Search this site

Sustainable Design MA

Mode Duration Attendance Start date
Full time 1 year 2 days a week
  • September 2014
Part time 2 years 1–2 days a week
  • September 2014

Choose Kingston's Sustainable Design MA

This course is aimed at designers, creative workers and other specialists who want to direct their practice towards progressive sustainability and social agendas. It focuses on the value of design as a vehicle for addressing social and ecological concerns in both developed and developing world settings. It will equip you with the knowledge, capabilities and confidence to challenge the status quo by applying design thinking to a generation of design-led interventions for a sustainable future.

Find out more about this course at a taster session – date to be confirmed soon. Email Anne Marie Fisker for more information.

What will you study?

The Sustainable Design MA is directed towards the goal of creating a more sustainable and equitable society. You will explore innovative and practical ways to help realise those visions, emphasising design, creativity, empathy, innovation, leadership and campaigning.

The course encourages critical thinking about the social and ecological agendas it addresses. The course is design-based, but not confined to design practice – it includes a significant amount of theoretical and contextual studies. It is possible to choose a dissertation option for the final major project.

You will be taught by leading academics and practitioners in sustainable design, social design, social innovation, participatory design, strategic design, service design, designled innovation, and related topics. The course incorporates collaboration with real-world partners such as Audi Design Foundation, Design Council, Greengaged, Sorrell Foundation, ThinkPublic and Uscreates.


Design project work, written assignments, live projects, major design research project.

Course structure

Find out more by downloading the 2013/14 course structure for part-time students (PDF) or full-time students (PDF).

The Sustainable Design MA course is part of the Design School's postgraduate programme. The structure – shared with students from Communication Design MA, Product + Space MA, and Fashion MA – enables you to explore your individual specialist interests in design for development within an integrative learning environment that provides a comprehensive understanding of the value and role of interdisciplinary methods and ways of working. The influences and impact of thinking from other related design subjects on your own specialist study is an important aspect of the identity and the community of interdisciplinary practice at masters level in the Design School.

This structure is designed to help progress and develop your independent learning, encouraging you to construct and explore projects concerned with areas of particular personal interests. The overarching course philosophy, based upon an emphasis on research, methodology and design thinking, allows individual and personal concerns to be explored through focused study in design for development.

Teaching block one

  • Social innovation is an emerging mode of creative and participatory human-centred practice which seeks to address societal challenges such as wellbeing, healthcare, homelessness, ageing, poverty, public service delivery and unemployment. It can be seen as a design-led activity. Design for social innovation is therefore the emerging mode of design practice and theory in which design thinking is applied to social and societal challenges. The co-production of design outcomes, moreover, sees designers acting as facilitators and enablers, rather than authors, of these outcomes.

    This module focuses on the development of design-based research skills and capabilities useful for responding to real-world challenges or so-called 'wicked problems'. Emphasis is placed on problem-finding and problem-setting, rather than simply seeking solutions to problems as they are currently expressed.

    Close this module description
  • Designing Research lectures and seminars are intended to enable you to rationalise and focus on thematic approaches to problem finding and problem solving. The aim of this module is that, through knowledge of existing conventions and the continued development of your personal visual vocabulary, you will be able to make practical use of your ideas, perceptions and discoveries, and to work effectively and creatively with reference to a wider inter-disciplinary and cultural context.

    The programme of study undertaken with students from across the Design School's postgraduate framework enables you to develop a personal and critical point of view through the recording, documentation and evaluation of ideas from within your own discipline and from the wider interdisciplinary design environment, and to apply those findings within practical project work.

    The module introduces and develops a range of analytical tools with which to interrogate designed objects and artefacts, and makes links between analytical and propositional methods – creating a framework within which to structure self-initiated project proposals. Practical research methods are explored, with an emphasis on the development of creative, rational and effective approaches to visual experimentation and critical reflection on practical design work within a logical, and measurable, framework. The aim of this module is to provide understanding of the wide ranging methods and tools that are available to inform and support the development of your practical study and to provide the basis of further study on the course.

    Close this module description

Teaching block two

  • This module explores the key principles and perspectives that inform the various practices of sustainability, sustainable development and sustainable design (design for sustainability) in developed and developing world contexts. It examines the ways in which contemporary and emerging modes of design practice and theory relate to the sustainability agenda.

    Module content will include:

    • models of sustainability;
    • measures of sustainable development;
    • histories, theories and practices of design for sustainability; and
    • histories, theories and practices of design for development.
    Close this module description
  • Creative Futures lectures and seminars are designed to enable you to develop an approach and focus to your future career and ongoing personal and professional development. The aim of this module is that through the understanding of the key disciplinary and inter-disciplinary skills and attributes required for a career in the creative industries you will be able to develop an informed and focused Major Project proposal and project during teaching block three. This module builds upon the notion that the best jobs/careers in the creative industries do not exist, that they are invented and created from individual creative ambitions and understanding, and explores how this can be approached in practical terms. The programme of study encourages you to develop a personal and critical approach to your future career and its relationship to the development of your individual major project.

    The Creative Futures module introduces and develops a range of practical methods by which the foundations of a sustainable and successful design practice and career can be understood and built upon. Lectures, Seminars and workshops will introduce and explore key issues and areas that help you to build their understanding of how to develop your own approach to professional career planning. You will also be expected to engage in a range of activities that include: professional competitions, live project work, studio visits and professional practice lectures.

    Close this module description

Teaching block three

  • The Major Project consolidates the knowledge you have gained in earlier modules and is informed and supported by your prior learning within both the Design School's postgraduate interdisciplinary framework and course-specific specialist study.

    The purpose of this module is to enable you to relate the work of the course to a practical solution and to demonstrate skills in defining, analysing and developing a substantial solution to an individually defined design related problem. It will demonstrate both in content and form your advanced understanding of contemporary practice in Design for Development.

    The research and documentation of the project is an integral part of the submission. Reflecting on the process, as well as the critical analysis and methodology of the research itself. The research will be conceptually integrated within the practical work. Individual project topics are expected to be wide ranging and provide the opportunity to fully investigate a practical situation, underpinned by a critical report on the work produced. Topics must allow the opportunity to position work politically, socially and culturally and identify and apply appropriate technology as a means of delivery. This module can be submitted as either a primarily practical project, a full-length written thesis, or a report documenting the design and delivery of a real-world design-led intervention.

    Close this module description

You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish.

Apply for Sustainable Design MA at Kingston University London

Find a course


Share this page