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MA Design Histories and Futures

Start date
September 2019
Course length
1 year 3 months full time (45 weeks across a four-term model)

Course summary

Please note: MA Design Histories and Futures is subject to validation.

Validation is the process by which the university develops new courses to ensure students get a high quality academic experience. During validation there may be some changes to the course content displayed on this page. Please contact us if you have any questions about this course.

MA Design Histories and Futures practices research into the global story of design and material culture. Students practice critical engagement with the ethics, ideologies and methods of design in its social, cultural, political and technological context.

Reasons to apply

  • Work across LCC's Design School with researchers and practitioners that represent and work in the cutting edge of contemporary design practice and thought
  • The course provides opportunities to develop a PhD research proposal with support from current PhD supervisors at LCC
  • Make use of LCC and UAL’s extensive archives and special collections to develop curatorial and research projects
  • Develop a rich and authoritative writerly practice for multiple applications across research and reporting
  • Engage in a challenging curriculum of study that critiques the accepted scholarship of design history and futures
  • Connect with London as the global centre of design history and its incredible resources

Open evenings

The next Open Evening for this course will be announced soon.


A close-up of the moveable type available in the Letterpress area.
Image © Lewis Bush

Printing and finishing

A close-up of the moveable type available in the Letterpress area.

The Digital Space, London College of Communication.
Image © Ana Escobar

The Digital Space

The Digital Space is an open-plan, creative hub with computers set up with specialist software.

Photo of the front cover of a brown book with the word Pandorra written on it and drawing of a woman's head also visible

LCC Collections & Archives

London College of Communication has a range of inspiring collections covering typography, printing, book arts and zines.

Course details

Whether your aim is to be a practicing design critic or writer, or simply to better understand the context in which your design work sits, LCC's MA Design Histories and Futures will give you the skills and knowledge you need to develop your writerly practice. And if you're interested in progressing to PhD level, the course offers specialised sessions on developing a research proposal with support from current PhD supervisors at LCC.

You'll have access to UAL's globally important Archives and Special Collections, allowing you to study the stuff of design up close, and make new connections and discoveries through your critical practice.

You will also be able to develop your curatorial practice, and consider the archives of the past and their possible futures. The course’s digital presence and activities act as a tool to enable you to gain an external profile as a design writer.

Working with colleagues from across the courses in LCC's Design School portfolio, you will understand and reflect diverse practice throughout your work. Not only will you be encouraged to speak with authority, you'll be supported to produce design history with real impact in a range of contexts.

What can you expect?

You will develop your writerly practice, which will form the basis for a journal of design criticism, hosted online. Representing the diverse perspectives and ideas you are developing, it will allow you to establish a profile in the field on your own terms.

You will have the opportunity to work on a major project that could take the form of archival, curatorial or event-based practice – as well as writerly practice. By the end of the MA, you will have a portfolio of writing and critical design that allows you to speak authoritatively on a host of design contexts and issues.

The course is delivered by tutors from across the School’s range of subject expertise. It is led by experienced researchers and practitioners in design and material culture with extensive exhibition and publication profiles in graphic design, performance, comics, information design, subculture, phenomenology, history of art, critical cartography, participatory design and art, urban studies, research methods, design and media activism, feminist media, architecture, queer theory and many others. In addition, you will engage with practitioners and researchers from across the School.

Who is this course for?

You should be curious and passionate in your appetite for design. The course takes no particular sub disciplinary perspective but embraces design as a whole which demands open-mindedness and an analytical mindset that allows the synthesis of ideas across time, space and discipline.

The course is also aimed at those interested in moving into the museum, heritage or cultural curation sector with design as a focus discipline and will provide the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate this important sector.

Those interested in higher academic study, at MPhil or PhD level are invited to apply as the course offers supervision and guidance in preparing applications for further study as well as methodological grounding in design research methods.

The course is structured around design research, for public consumption and academic study. It encourages and develops writerly practice through units on design history and its situatedness in national identities, the burgeoning field of design criticism, archiving, curating and collecting and design fictions and futures.

This broad-based approach to the subject gives and holistic and analytical education preparing graduates for the ever-changing world of design.

Students are expected to be ambitious, engaged and demonstrate a strong degree of independence. At this level in a dynamic field, an open mind and one that engages with complex, often contradictory ideas is vital.

Students are expected to pursue research and ideas with the help and support of their tutors and the course team but based on their own ambitions and interests.

Course units

MA Design Histories and Futures is delivered across four terms, starting in September and finishing in December the year after. Incorporating a summer break, this is a one-year full-time course (45 taught weeks), delivered over 15 months.

Term 1

  • Transnational Design - Histories, Materials, Practices and Theories
  • Design Criticism

Term 2

  • Collaborative Unit
  • Archiving and Curating

Term 3 and 4

  • Research Proposal
  • Thesis and Major Project

Course Structure

The information outlined is an indicative structure of the course. Whilst we will aim to deliver the course as described on this page, there may be situations where it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, for example because of regulatory requirements or operational efficiencies, before or after enrolment. If this occurs, we will communicate all major changes to all applicants and students who have either applied or enrolled on the course.

Please note that due to staff research agreements or availability, not all of the optional modules listed may be available every year.

In addition, the provision of course options which depend upon the availability of specialist teaching, or on a placement at another institution, cannot be guaranteed. Please check this element of the course with the course team before making a decision to apply.

Webpage updates

We will update this webpage from time to time with new information as it becomes available. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact a member of the course team.


Tobias  Revell

Tobias Revell

Acting Programme Director, Interaction Design and Visual Communication

Ian  Horton

Ian Horton

Reader in Graphic Communication

How to apply

Opportunities for all

We are committed to making university education an achievable option for a wider range of people and to supporting all of our students in achieving their potential both during and after their courses.

We welcome applications from people with disabilities. If you have a disability (e.g. mobility difficulties, sensory impairments, medical or mental health conditions or Asperger’s syndrome) we strongly encourage you to contact us on or +44 (0)20 7514 6156 so that we can plan the right support for you. All enquiries are treated confidentially. To find out more, visit our Disability & Dyslexia webpages.

Entry requirements

MA Design Histories and Futures appeals to applicants with a critical writerly practice and an eagerness to engage in challenging, world-leading research into material and visual culture.

The course seeks students with a global, interdisciplinary, rigorous and critical grounding in design culture with a desire to be further challenged and expand their intellectual horizons through writing, debate and curatorial work.

Applicants should be confident writers and communicators and an existing portfolio of rich, rigorous and compelling writing - whether academic or journalistic - is desirable. Applicants will be proactive, curious and have strong contextual and critical focus in their work. The course welcomes applicants with the relevant academic experience and qualifications or those with industry experience.

The course team welcomes applicants from a broad range of backgrounds, from all over the world, with an Honours degree in a relevant subject such as: Design, Art, Cultural Studies, Sociology or a professional qualification recognised as equivalent to an Honours degree in a design-related or creative/humanities discipline.

Students without the required qualifications, but with professional experience may be eligible to gain credit for previous learning and experience through the AP(E)L system.

The educational level may be demonstrated by:

  • Honours degree (named above);
  • Possession of equivalent qualifications;
  • Prior experiential learning, the outcome of which can be demonstrated to be equivalent to formal qualifications otherwise required
  • Or a combination of formal qualifications and experiential learning which, taken together, can be demonstrated to be equivalent to formal qualifications otherwise required.

Language requirements (International/EU)

All classes are conducted in English. If English is not your first language, we strongly recommend you let us know your English language test score in your application. If you have booked a test or are awaiting your results, please indicate this in your application. When asked to upload a CV as part of your application, please include any information about your English test score.

  • IELTS 7.0 (or equivalent) is required, with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the four skills.
  • If your first language is not English, you can check you have achieved the correct IELTS level in English on the Language Requirements page.

For further details regarding international admissions and advice please visit the International Applications page.

Selection criteria

Offers will be made based on the following selection criteria, which applicants are expected to demonstrate:

  • Sufficient prior knowledge and experience of and/or potential in a specialist subject area to be able to successfully complete the programme of study and have an academic or professional background in a relevant subject.
  • Applicants will be proactive, curious and have strong contextual and critical focus in their work.
  • Students work in collaborative and professional environments both on and off-line, therefore resilience and self-efficiency is a must.
  • In the project proposal a description of the area of interest, field of study and the particular focus of their intended project. This should include an overview of how you intend to go about producing the project and the methodology.
  • A willingness to experiment with new fields and methods of research, a demonstrated understanding of analysis and rigour in critical thinking about design and material culture.


Please provide a CV detailing your education, qualifications and any relevant work or voluntary experience. If English is not your first language it is important that you also include in your CV details of your most recent English language test score.

Personal statement advice

Please say why you are applying for this course, outlining relevant prior experience and knowledge of the subject. Ensure that your personal statement is well written, clear and free of any spelling mistakes.

It is your chance to impress the course team by showing a strong interest in the subject, demonstrating what you feel you would bring to the course, your appreciation of what the course can offer you and how you feel it might help you in the future. This can be demonstrated through work experience, previous studies and your personal experience.

Portfolio and interview advice

All applicants are asked to present a digital portfolio (of 10-20 images, 3-5 projects maximum) that evidences their knowledge, understanding, skills and engagement with the field of design research and/or adjacent fields. The portfolio should demonstrate intellectual curiosity and open mindedness and a strong commitment to the subject as well as to sustained study at postgraduate level.

We are interested in the writerly and critical process of applicants in engaging with the subject of contemporary design across time and the boundaries of discipline and politics. These projects may also be documentation of practice projects with critical reflection or curatorial work with critical reflection. You may link to other sources (video, etc.) in your portfolio and include smaller projects of personal interest alongside the main 3-5.

Applicants are usually interviewed by the course team before a place can be offered. Interviews will take place at LCC, or via Skype/telephone.

If you have links to web projects or other media, please note these in your CV.

Study Proposal for Major Project (300–500 words)

Applicants must submit a study proposal outlining the intentions of their MA research. Please include a description of the area of interest, field of study and the particular focus of the intended project, and an overview of how you intend to go about producing the project and the methodology. It is important to recognise that these ideas will inevitably develop and change during your study on the course and only serve to inform your application at this stage.


Deferring an offer

If you are offered a place for 2019/20 but wish to defer to 2020/21, information on how to do this and who to contact can be found in your offer letter. Additionally, International applicants should pay the deposit in order to defer. In all cases, deferred places will be held for one year.

Making a deferred application (during 2018/19 for entry in 2020/21)

Home/EU applicants are permitted to make a deferred application. International applicants are not permitted to make a deferred application.

Making your application

Information in this section is subject to change.

We ask all applicants to complete an online application and upload additional digital items, via the Apply now link. Before you apply, we recommend you take some time to read the course Entry Requirements section below to learn about the application process and additional items you would need to supply.

All applications will be considered by the course team who will consider key elements when making a decision on your suitability to join the course:

  • First, they will look at your qualifications and transcript (or projected results).
  • Secondly, they will review your personal statement and portfolio.

There is no requirement for an academic or professional reference.

Required information for all postgraduate applicants

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

  • 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
  • CV
  • Personal statement

Before submitting your application, you will need to agree to the terms and conditions for how we process your data – these are explained in the application form. Once you have submitted the online application, we will send you a confirmation email.

Please note, if you’re an international applicant we will ask you for copies of certain documents (for example, English language qualification/certificate and copies of any previous UK study visas).

Extra information required for applications to this course

You will be asked to supply:

  • Portfolio
  • Study proposal

The admissions team will be in touch soon after that to let you know the outcome and to guide you through the next steps.

Start your application now

Applications are accepted and offers are made, throughout the year. Early application is advised.

Apply now

The online application 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 press submit.

As you progress through the application process we will send you emails with important information, so do check your inbox regularly (and junk folder, just in case).

After you apply

Successful applicants will be guided through the rest of our admissions stages and towards enrolment on the course.

Fees & Funding

Home / EU fee

£10,890 (2019/20).

UAL alumni receive a £1,000 discount

Course fees may be paid in instalments

International fee

£19,930 (2019/20).

UAL alumni receive a £1,000 discount

Course fees may be paid in instalments

Additional costs

In addition to tuition fees you are very likely to incur additional costs such as travel expenses and the cost of materials. We strongly suggest you read the information on our Additional Costs page.


Find out about the accommodation options available and how much they will cost.

Scholarship and awards

A range of scholarships, bursaries and awards are available to postgraduate students at UAL.

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.

Home / EU and International students

Funding opportunities available for this course:

Scholarship search

Careers and alumni

MA Design Histories and Future supports progression into further study and/or research in design and associated fields. With a pathway to research proposal and PhD it is a natural choice for those interested in an academic career in design research. Another key role for graduates will be in the museum, heritage and cultural sectors within or outside of London’s extensive cultural sector. The course provides the contextual, historical and critical training for the curators and producers of the future of this expanding field. Finally there’s opportunity to develop a critical practice in writing outside the academy in journals or magazines.

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