MA in Design Critical Practice

  • Length
    1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
  • Department

Course overview

At the crux of this studio-based programme is an understanding that we shape design and, in turn, design shapes us. Who and what are we? And how do we engage with the world around us?

We are produced by our own artifice; our contemporary existence is fashioned by what we have designed - chairs, cars, roads, buildings, books, political systems, business organisations, computers, the internet – in short, everything.

So, in designing, whether it is a service, system, organisation, space, object, communication, we are designing not only the design ‘thing’ but also who and what we are, and how we engage with the world around us.

This MA focuses on developing design practice based upon 'critique', even providing the space to produce 'design' as 'critique' (critical design).

On the MA in Design Critical Practice programme, you will work through a series of challenging projects to find a critical purchase on your own practice and circumstances in which, and for which, we design. 

We'll ask you to examine the 'liquid times' we are living in: a landscape of practices (from everyday to specialised) that are no longer solid but are being made fluid by rapid technological, social, political, economic developments and environmental change.

The Masters helps equip you to critically and imaginatively face the challenges of our contemporary world and future prospects.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact the Department of Design

Modules & structure

The degree is structured around three strands of study with a final project in the last two terms.

Studio Practice (what you do)

Studio is where you get to design. In the first two terms, you are required to do four modules where, as part of them, you are required to design in response to a project brief that tutors set. The briefs rather than designate a specific project, raise a pressing concern, issue or concept that we think important in thinking through the way design ‘shapes’ the way we inhabit the world.

The project(s) of the second term are sponsored by a company or organisation (eg JWT, BBC, BT, Microsoft, Kodak, TalkTalk, LG).

Context Studies (why you do what you do)

Context Studies, linked to Studio, provides theoretical foundation for critical examination of the key issues we are facing in the development of our 'being-in-the-world'. It also raises questions about the responsibilities we have as designers in shaping our being.

Methods and Processes (how you do what you do)

The course reviews and introduces research methods, ideational strategies and looks at the way different forms of representation are used to capture the world around us, and to explore, develop and present ideas.

Major Project and Context Essay (self-initiated project)

From April to September, you will spend your time on a major project that you initiate, develop and evolve with our support. You will also work on an attendant essay that supports and helps in evolving the ideas of the major project.


Submissions include: essays, design work assignments, and a major project. These are assessed through tutor appraisal, peer review, self-evaluation and student-tutor consultation.

Download the programme specification for this degree to find out more about what you'll learn and how you'll be taught and assessed.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.


Design at Goldsmiths is ranked:
1st in the UK**
11th in the world***


We’ve also been ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top graduate universities for designers, because so many of our graduates go on to find jobs in the industry.

Critique the status quo

We want you to go on to have your own self-sustaining practice that can change over time, so you’ll learn about design not just as a commercial enterprise, but also as a way to question and critique the status quo. 

The freedom to experiment

You don’t have to know what kind of a designer you’ll be: we give you the time and the freedom to experiment, use tools, explore materials and discover different modes of making. Many of our students have already worked in the design industry and are keen to develop their theoretical understanding of the discipline, and have the opportunity to explore their practice without the confines of commercial restrictions.

Industry leaders

Our graduates are industry leaders: many have gone on to work at top organisations and design companies such as Pentagram, Dyson and Selfridges, while many others have set up their own studios and enterprises.

Find out more about the Department of Design.

**The Guardian University Guide 2016

***QS World University Rankings by subject 2016

Skills & careers


The programme will help you develop strong conceptual and critical design skills.

You'll also develop a broad range of transferable skills in project management, creative facilitation, research methods, and also a working understanding of a number of communication, material and production technologies (eg electronic tagging, RFID, rapid prototyping), which are useful in various workplace settings.


Most of our graduates find employment in the creative and cultural industries, some in prestigious leading-edge companies, including:

Some have set up their own studios (Kin, Uscreates, ReDesign, Saint-H, BFDesign). Other possible career routes include practice development, further study, freelancing, senior designer/manager, teaching and lecturing (a number of graduates have taken up academic positions in various institutions throughout the world).

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths

Student profiles


"Currently, I am working on projects for Kodak UK, Autotage, the Eco e Narciso organisation in Italy"

"Currently, I am working on projects for Kodak UK, Autotage, the Eco e Narciso organisation in Italy, critical writing and my own commercial ideas. The interdepartmental relationship and the open communication between staff and students creates the intellectual and creative freedom which leads to important work and workers."


"The professors' kindness and intelligent guidelines helped me immensely during the course."

"The Goldsmiths experience taught a completely different approach to design. I learned to develop my designs with a solid theoretical foundation and reason. Learning and applying post-modern theories to my work has broadened my knowledge and abilities. In addition, it was a great experience to meet designers from around the world and share our unique perspectives and outcomes. As a result, I became more receptive and open to diverse viewpoints. The professors' kindness and intelligent guidelines helped me immensely during the course. I felt lucky to learn from them.

I now work in the Global Business Team at the Korea Institute of Design Promotion, promoting Korean design and design companies to foreign countries, participating in the largest international design exhibitions (like 100% Design London), and helping developing countries in Asia through design by holding seminars and short term education programmes."


"The programme helped me think deeper about the contemporary design debate and conceptual design practice."

Eunji is not the kind of designer that wants to only create “pretty images”, or to make a product more marketable or saleable; instead, she is looking for projects where conceptual thinking is allowed in design practice.

Her graduation project is a study of stereotypes and social expectations called “The average woman, Sarah Smith”.  The project started as a research (mainly numerical data) on the characteristics of “the average woman” in Britain according to various sources such as newspapers and national statistics. After these measurements were collected, Eunji compiled a profile and tried to transform herself into Sarah Smith using different props.

This approach is something of a motif in her design work: gathering data, then interpreting it for empirical use and a more personal experience. Another of her projects based on this principle, “Weather Makes You”, involved recording daily clothing decisions in accordance to temperature variations, then using this research to understand the connection between the insulating abilities of clothes and temperature values. Taking the project further, clothes could be tagged according to the temperature for which they are adequate. It sounds like a great idea: when we hear the weather forecast expressed as a number of degrees, does it instantly give us any clues of what we should wear tomorrow? Probably not. Eunji’s idea helps make weather a more personal experience.

See more profiles for this programme

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

If you don't have a related undergraduate degree we also welcome those who have significant practical experience in a design-related field: you will be judged on the relevance of your previous work experience, and on your art and/or design work. We will also consider applicants who do not have a design-related background but who have engaged in research either in academia (as students or academics) or at work.

We expect a high standard of achievement in design or other creative practice, and competencies in the use of equipment used to produce design work (IT and/or manufacture workshop skills).

You need to present, in portfolio and at interview, evidence of evolved critical and creative thinking in design.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.5 in the written test)

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online

           Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)
  • Examples of your work: slides (approximately 12), a CD-ROM, or another appropriate representation accessible on generally used software; please include an index which outlines the concerns and ideas in what you have submitted (200-500 words) and a brief description of individual pieces (including scale, materials and collaborators and object performance where relevant).
  • A brief written statement (approximately 250 words), outlining your reasons for wishing to undertake this degree.

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from 1 October until 1 March for students wanting to start the following September (late applications may be considered if there are spaces available).

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for funding you may be subject to an application deadline.

Selection process

At interview you present a portfolio of work that may include a range of art and/or design pieces, sketch books, and samples of written assignments. We encourage international (non-EU) applicants to attend for interview if possible. We are flexible with interview dates to allow you to arrange other college visits/interviews while you are in the UK. If you can't attend in person, we will ask you to send a portfolio (slides or photographs or CD-ROMs accessible on generally used software) of your art/design work with written explanations of selected pieces. Copies of essays in English are also required. If possible we also conduct a telephone interview.

Find out more about applying.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees.

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

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