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Postgraduate

MA Narrative Environments

Close up shot of moulded shapes in a variety of pastel colours
Image courtesy of UAL Setup by Lucy Hayhoe in the photographic studios. Photo: Alys Tomlinson
College
Central Saint Martins
Start date
September 2023
Course length
Two years (60 weeks)
Extended full-time

MA Narrative Environments combines stories and spaces to create memorable human experiences.

Re-approval

Please note this course is undergoing re-approval. This is the process by which we ensure the course continues to provide a high quality academic experience. During re-approval there may be some changes to the course content displayed on this page. Please contact us if you have any questions about the course study@csm.arts.ac.uk.

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.

Course overview

MA Narrative Environments responds to the growing need for multidisciplinary collaboration and critical, socially-engaged design. It addresses the demand for meaningful experiences in physical, digital, and hybrid environments. Environments can include public spaces, interiors, planetary spaces, gaming environments, community places, heritage sites, museums, retail, travel and leisure destinations, libraries, health and educational environments.

Increasingly, organisations and places researchers want to communicate their stories. They may need to inform expanded communities; overcome social divides; develop their reputation; or attract new audiences. They may need to understand ways to narrate the future and complex challenges in dynamic and interactive ways.

On MA Narrative Environments, you will explore the relation between story, time and place. You will do this through sound, image, object, space. The course encourages participatory, multi-layered methods that support economic, social, cultural, environmental resilience. You will also be encouraged to employ new technologies to support connectivity and communication.

This course will equip you with the theoretical, practical and critical skills to envision and realize new narrative environments. You will be supported to create work which addresses the complex context and contradictions of a globalised and turbulent world. As such, you will be encouraged to be outward facing. You will use the city of London as a laboratory, collaborating with communities, institutions and businesses. You will develop proposals through an iterative design process and when possible, build and test them. The course also addresses the need for advanced research in spatial practices, speculative design and propositional design. It also provides a grounding in design research, narrative and environmental theory, and intellectual debate. This can lead you to MPhil and PhD research degrees.

Course units

Narratives are told through artefacts, text, sound, images, film, which are integrated into the physical environment. This is achieved in three ways. Firstly, through the design of hard physical structures, materials and form, which tend to remain fairly fixed over time. Secondly, through text, light, image, sound and digital media which can change rapidly. Thirdly, through the soft and most unpredictable dimension of human presence and interaction.

On this course, theories of space, narrative, and media will be introduced and debated through lectures, seminars and conferences. . Theory is also integrated with practice in team projects. You will gain insight into professional practice through placements, live projects, weekly lectures, workshops, and visiting practitioners. During the course, you will progress towards independent thinking. You will establish your own critical position, allowing you to graduate with a clear set of design principles to underpin your future career.

Unit 1: Designing Narrative Environments 

This unit will introduce you to a variety of research methods and the scope of narrative environment design through group projects of short and medium duration. You will also be introduced to the theoretical, socio-economic and cultural context of practice. Unit 1 also integrates personal and professional development and introduction to London as a context. This will enable you to become an active member of a learning community. You will develop your skills in research, communication, reflection, planning, decision-making and creative practice.

Unit 2: Developing Narrative Environments 

On this unit, you will have the opportunity to explore, define, and develop your own direction. You will research and compose a major project proposal. You will do an industry case study or a placement to gain direct insight into opportunities and working methods in industry. The case study or placement will enable you to appraise your own abilities, ambitions and career direction.  

The major project proposal is self-directed. You will define your own research question, aims and objectives and catalog your rigorous research process. This research will inform the development of your major project design proposal. . You will explore modes of prototyping, modeling, and representing your proposal. You will also assemble your own collaborative team that will help you work towards realisation. This unit allows you to engage with the professional world and become a reflective, creative and critical practitioner.

Unit 3: Deploying Narrative Environments

In this unit, you will focus on realization, activation, documentation, and encapsulation. You will write a project rationale which will contextualise and justify your design. You will prototype, test, produce and present your major project. Unit 3 concludes with a critical reflection on your major project. This enables you to describe and analyze your own unique design approach in tandem with setting professional and personal goals. It also encourages you to reflect on the dynamics of the industry, to consolidate your experience and advance your skills and knowledge.

Mode of study 

MA Narrative Environments is offered in extended full-time mode which runs for 60 weeks over two academic years. You will be expected to commit 30 hours per week to study, which includes teaching time and independent study. 

The course has been designed in this way to enable you to pursue studies while also undertaking language learning, part-time employment, internships or care responsibilities.

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. 

Learning and teaching methods

The learning and teaching methods devised for this course include:

  • Unit and project briefings  
  • Set and self-initiated project briefs  
  • Inductions, lectures and seminars  
  • Collaboration and interdisciplinary team-work 
  • Peer learning  
  • Self and peer assessment  
  • Guest speakers  
  • Group discussions, reviews and critiques  
  • Working with clients and partners on live projects 
  • Mentoring 
  • Industry case study or placement 
  • Collaborative field research  
  • Major Project tutorials 
  • Independent study

Graduate Showcase

Explore work by our recent students on the UAL Graduate Showcase

Course publications

Narrative Environments stories

Facilities

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

Fees and funding

Home fee

£7,315 per year

This fee is correct for 2023/24 entry and is subject to change for 2024/25 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

£18,640 per year

This fee is correct for 2023/24 entry and is subject to change for 2024/25 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 s.sherman@csm.arts.ac.uk.

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
  • Evidence of interest and understanding of narrative structure
  • Work demonstrating engagement with narrative in a spatial context, whether that is a real 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 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

You should apply by clicking on the link to the direct form below. The application form can be saved as you fill it out, so you do not 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.

Deferred entry

Central Saint Martins does not accept applications for deferred entry.  You should therefore apply in the year you wish to study.

Transfers

If you are currently studying at another institution and if you have successfully completed 60 credits in the equivalent units and modules on your current postgraduate course and wish to continue your studies at Central Saint Martins, you can apply to transfer. The Admissions Tutor will consider applications on a case by case basis, subject to places being available. You must apply directly to the course via the course webpage as early as possible.

Please check our Student Transfer Policy for more important information and be ready to provide us with your current course handbook and unit transcripts.

You will need to provide an official document (translated into English) from your current university, explaining the learning outcomes of the units you have completed.

Start your application now

Before you apply, please take time to read the guidance below. You will be asked to provide the following information when completing the online application form:

General information

  • Personal details (including legal full name, preferred name, date of birth, nationality, addresses)
  • Current English language level
  • Current and/or previous education and qualification details
  • Employment history

Personal statement

Your personal statement should explain what role the course would play in your personal and professional development and where you aim to locate yourself within the cultural and commercial industries.

We cannot consider your application if you do not provide all the information above.

Communicating with you

After you have successfully submitted your application, you will receive an email confirming we have successfully received your application and providing you with your login details for the UAL Portal.  We will request any additional information from you, including inviting you to upload documents / portfolio / book an interview, through the portal. You should check your UAL Portal regularly for any important updates and requests.

Application deadline

19 December 2022 and 3 April 2023

For postgraduate courses at UAL there are 2 rounds of applications. This is to ensure equal consideration and fairness for all of our applicants. You must apply for 19 December 2022 for Round 1 or by 3 April 2023 for Round 2.

The round 1 deadline has been changed to 19 December to give you more time to make your application.

When you'll hear from us

If this course requires a digital portfolio as part of the application process, we will contact you to invite you to submit this through UAL’s online submission tool, PebblePad. For Round 1 applications, you will need to submit your portfolio by 9 January 2023 at the latest and by 20 April 2023 for Round 2.

This course receives a high volume of applications. We need to make sure that we give all applications equal consideration, so the course team will review them in 2 rounds, after each application deadline date. This means you won’t hear from us about the outcome of your application until after the relevant application deadline date. Outcomes for Round 1 will be released by (at the latest) end of March and outcomes for Round 2 will be released by end of June 2023.

Remember to check the outcome of your application in the UAL Portal. If you apply in Round 1 and don’t hear back from us, we will consider your application within Round 2.

Find out more about what happens after you apply.

There are two ways international students can apply:

You can only apply to the same course once per year.

If you are applying directly you click on the link to the direct form below. The application form can be saved as you fill it out, so you do not 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.

Transfers

If you are currently studying at another institution and if you have successfully completed 60 credits in the equivalent units and modules on your current postgraduate course and wish to continue your studies at Central Saint Martins, you can apply to transfer. The Admissions Tutor will consider applications on a case by case basis, subject to places being available. You must apply directly to the course via the course webpage as early as possible.

Please check our Student Transfer Policy for more important information and be ready to provide us with your current course handbook and unit transcripts.

You will need to provide an official document (translated into English) from your current university, explaining the learning outcomes of the units you have completed.

Deferred entry

Central Saint Martins does not accept applications for deferred entry.  You should therefore apply in the year you wish to study.

Visas

Read our visit our immigration and visa advice page to find out whether you need a visa to study.

Start your application now

Before you apply, please take time to read the guidance below. You will be asked to provide the following information when completing the online application form:

General information

  • Personal details (including legal full name, preferred name, date of birth, nationality, addresses)
  • Current English language level
  • Current and/or previous education and qualification details
  • Employment history

Personal statement

Your personal statement should explain what role the course would play in your personal and professional development and where you aim to locate yourself within the cultural and commercial industries.

Immigration history check

Whether you are applying online or through a UAL representative you will need to complete an immigration history check to establish whether you are eligible to study at UAL.  If you do not complete the check we will not be able to proceed with your application.

We cannot consider your application if you do not provide all the information above.

Communicating with you

After you have successfully submitted your application, you will receive an email confirming we have successfully received your application and providing you with your login details for the UAL Portal.  We will request any additional information from you, including inviting you to upload documents / portfolio / book an interview, through the portal. You should check your UAL Portal regularly for any important updates and requests.

Application deadline

19 December 2022 and 3 April 2023

For postgraduate courses at UAL there are 2 rounds of applications. This is to ensure equal consideration and fairness for all of our applicants. You must apply for 19 December 2022 for Round 1 or by 3 April 2023 for Round 2.

We recommend you submit your application as early as possible before these deadlines to allow the Admissions team to resolve any initial queries about your application as quickly as possible.

When you'll hear from us

This course receives a high volume of applications. We need to make sure that we give all applications equal consideration, so the course team will review them in two rounds. This means that offers won’t be sent to successful applicants until after the relevant application deadline date. Outcomes for Round 1 will be released by 31 March 2022 and outcomes for Round 2 will be released by 30 June 2022.

Remember to check the outcome of your application in the UAL Portal. If you apply in Round 1 and don’t hear back from us, we will consider your application within Round 2.

Find out more about what happens after you apply.

After you apply

What happens next

Initial application check

We check your application to see if you meet the standard entry requirements for the course. If you do, you will be invited to submit a portfolio through your UAL Portal.

Digital Portfolio

Your portfolio should be up to 25 pages and demonstrate your practical and conceptual skills as well as your working processes.

All applicants:

  • Your Video Task (details below) – the first page of your portfolio

The remaining content of your portfolio depends on your discipline, andmight include:

  • Images of visual work (including diagrams, visualisations, photographs, collages, or graphics)
  • Research and development material that provides insight into your process
  • Animations, videos, or
  • Writing samples.

For more portfolio advice please visit our portfolio advice page.

Video task

We'd like you to submit a 2-3 minute video to help us learn more about you:

  • Please speak clearly in English and face the camera
  • Your video task is submitted along with your portfolio
  • Read our guidance for how to submit your video task and which file types we accept

As part of your video task please respond to the following direction:

  • We would like you to tell us about your interest in Narrative Environments and your experience creating them. Explain how your experiences inspired you to apply to the MA Narrative Environments program at CSM. You may decide to describe one project and your role in creating it.

Interview

Following the review of the portfolio we select a small number of applicants to move on to the next stage of the process.  These applicants will be invited to an online interview, lasting 15 to 20 minutes.

How we notify you of the outcome of your application

You will receive the outcome of your application through the UAL Portal.

Feedback

This course receives a high number of applications, and unfortunately we cannot provide feedback to everyone who is unsuccessful. We can only provide feedback after you have had an interview.

If you would like to request feedback, please contact us via your portal.

Each and every application is carefully considered by a member(s) of our academic team. With so many strong applicants to choose from, it is often a very difficult decision to make. If you are unsuccessful, you are welcome to apply to us again in the future.

Deferring your place

This course accepts requests from offer holders to defer their place for one academic year. Deferral requests are granted on a first-come, first served basis until all deferral places are filled, or a deadline has been reached, whichever is sooner.

Careers

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.