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BA (Hons) Design

  • UCAS
    W200
  • Entry requirements
    A-level: ABB
    BTEC: DDM
    IB: 33 points including three HL subjects
  • Length
    3 years full-time, with a professional placement during Year 2
  • Department
    Design

Course overview

This design degree allows you to develop strong design thinking while exploring your own creative focus. We encourage you to act through design to effect change, propose new visions of the future, and engage with sustainability.

Why study BA Design at Goldsmiths?

  • You'll undertake a professional placement in your second year, allowing you to gain invaluable work experience and professional contacts. Recent placement organisations have included Imagination, Oxfam, Alexander McQueen, Selfridges and Studio Myerscough
  • Our graduates are industry leaders – they work in top design consultancies (PentagramHeatherwick studio) and companies (Dyson, Selfridges, Oxfam), they've set up their own design studios (including JailmakePAN StudioUsCreates), and they've progressed to become senior designers, consultants, and creative directors
  • You'll be taught technical skills by staff who work in the industry and have their own practices
  • The degree offers excellent teaching, in an exciting and dynamic educational environment
  • You'll have dedicated studio space and use industry-standard workshops, with the latest in laser cutting and 3D modelling technology
  • We're the top Design degree in the UK for the second year running, with a score of 100/100 (Guardian University league tables by subject 2016)
  • Our students regularly work on and win national awards
  • Our attract massive interest from creative industry leaders who offer exciting placements to our students, and careers to our graduates

Using an interdisciplinary approach, you will engage with a diverse set of critical and practical ideas, and will be encouraged to push beyond the boundaries of traditional design specialisms. The BA Design equips you with the skills and confidence to build a career in a wide range of professions: opening a host of potential career pathways.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Martin Conreen

Modules & structure

Overview

For us design is not just a way to make and do things; it is a way to understand and engage with the world. With this philosophy in mind we have developed a highly successful and innovative programme, where you learn to see design as a complex combination of systems and actions, and not just as a set of distinct practical skills.

The BA Design degree enables you to think imaginatively about the possibilities of design, and ultimately to define your own creative practice. Throughout your time at Goldsmiths you will discover how design affects the environment as a whole, as you investigate its role within society and culture. The BA Design is not only concerned with understanding what design is; our curriculum provides you with a way to explore what design might be.

The three-year degree is structured around five different modules:

Studio Practice

This module is where the majority of the practical, project-based work is delivered, discussed and assessed. Studio Practice is delivered through a series of unique structured briefs in Years 1 and 2, and progresses into Year 3 with the development of a student-led major project and exhibition.

Contextual Studies

Contextual Studies provides the theoretical core of the BA Design. You will attend lectures on a wide range of design-related issues, ranging from ethics and sustainability, to semiotics and psychology. In the final year this module supports the writing of the Context Report (dissertation).

Technical Studies

A series of technical workshops, delivered to first and second years, covering a broad base of skills. You encounter traditional 3D materials and technologies, and advanced computer-aided design and manufacturing. Technical workshops also cover image production, manipulation and film making, as well as fundamental aspects of typography and graphic layout.

Methods and Processes

In Year 1 this module equips you with a set of tools for designing, looking at research methods and ways to generate and record ideas. In Year 2 the module prepares you for workplace environments, introducing aspects of professional presentation and communication.

Professional Practice

All students undertake a Professional Placement between Years 2 and 3. This module encourages you to develop a more professional approach to your own work, and to generate valuable contacts for future employment.

These modules support and complement one another within each year of study, and as you progress through the years they are designed to build a coherent set of experiences. 

Year 1

Studio Practice

Studio projects are formulated to allow you to develop your own ways of thinking. You will be challenged to push your ideas, and given space and support to develop an understanding of artefact, user, site and situation.

Contextual Studies

  • Histories and Theories – lectures, visits and practical exercises on the historical and theoretical context of design in the 20th century unravel the main theoretical influences on design and designing.
  • Design and Meaning – lectures and practical exercises looking at the roles that psychology and semiotics play in design. You'll examine the complex nature of design thinking and creative techniques, and the ways in which these relate to actual practice. You'll also be encouraged to explore your own personal responses to the design process.
  • Ecology and Design – you'll explore relationships between nature, culture, industry and other social systems, while highlighting possibilities for change in response to current environmental and cultural issues. The context for this module is the emerging field of Eco Design. It is broad-based to give an overview of key issues and ideas.

Methods and Processes

Concentrating on the techniques and processes in research, modeling and drawing.

Technical Studies

These workshops focus on specific areas within the discipline. They'll give both a critical and technical introduction into areas such as making, still image, graphic communication and textiles.

Year 2

Studio Practice

You'll explore ways that the contemporary designer can negotiate a changing social, cultural, ecological and political terrain. You'll be encouraged to adopt a personal, ethical and ideological stance in tackling projects concerning the social, cultural, environmental and political domain.

In the spring term you'll work on ‘industry-based projects’, the briefings for which come from the commercial sector. These projects allow you to present to design professionals, gaining valuable experience and insight. The projects are set by a broad range of design professional and commercial sectors, such as Imagination, Pentagram, Hive, Raw Nerve and Lewisham Council.

Contextual Studies

  • Ethics and Sustainability – This lecture programme asks why the ethical stances of designers, the moral features of the design process, and the value-laden nature of various objects and images, are important in design. You'll also explore ideas relating to ecological understanding of design and culture towards a widening of perspective and engagement in contemporary ecological concerns.
  • Society and Culture – Lectures and practical exercises investigate design in the context of society and culture. You'll examine a number of socio-cultural influences on designers, design processes and design outcomes, and will be encouraged to explore the ways in which your own designs are framed by these influences.
  • Material Culture – Lectures and practical exercises investigate design in the context of what has become known as material culture. You explore various attitudes to cultural production, examine notions of consumption and taste, and investigate the various practices that have been built around these attitudes and notions. You will be encouraged to explore the ways in which your own designs are framed by material culture.

Methods and Processes – Professional Practice

This module asks you to engage in design as a professional practice. It opens up the extensive nature of the design industry, in order to increase your understanding of the role of a practicing designer.

Technical Studies

These sessions cover a range of skills, which build upon the previous year. We offer workshops such as interactive design, moving image, electronics, object manufacture, rapid prototyping/CAD and graphic communication.

Professional Practice

During the summer term you are expected to secure and undertake a placement of at least six weeks in duration. You are required at the beginning of Year 3 to submit an assessable presentation based on your work placement.

Year 3

Studio Practice

In the final year you develop your own projects, supported by an individual ‘mentor’. Workshops enable you to formulate, develop and realise a project. Major projects must have a strong conceptual underpinning and be well founded and reasoned.

The final stage of Year 3 is the presentation and exhibition of design practice project work. This is an important part of the educational experience – calling for teamwork, organisation, management and design, developing a range of skills critical to future careers.

Contextual Report

This major piece of writing presents the contextual and theoretical framework for your major project. This 6,000-word report develops alongside your project and is a personal piece of work.

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.

Entry requirements

A-level: ABB
BTEC: DDM
International Baccalaureate: 33 points including three HL subjects

You need to demonstrate post-16 study in art and design (a Foundation course, BTEC or NVQ Level 3 in Design is usually required) or be an A-level student with a strong art and design portfolio.

We also welcome applications from mature students without formal qualifications who have relevant work experience and/or art and design work, and also from students without A-levels in Art and Design, but have an interest in a future career in the creative industries (this may include students with strong A-levels in the humanities and sciences). 

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of qualifications equivalent to the ones listed above. This includes:

Access: Pass with 45 Level 3 credits including a number of distinctions/merits in subject specific modules
Scottish qualifications: BBBBC (Higher), BBC (Advanced Higher)
European Baccalaureate: 75%
Irish Leaving Certificate: A1 A2 A2 B1

If your qualifications are from another country, 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 and no individual test lower than 6.0)

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

Selection process

After submitting your application you'll be contacted if you have been selected for interview. We interview throughout the autumn and winter, so please apply as early as possible.

If you're invited to an interview, we'll ask you to bring along a hard copy of your portfolio. If you're an international or EU student who can't attend an interview in person, we'll ask you to submit an electronic portfolio.

In your portfolio you should aim to include a range of work that shows the breadth of your developing skills and interests. Include only work that you can talk about. We are not looking for success stories but at how you demonstrate your working process, your motivations and learning, and if and how you have begun to develop your own identity through your practice. In addition we require you to bring a printed copy of your answers to the Pre-interview Questions that were sent to you when invited to interview.

For more information about what we would like to see at interview, please see our guidance on creating a portfolio.

Read more about our general entrance requirements

Department

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

Design

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.

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

Learning & teaching

On this degree you'll attend lectures and seminars where you'll hear about ideas and concepts related to specific topics, and where you'll be encouraged to discuss and debate the issues raised. This will enhance your academic knowledge of the subject, and will improve your communication skills. You'll also go to workshops and tutorials that will develop practical and technical skills in design.

But this is just a small proportion of what we expect you to do on the degree. For each hour of taught learning, we expect you to complete another 5-6 hours of independent study. This typically involves carrying out required and additional reading, preparing topics for discussion, or producing project work.

This emphasis on independent learning is very important at Goldsmiths. We don't just want you to accept what we tell you without question. We want you to be inspired to read more, to develop your own ideas, and to find the evidence that will back them up. Independent study requires excellent motivation and time management skills. These skills will stay with you for life, and are the kind of transferable skills that are highly sought after by employers. 

Learning and teaching on this degree will take place through:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Studio practice
  • Tutorials
  • Independent learning
  • Presentations
  • Assessments

Find out more about these learning and teaching approaches.

Skills & careers

Skills

The programme encourages you to:

  • Develop as an independent and reflective learner
  • Gain the skills that will enable you to play an important role in the discipline: now, and in the future
  • Think systematically through issues, situations and topics
  • Reflect on the social and cultural implications of design
  • Understand and address key concepts and issues of sustainability
  • Critique and develop your design methods and processes to arrive at sensitive and meaningful conclusions
  • Represent, communicate and manifest your ideas convincingly
  • Develop, refine and apply methods and strategies that create meaningful relationships between design and people
  • Develop innovation and creativity skills, and personal and interpersonal skills

These skills are sought after in many areas of employment.

Careers

Most of our BA Design graduates find employment in the creative and cultural industries. The most recent National Student Survey marked Goldsmiths undergraduate Design students as the most employable in the country, with 98% securing a design-related job in their first year after graduation.

Our graduates have:

  • worked for top London design consultancies (Pentagram, Heatherwick studio, Imagination, Moving Brands)
  • worked for major UK companies (Dyson, Selfridges, Eden Project, Oxfam)
  • set up their own design studios (including JailmakePAN StudioUsCreates)
  • worked as freelance designers
  • progressed to become senior designers, consultants, design managers and creative directors
  • found employment in the public sector and NGOs
  • had work commissioned for public spaces, private companies and charities

You can find out more about career options open to you after graduation on our Design careers page.

Awards

Our students and graduates have also been successful in national and international competitions. BA Design students have won:

Further information

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths

Student work

Work by Amanda Ng, BA Design
BA Design work
BA Design degree show
Work by Grace Henry, BA Design
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Student profiles

Neil

"Just to be in my final year in a peer group alongside a jewellery maker, alongside a product designer, alongside a graphic designer, all working together with the same kind of design process behind you – it was just so vibrant."

"The course was kind of perfect for me in the sense that it was wonderfully vague, and I mean that in the most positive manner, because the company I currently work for is wonderfully vague in the types of projects that we adopt. We were taught about the process behind design and the thinking behind design. It helped you to unconsciously steer you towards what it was that you are interested in… I really wanted to do bigger spatial stuff and more architectural projects. 

Just to be in my final year in a peer group alongside a jewellery maker, alongside a product designer, alongside a graphic designer, all working together with the same kind of design process behind you, and thinking about design – it was just so vibrant and that was what attracted me to the studio I now work for. It’s the same thought process and the degree set me up perfectly for that.

I work as a project designer for Heatherwick studio, a position I landed immediately after completing my degree. I have been the project designer on many of the studio’s high profile projects, such as the recently launched New Bus for London, overseeing the design from inception through to detail and manufacture. The team is quite a flexible one, which sees designers like myself work alongside makers, engineers and architects. My role entails work on all elements of the design process; from concept development, prototyping, 3D modelling and visualisation; to leading small design teams on certain projects; as well as engaging with the wider client and consultant teams."

Kirsty

"I've gained so many skills from the course, it pushes you to question everything, and it gave me strong communication skills and the ability to be able to present my ideas and my work."

"Goldsmiths really provided the foundations for getting me where I am now. Its approach is completely unique and I think employers really appreciate that we are taught in a much more holistic way, it makes us stand out from the other thousands of graduates.

In my first year at Goldsmiths I was completely lost, not really knowing the directions to take. The design tutors and the incredibly diverse course programme really helped me to develop, expanding my knowledge and creative thinking. I've gained so many skills from the course, it pushes you to question everything, and it gave me strong communication skills and the ability to be able to present my ideas and my work. It gave me great experience in working in teams, as well as self-motivation. The diverse mix of people and cultures also plays a huge role in your own personal growth.

I've recently finished a year-long residency at Fabrica – Benetton's Research Laboratory based in Italy – within the Product Design department. My role as a multidisciplinary designer was extremely varied; I worked on several projects for galleries, creating limited edition pieces manufactured in glass, wood and ceramic. We were also responding to commissions from companies who wanted products for their collections; furniture, lighting, rugs, textile, and graphics. Part of the role was also designing for the Benetton Group; accessories, clothing, retail spaces and pop up installations.

The four years prior to this I was the Head of Product Development for British furniture company Established & Sons. I was responsible for managing a small team, where we developed all the designers' ideas from the first concept stage to the point of manufacture. It was an exciting role that really gave me a huge insight into the world of business, manufacturing and processes, as well as working alongside some of the world's leading design studios, such as Jasper Morrison, Barber Osgerby, Industrial Facility, Maarten Baas, and the Bouroullec brothers.

An ongoing project I co-curate with French designer Erika Muller is Vera Chapter. It's an inspirational and thought provoking multi-disciplinary show evolving around a fictional character. Stepping away from the mass-market design approach, which mainly produces for the average and standard end-consumer, the initial thinking process behind each of the chapters is creating a response to one individual. And that individual is Vera. Vera is a fictional character based on a series of photographs from a girl's family found a few years ago in a second hand shop in Brighton. Each chapter a group of artists and designers have been commissioned to respond to one image from the series in order to create Vera's fictive and collaborative biography. It's an ongoing investigation of design, art, literature, creativity, memory, narrative and how we experience our life world."

Elena

"The best thing about studying at Goldsmiths is the team spirit."

"What was great about studying at Goldsmiths was the way that everyone helped each other out. As a first year I quite often got help from final year students, and during the degree shows we would all pull together. Even though we were technically competing, there was a real team spirit. My advice to anyone coming to study at Goldsmiths is to get involved with as many activities as you can outside of your degree. In my final year I've been a student ambassador which has been really rewarding. Whether it's a sports team or a drama club, just get involved!"

See more profiles for this programme

Fees & funding

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University statistics for this course