develop theoretical and practical expertise in designing narrative environments. Working across spatial design, speculative design, social and systems design, you will learn to compose interactive stories that explore systems and phenomena of science, technology, politics, society and culture in new ways. Narrative environments is part of the Spatial Practices programme.

Why choose this course at Central Saint Martins

  • Live projects: The course offers opportunities for live projects. Previously, this has included work with Arup, European Space Agency, National Trust, London Festival of Architecture, Camden Council, Cisco, LVMH, Southbank Centre and Volkswagen.
  • Wide-ranging practice: You will work on a range of design projects – taking up narratives in and about cities and infrastructure, public culture, social innovation, technological systems and climate change. You will draw upon design methodologies from speculative design, spatial design, graphics, systems design, experience design, social and participatory design, and interaction design. This will help you to define your future career in either the commercial, cultural or creative industries or continue to PhD study.
  • Industry mentorship: You will learn from leading industry figures. We will help you connect with a mentor who can support you at key moments in your studies, providing you with real-world, professional advice.
  • Industry placement: You will have the opportunity to undertake a work placement or industry case study. This could be in a design company, an architect’s practice, a museum or a related business or government organisation, giving you a sense of the global market for jobs in narrative environments.

Open days

There are currently no open days scheduled for this course, please check back at a later date.


Watch a recording of the recent MA Narrative Environments open day.

Scholarships, bursaries and awards

Course overview

Based within CSM’s Spatial Practices Programme, MA Narrative Environments is a two-year course focused on the research and development of environments in which narratives unfold. Narrative environments are platforms, scenarios, and interfaces for communicating information, researching and testing possibilities, hosting events and experiences, and/ or generating diverse forms of intelligences. Narratives include not only stories, but rhetoric, discourse, and programs related to human and non-human communication, including non-human languages, biosemiotics, artificial intelligences/machine learning and large language models. Environments include interior and exterior, physical and digital spaces and temporalities, and synthetic-natural ecological systems across scales. The course researches and develops narrative environments as immersive and interactive systems and hybrid spaces that propose, model, simulate, plan, construct, and/or perform alternative infrastructures, ideologies and worlds.  

MA Narrative Environments explores the interplay between situational and speculative knowledge about narratives and environments as they are, have been, and what they might become. We start by charting and understanding the narrative environments that we find ourselves within today, critically demythologising, deconstructing, decolonising, and decommodifying the dominant narratives that we are told and sold about who we are and what the rest of the world is. Observational analysis and systems mapping practice is then developed through counterfactuals and speculative histories, incorporating critical analysis into future propositions for infrastructures, ideologies, and immersive worlds. 

Key research questions include: How are narrative environments transmitted and distributed across space and time? How do technologies shape narrative environments and how do narrative environments shape technologies? How do narrative environments change in the shift from screen-based narratives to spatial narratives embedded throughout cities, landscapes, virtual interfaces, and model worlds? What kinds of places can and should be narrated that aren’t, and what ideologies are reinforced by narratives that shouldn’t be? How do the tools and understandings of narrative environments reshape architecture, infrastructure, science, technology, and planning? How do narrative environments mobilize and complexify facts and fictions, models and simulations, needs and desires?   

 What to Expect 

  • The course is particularly focused on narrative environments as shaping and shaped by technology and media. Through critical and speculative design projects, we research the integration of digital and analogue contexts through experiential and experimental interfaces, spatial computing, alternative infrastructures, and environments and discourses that frame and re-frame the possible worlds of humans and nonhumans alike. 
  • The course teaches and deploys design methods from across disciplines relevant to narrative environments, including storyboarding and story matrices, user experience and user interaction, narrative devices, worlding and worldbuilding, improv/ performance, media, gaming, etc. We use multiple time-based media at various scope and scale—text, sound, video, projection AR/ VR, etc. 
  • The course takes a highly philosophical and highly practical approach to narrative environment design. The course’s seminars draw readings and references from disciplines as diverse as design, science and technology studies, spatial analysis, human-computer interaction, film, theatre, and performance, anthropology, and philosophy. The course also teaches practical skills in design production related to budgets, project management, IP, collaboration, negotiation, and proposal composition. The course offers introductions to a variety of techniques for developing narrative environments; students work independently to determine and develop tools that are important to support their individual practice and advance them through project-driven tutorials with CSM’s media lab. 
  • The course cohort is collaborative, interdisciplinary and international. Students come from global backgrounds and diverse disciplines. Students collaborate across the cohort to complement, develop, and enhance their skillsets and interests across design domains.

Industry Experience and Opportunities 

In the first year of the course, students work on live projects with partners from across industry, academia, and government sectors. These briefs include the creation of new interfaces, experiences, interactions, platforms and scenarios. At the end of the first year, students undertake an industry study that connects them within an organization or organizations across their field of interest, and begin to chart their own research interests. In the second year, students lead the research and development of a narrative environment, facilitating collaborations and partnerships throughout the process.

MA Narrative Environments alumni go on to work in many diverse fields, bringing skills in both narrative and environment development to architecture and urban/ international development, foresight and futures, design strategy, UX/UI, sets and production design, tech, and experience/ spatial design for culture, brands, and events/festivals. The course hosts lectures and workshops with speculative designers and thinkers on narrative and environments from across the world to complement the range of perspectives delivered through project briefs with industry partners.   

Course units

Unit 1: Foundations 
This Unit develops foundations for the design of narrative environments through a series of rapid intensive projects that introduce philosophical, social, and technological propositions, narrative devices, and environmental research and development. These projects introduce design strategies and techniques that shape narrative environments and explore tools and frameworks for understanding constructions of space and time. Methods include systems mapping and analysis, speculative scenarios, and strategic design communications.  
Unit 2: Collaborative Practices for Common Good 
This Unit is focused on cross-college collaborations and collaborative practice. MA Narrative Environments students collaborate with students from another CSM course on a project brief with partners from industry, government, or academia. The design briefs in this unit typically explore the social impact of emerging technologies, scientific research, or alternative architectures. Key insights include interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, ethical practice, and feedback.  
Unit 3: Major Project Research
This Unit focuses on narrative environment research, helping students explore foundational ideas and practices that will help them develop their own Major Project. 

Part 1: Fieldwork (Summer Term YR1) 

  • Students work on a design brief that draws inspiration from site research, focused on the ways of integrating local and planetary knowledges to shape creative storytelling. 

Part 2: Industry Study (Summer Term YR1)

  • Students develop their professional network through placements, interviews with partners or surveys of the field, or participation on special projects or events.  

Part 3: Design Research (Autumn Term YR2)  

  • Students engage a specific site, scenario, or environment that provides foundational research for their Major Project. Working individually or collectively, students develop a Research Study that traces their topic, charting theoretical influences and identifying possible interventions. The study can be delivered in various written modalities – from anthropological to fictional, with visual or auditory supports welcome and includes design prototypes that test early experiments with a variety of design directions. 

Unit 4: Major Project Development & Presentation
This Unit focuses on the design, realisation and communication of a major design project or a written philosophical study of a historical or theoretical aspect of narrative environments. Students focus on designing, prototyping, producing and presenting a major project that engages the environments identified in their site research, often in-situ. Students then present representations of that project through media assets in the final Showcase.

Important note concerning academic progression through your course: 
If you are required to retake a unit you will need to cease further study on the course until you have passed the unit concerned. Once you have successfully passed this unit, you will be able to proceed onto the next unit. Retaking a unit might require you to take time out of study, which could affect other things such as student loans or the visa status for international students. 
Mode of Study 

The course is delivered in extended full-time mode over two years.  
Students will be expected to commit 30 hours per week to study, which includes teaching time and independent study. 

Credit and award requirements 

The course is credit-rated at 180 credits.

On successfully completing the course, you will gain a Master of Arts (MA degree).

Under the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, an MA is Level 7. All units must be passed in order to achieve the MA but the classification of the award is derived from the mark for the final unit only. 

If you are unable to continue on the course, a Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert) will normally be offered following the successful completion of 60 credits, or a Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip) following the successful completion of 120 credits.

We are committed to developing ethical narrative environment practices. To achieve this, we are working to embed UAL's Principles for Climate, Social and Racial Justice into the course.

Learning and teaching methods

The learning and teaching methods devised for this course include:

  • Briefings 
  • Lectures  
  • Seminars 
  • Group Tutorials 
  • Individual Tutorials 
  • Workshops 
  • Field Trips & Site Visits  
  • Self-reflection  

UAL Showcase

Explore work by our recent students on the UAL Showcase

    PROPITAT, Yutzu Lai, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Consuming Landscapes
    Consuming Landscapes, Rachel Payne, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Noisy Neighbour
    Noisy Neighbour, CHENCHEN MA, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Distributed Currents: an AR Narrative experience
    Distributed Currents: an AR Narrative experience, HUIXIN REN, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • TAIWANIT: Taiwanese Identity Unfurled
    TAIWANIT: Taiwanese Identity Unfurled, Fei Hsuan Chuang, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • DUMPLAY Midnight Food Stall
    DUMPLAY Midnight Food Stall, Vector Huang, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Code Breakers
    Code Breakers, Chenguang Liu, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Vexed Run
    Vexed Run, Gyuri Lee, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL
  • Eulogy for the International Space Station
    Eulogy for the International Space Station, Ruxing Xiao, 2023 MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, UAL

Course publications

Narrative Environments stories

410 Gone

410 Gone




Tutors: Alice Bucknell, Tom Butler, Claire Healy, Ingrid Hu, Sitraka Rakatonianina, Jan Rose

Fees and funding

Home fee

£7,680 per year

This fee is correct for 2024/25 entry and is subject to change for 2025/26 entry.

Tuition fees may increase in future years for new and continuing students on courses lasting more than one year. For this course, you can pay tuition fees in instalments.

Home fees are currently charged to UK nationals and UK residents who meet the rules. However, the rules are complex. Find out more about our tuition fees and determining your fee status.

International fee

£20,505 per year

This fee is correct for 2024/25 entry and is subject to change for 2025/26 entry.

Tuition fees may increase in future years for new and continuing students on courses lasting more than one year. For this course, you can pay tuition fees in instalments.

Students from countries outside of the UK will generally be charged international fees. The rules are complex so read more about tuition fees and determining your fee status.

Scholarship search

Entry requirements

The standard entry requirements for this course are as follows:

  • An honours degree in a relevant field: architecture, exhibitions, graphics, interiors, performance, retail, spatial, theatre, 3D, multimedia or interaction design, experience design, speculative design, design strategy, social or service design, gaming environment, science communications, museum studies or curatorship, writing, literature, and design management  
  • Or an equivalent EU/international qualification

And normally at least one year of relevant professional experience.

For further advice on entry requirements contact Stephanie Sherman, Course Leader For further advice on fees, financing and scholarships please contact

APEL - Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning

Exceptionally applicants who do not meet these course entry requirements may still be considered. The course team will consider each application that demonstrates additional strengths and alternative evidence. This might, for example, be demonstrated by:

  • Related academic or work experience
  • The quality of the personal statement
  • A strong academic or other professional reference

Or a combination of these factors.

Each application will be considered on its own merit but cannot guarantee an offer in each case.

English language requirements

IELTS level 6.5 or above, with at least 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking (please check our main English language requirements webpage).

Selection criteria

We select applicants according to potential and current ability in the following areas:

  • Skills and knowledge in your own discipline and preferably some examples of post college work in your particular field(s) of interest
  • Work demonstrating engagement with narrative in a spatial context, whether that is a real, mediated, or virtual space
  • A reflective and critical approach
  • Evidence and experience of teamwork
  • Self-motivation, ambition and a commitment to the course.

What we are looking for

We actively seek students who want to investigate the future of narrative environments and grow their expertise within the creative, cultural and commercial sectors. We are especially interested in students interested in engaging with philosophy, technology, and society. We seek resourceful, talented and ambitious individuals who work well in multidisciplinary teams. The college's strong international profile is reflected in the broad cultural mix of our students and our international studio placements and exchanges.

Apply now

Application deadline


Round 1:

13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)

Round 2:

3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)

Digital portfolio and video task deadline

Round 1:

16 January 2024

Round 2:

16 April 2024

Decision outcome

Round 1:

End of March 2024

Round 2:

End of June 2024

Round 1
Round 2
13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)
3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)
Digital portfolio and video task deadline
16 January 2024
16 April 2024
Decision outcome
End of March 2024
End of June 2024

The deadline has now passed. However, this course is still open to applications and will remain open until all places are filled.

Read more about deadlines

Apply now

Application deadline


Round 1:

13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)

Round 2:

3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)

Digital portfolio and video task deadline

Round 1:

16 January 2024

Round 2:

16 April 2024

Decision outcome

Round 1:

End of March 2024

Round 2:

End of June 2024

Round 1
Round 2
13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)
3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)
Digital portfolio and video task deadline
16 January 2024
16 April 2024
Decision outcome
End of March 2024
End of June 2024

The deadline has now passed. However, this course is still open to applications and will remain open until all places are filled.

Read more about deadlines

Apply to UAL

Start your application

Apply with a UAL Representative

Based across the world, our local UAL representatives can support you with your application from your home country. Check to see if there is a representative available in your country currently.

Find your representative

How to apply

Follow this step-by-step guide to apply for this course

Step 1: Initial application

You will need to submit an initial application including your personal statement and CV.

Personal statement advice

Your personal statement should be maximum 500 words and include:

  • your reasons for choosing the course
  • your current creative practice and how this course will help you achieve your future plans
  • any relevant education and experience, especially if you do not have any formal academic qualifications.

Visit our personal statement page for more advice.

CV advice

Please provide a CV detailing your education, qualifications and any relevant work or voluntary experience. If you have any web projects or other media that you would like to share, please include links in your CV. If English is not your first language, please also include your most recent English language test score.

Step 2: Video task and Digital portfolio

We will review your initial application. If you have met the standard entry requirements, we will ask you to submit a digital portfolio.

You’ll need to submit this via PebblePad, our online portfolio tool.

Video task advice

We’d like you to submit a 2-3 minute video to help us learn more about you. When recording your task, please face the camera and speak in English.

What to include in your video task:

  • Tell us about your interest in narrative environments and your experience creating them.
  • Explain how your experiences have inspired you to apply to MA Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins. You may want to use a project from your portfolio to help you contextualise your reasoning for applying to this course.

Read our guidance for how to submit your video task and which file types we accept.

Digital portfolio advice

Your portfolio should consist of recent work that reflects your creative strengths.

It should:

  • be maximum 25 pages, including your video task
  • include images of visual work such as diagrams, visualisations, photographs, collages or graphics
  • include research and development material that demonstrates your creative process
  • a wide variety of work depending on your discipline. This could include videos, animation, writing samples etc.

For more support, see our Portfolio advice and PebblePad advice.

Step 3: Interview

You may be invited to an interview following our review of your application. All interviews are held online and last 15 to 20 minutes.

For top tips, see our Interview advice.

You also need to know

Communicating with you

Once you have submitted your initial application, we will email you with your login details for our Applicant portal.

Requests for supplementary documents like qualifications and English language tests will be made through the applicant portal. You can also use it to ask questions regarding your application. Visit our After you apply page for more information.

Applying to more than 1 course

You can apply for more than 1 postgraduate course at UAL but we recommend that you apply for no more than 3 courses. You need to tailor your application, supporting documents and portfolio to each course, so applying for many different courses could risk the overall quality of your application. If you receive offers for multiple courses, you'll only be able to accept 1 offer. UAL doesn't accept repeat applications to the same course in the same academic year.

Visas and immigration history check

All non-UK nationals must complete an immigration history check. Your application may be considered by our course teams before this check takes place. This means that we may request your portfolio and/or video task before we identify any issues arising from your immigration history check. Sometimes your history may mean that we are not able to continue considering your application. Visit our Immigration and visas advice page for more information.

External student transfer policy

UAL accepts transfers from other institutions on a case-by-case basis. Read our Student transfer policy for more information.

Alternative offers

If your application is really strong, but we believe your strengths and skillset are better suited to a different course, we may make you an alternative offer. This means you will be offered a place on a different course or at a different UAL College.

Deferring your place

We do not accept any deferral requests for our postgraduate courses. This means that you must apply in the year that you plan to start your course and you will not be able to defer your place to start at a later date.

Application deadlines

For postgraduate courses at UAL there are 2 equal consideration deadlines to ensure fairness for all our applicants. If you apply ahead of either of these deadlines, your application will be considered on an equal basis with all other applications in that round. If there are places available after the second deadline, the course will remain open to applications until places have been filled.


MA Narrative Environments extends and enhances your employment opportunities in sectors such as exhibition, event, retail and interpretive design, visitor centre development, curating, scripting and creative direction, film and TV production, architecture, new media and interaction design, brand development and design for corporate environments.

The postgraduate course also addresses the need for advanced research in spatial practices. It provides a grounding in design research and intellectual, scholarly debate that can lead you to MPhil and PhD research degrees.

MA Narrative Environments has excellent links with renowned practitioners across the spectrum of narrative design. Professional fields include: interpretive design; production; architecture; interaction, media, graphic and communication design; brand communications; museums and galleries; planning and management.

Companies and institutions that are affiliates and sponsors of MA Narrative Environments include:

  • Arthesia HD, Switzerland
  • Arup Innovation Unit
  • The British Museum, London
  • Event Communication, London
  • Eyebeam, NY
  • FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) London
  • The Freud Museum, London
  • Glasshouse Community-led Design, London
  • G.T.F, London
  • Hidden Art, London
  • IDEO London and Shanghai
  • Imagination, London and NY
  • Land Design Studio, London
  • LDJ lighting design, Yorkshire
  • MET London and Hong Kong
  • Metaphor, London
  • Participle, London
  • Ralph Appelbaum Associates London and NY
  • Selfridges, London
  • the Serpentine Gallery, London
  • The Science Museum, London
  • The Speaker's Corner Trust
  • Southbank Centre, London
  • Stanton Williams, London
  • Tate Modern, London
  • United Visual Artists, London
  • Wolf Olins, London
  • The Wellcome Trust, London.