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Curating Contemporary Design MA (in partnership with the Design Museum)

Mode Duration Attendance Start date
Full time 1 year 2 days a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) September 2019
Full time 2 years including professional placement 2 days a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) plus placement year September 2019
Part time 2 years 1 day a week (Tuesday/Wednesday) September 2019

Choose Kingston's Curating Contemporary Design MA

Run jointly with the Design Museum, London this course is taught by leading curators and designers within the field. Through its projects at the Design Museum and with prestigious cultural organisations, including the British Council, Architecture Foundation, British Museum and the V&A, the course gives you the opportunity to curate live projects and build your own professional profile.

The Kingston School of Art environment, which includes the Stanley Picker Gallery, Dorich House Museum and outstanding workshop facilities, encourages creativity and experimentation as responses to interrogations of contemporary conditions and concerns.

The course is unique as it is both research and practice-led in the field of curatorial studies. The course has taught aspiring curators for more than 15 years and is widely recognised as a pioneer of its kind leading the new discipline of design curation. Graduates have pursued successful careers in museums, galleries and cultural organisations around the world and the course has developed an extensive international network of curators.

This degree is taught in the Department of Creative and Cultural Industries, part of Kingston School of Art.

Key features

  • Professional practice modules at the Design Museum underpin modules on the history and theory of curating and design taught at Kingston School of Art.
  • A strong focus of the course is on project work with project briefs set by leading curators and designers which can be experimental or address real world issues. The projects are designed to develop skills in research, analysis, experimentation, communication and presentation to peers, tutors, industry and collaborative partners.
  • The partnership with the Design Museum offers access to inspiring curators and experienced museum staff and also to the Design Museum's collections, library, archives and a changing programme of exhibitions and events.
  • Study Visits throughout the year and during an international study trip bring you in contact with design and curatorial studio practice, museums, galleries and alternative curatorial spaces and format. Previously, the course visited New York, Berlin and Amsterdam.
  • The art school context provides students with direct contact to contemporary designers, artists and architects and encourages interdisciplinary collaborations which have included MA courses such as Sustainable Design, Fashion, Art and Design History, Art Market and Appraisal.
  • The outstanding workshops at KSA are accessible to all students and collaborations with the Stanley Picker Gallery and Dorich House Museum allow for experimentation with curatorial formats, media and techniques.

Guest speakers in recent years have included:

  • Simon Andrews (Christies)
  • Marloes van Bhomer
  • Annabella Campbell (Crafts Council)
  • Oriole Cullen (V&A)
  • Niamh Dillon (British Library) 
  • Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg 
  • El Ultimo Grito
  • Edwin Heathcote (Financial Times)
  • Matylda Krzykowski (Depot Basel)
  • Onkar Kular
  • Olivia Oldroyd (V&A)
  • Mariana Pestara (V&A)
  • Lucia Pietroiusti (Serpentine Gallery)
  • Libby Sellers
  • Jane Withers.

What will you study?

Through a rigorous and critical framework and practical experience you will engage with contemporary design and curatorial practice, its history, theory and discourse. You will be equipped with the creative and practical skills necessary to curate design exhibitions and events including devising exhibition briefs, researching and selecting exhibits and curating learning and public programmes. This is combined with an historical and theoretical framework interrogating the object, collection and display of design in museums and the expanded field.

Of special note is the use of live projects, often in collaboration with institutions such as the British Council, the National Trust or Gallery Fumi, which allow students to gain first hand curatorial experience and develop practical skills.

The dissertation and/or Project provides an opportunity to work independently to realise a body of work which demonstrates an original and creative approach in the field of design curation. It supports the development of professional practice or has the potential to be developed for research at higher degree level.

A carefully composed curating visits programme runs alongside the main teaching programme and includes visits to exhibitions, studios and other sites of design or curatorial practice.


Curatorial project briefs, seminar presentations, essays, and dissertation.

Work placement scheme

Many postgraduate courses at Kingston University allow students to do a 12-month work placement as part of their course. The responsibility for finding the work placement is with the student; we cannot guarantee the work placement, just the opportunity to undertake it. As the work placement is an assessed part of the course, it is covered by a student's tier 4 visa.

Invoicing on the placement courses is split into two stages. The standard course fee is payable in year 1 with the placement fee invoiced in year 2. Therefore, students starting in September 2017 would therefore be charged the placement fee of £1,070 in September 2018. Students commencing the course in September 2018 will be invoiced the placement fee in 2019 (provisionally £1,230).

This amount will only be charged to your account after you find a placement and are enrolled on the module. You will not be charged this fee if you do not manage to secure a work placement.

Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme.

Course structure

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.


  • This module provides an introduction to the concepts and practices of curating contemporary design. Through a close partnership with the Design Museum, you will directly engage with the curatorial process and develop an understanding of the curatorial knowledge and core skills necessary to produce creative exhibitions, collection displays, learning and public programmes. Leading practitioners at the Design Museum and guest lecturers introduce the key elements of exhibition curating, including concept development and narrative structure, selecting exhibits, working with exhibition and graphic designers, understanding audiences, the role of interpretation, writing exhibition text and how the areas of communications, development, finance, learning, retail and publishing support exhibitions.

    These elements are further developed in group curating projects, with live project briefs set by Design Museum curators exploring a key aspect of 21st century creative and professional practice. The projects encourage communication, collaboration, peer interaction and critical reflection in combination with the development of research, analytical and critical skills. The module also includes a programme of curating visits which runs alongside the main teaching programme. The programme includes visits to exhibitions and other sites of design and curatorial practice in London. It provides the opportunity to hear curators reflect on their practice in the context of their own spaces. The programme encourages critical reflection on the visits and the writing of exhibition reviews.

    Read full module description

  • This module provides an exploration of key theoretical concepts of curatorial practice. Questions around the object, collection, museum and exhibition will be discussed, supported by historical and current critical writing. You will develop an understanding of the close relationship between theory, history and practice, and engage with methodology as foundation of any critical writing, exhibition making or public debate.

    The module radically expands the conventional definitions of the contemporary field of design practice. Using the close connection to design, art, and architecture practice courses at the Kingston School of Art, you will be exposed to a productive and stimulating environment of practice as well as critical thinking and research. Collaborative teaching between museum and university professionals allows you to interrogate with new work and develop a joined up approach to place it through research, writing and debate into historical discourse.

    This module also considers the major project and explores its scope, direction and intended aims, through applied research skills and testing of methodological approaches. The project may be a set brief by a project partner, or provide a location and scope for a proposed curatorial intervention, or invite proposals in response to public concerns which might be social, political, ecological or other.

    Read full module description

  • This module identifies and works with emerging curatorial formats and practices in order to develop your understanding of different curatorial formats. The field of contemporary design is a rapidly shifting landscape. Technologies are constantly changing and advances in social media networks, interpretation tools and public programming are having a profound impact on the way that exhibitions are conceived and presented. An expanded field of practice and new digital tools call for a range of creative solutions and specialist skills from curators. Curators need to equip themselves with the skills that address traditional forms of curating and writing alongside online platforms, broadcasting and more experimental media and display formats curated for diverse audiences, such as public programmes and residencies. A series of lectures, seminars and workshops from leading practitioners in the field will present case studies of innovative practice.

    These elements are further developed in group curating projects, with live project briefs set by Design Museum curators and leading practitioners in the field which introduce and test new curatorial formats. The projects encourage communication, collaboration, peer interaction and critical reflection in combination with the development of research, analytical and critical skills. Student learning is supported by a programme of curating visits, including exhibitions and other sites of design and curatorial practice in London. It provides the opportunity to hear curators reflect on their practice in the context of their own spaces. The programme encourages critical reflection on the visits and the writing of exhibition reviews.

    Read full module description

  • Display is an inherently political practice. Design and art are constantly evolving disciplines which shifting framework and overlapping boundaries necessitate persistent negotiation and (re)definition. To emphasise that this is not a new phenomenon, this module introduces exhibition examples of the last 100 years to show how such modifications have been communicated and challenged through creative and innovative curatorial approaches. Most importantly, this exhibition history demonstrates that defining the field has always been closely connected to political, social and economic aspects such as the consideration of national identities, movements, technology, culture and consumption. Investigating in historic and current adaptations of curatorial practice will directly influence how you formulate your own concept for your major project. Experimentation with formats and creative approaches are encouraged making full use of Kingston School of Art's workshops and curatorial sides. Guest lectures and tutorials will stimulate, motivate and support your independent or group work, and ensure the application of theoretical and methodological thinking.

    Read full module description

  • The Major Project is the capstone module of the Masters programme. Focusing on skills of critical research, analysis and presentation, the capstone project enables you to synthesise and apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired throughout the course. It provides them with the opportunity to craft their own approach to the field through critical-theoretical and/or creative, practice-based research, supported by a series of taught sessions, enabling a depth and breadth of engagement with research methods. The Major Project can accommodate research projects developed through a range of academic and professional contexts depending on the motivation and interests of the student. It can be presented either as a dissertation or as a creative project, such as a portfolio comprising a chosen medium or media, accompanied by a critical commentary. The intensity of the workload increases across the three teaching blocks, allowing increasing focus in line with the level of your expertise.

    Read full module description


Professional placement year

  • The Professional Placement module is a core module for those students following a Master's programme that incorporates professional placement learning, following completion of 120 credits. It provides students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in an appropriate working environment, and to develop and enhance key employability skills and subject specific professional skills in their chosen subject. You may wish to use the placement experience as a platform for their subsequent major project module, and would be expected to use it to help inform their decisions about future careers.

    Read full 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, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

We aim to ensure that all courses and modules advertised are delivered. However in some cases courses and modules may not be offered. For more information about why, and when you can expect to be notified, read our Changes to Academic Provision.

A copy of the regulations governing this course is available here

Details of term dates for this course can be found here

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