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

Why choose this course?

This collaborative degree, between Kingston School of Art and the Design Museum, has grown into one of the world's foremost programmes for design curators.

Taught by leading curators and designers, the course engages critically and creatively with our fast-changing, complex world. You will have the opportunity to curate live projects and build your own professional profile, through the Design Museum and with institutions such as the Architectural Association, British Council, Gallery Fumi and the Royal Academy of Arts. Led by both research and practice, this course has taught aspiring curators for more than fifteen years.

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. To actively consider geopolitical, social and economic concerns, Curating Contemporary Design is taught within a transdisciplinary framework that allows students to develop responses to the complexity of the world today.

Mode Duration Attendance Start date
Full time 1 year 2 days a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) September 2020
Full time 2 years including professional placement 2 days a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) plus placement year September 2020
Part time 2 years 1 day a week (Tuesday/Wednesday) September 2020
Location Kingston School of Art, Knights Park, and the Design Museum, London

Reasons to choose Kingston University

  • 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 briefs set by leading curators, designers and critics, which address real world issues and ask for critical responses. The projects are designed to develop skills in research, analysis, experimentation, communication and presentation to peers, tutors, industry and collaborative partners, but most importantly the wider public.
  • 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.
  • Optional study visits throughout the year bring you in contact with design and curatorial studio practice, museums, galleries and alternative curatorial spaces and formats in London. Students can also participate in an optional international study trip where previously students have visited New York, Berlin, Lisbon and Amsterdam.

Prepare for the curatorial world

Find out what you'll study on the course and how it'll prepare you for the curatorial world:

What you will study

Through a rigorous framework and practical experience students will engage with contemporary discourse that responses to the complexities and urgencies of today's world. Acknowledging design and curatorial history, you will engage with those contemporary concerns through transdisciplinary collaborations in theory and practice, and will develop stimulating creative interventions and critical writing.

Throughout the year, students will work on a major live project with external partners, which will allow you to gain first hand curatorial experience. The final presentation will be shared with the general public at the Design Museum. Students are currently working on a collaboration with Parsons The New School, New York and HEAD Geneva, which started with a symposium on Design and Film at Dorich House Museum.

The course is structured into five modules. Typically students must complete 180 credits and will gain 30 credits with each of the four core modules plus 60 credits in the Major Project.

Modules

Optional placement year

You will be equipped with the creative, theoretical and practical skills necessary to curate design exhibitions and other curatorial formats including devising briefs, conducting primary and secondary research, selecting exhibits and curating public programmes.

A carefully composed curating visits programme runs alongside the taught modules and includes visits to exhibitions, studios and alternative sites of curatorial and design practice and critique.

The dissertation and/or creative project provides an opportunity to realise independently a body of work which demonstrates an original and creative approach in the field of design curation. With the ambition to develop professional practice and theory, the dissertation has the potential to be developed for research at higher degree level.

Core modules

Curatorial Skill Sets

30 credits

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.

Theories of the Contemporary Object

30 credits

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.

Curatorial Formats

30 credits

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.

Politics of Display

30 credits

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.

Major Project

60 credits

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.

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.

Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme.

Optional modules

Professional Placement

120 credits

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

The information above reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. Updates may be made on an annual basis and revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year. The regulations governing this course are available on our website. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered.

Entry requirements

Typical offer

Applicants should have a good BA (Hons) degree or equivalent qualification in an academic subject or creative practice field.

We welcome applicants with relevant work experience, such as practitioners, museum staff and designers looking to extend their professional experience.

You should be able to demonstrate an ability to work creatively and within a team.

Interview

We will invite all shortlisted candidates to an interview. You will need to demonstrate evidence of enthusiasm and commitment for the subject, plus the ability to analyse written material. We can interview international students by telephone.

Course life

Teaching and assessment

You'll be assessed through curatorial project briefs, critical reviews seminar presentations, essays, and a dissertation.

Guided independent study

When not attending timetabled sessions, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This typically involves reading and analysing articles, regulations, policy document and key texts, documenting individual projects, preparing coursework assignments and completing your PEDRs, etc.

Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities including online resources, the library and CANVAS, the University's online virtual learning platform.

Support for postgraduate students

At Kingston University, we know that postgraduate students have particular needs and therefore we have a range of support available to help you during your time here.

Your workload

Year 1: 11% of your time is spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity.

  • Scheduled teaching and learning: 205 hours
  • Guided independent study: 1,595 hours

Contact hours may vary depending on your modules.

Type of teaching and learning

Type of teaching and learning
  • Scheduled teaching and learning: 205 hours
  • Guided independent study: 1595 hours

How you will be assessed

Assessment typically comprises practical exams (individual or group presentations) and coursework (e.g. critical review, essays, reports, portfolios, dissertation).

The approximate percentage for how you will be assessed on this course is as follows:

Type of assessment

Type of assessment
  • Coursework: 72%
  • Practical: 28%

Feedback summary

We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.

Class sizes

This course normally enrols about 15-20 students. However this can vary by module and academic year because of part-time students.

Who teaches this course?

This Curating Contemporary Design course is delivered by Kingston School of Art's academics, visiting lecturers, guest speakers and through industry connections, allowing you:

  • the chance to engage with the most recent discourse in the field;
  • a possibility to share your work with eminent members of your profession;
  • 'live' projects, site visits and placements in prestigious institutions;
  • project work and workshops with visiting lecturers and industry specialists.

As a student on this course, you'll be taught at both Knights Park campus and The Design Museum on Kensington High Street in Central London.

Fees for this course

Home and European Union 2020/21

  • MA full time £9,500
  • MA part time £5,225

Overseas (not EU) 2020/21

  • MA full time £17,600
  • MA part time £9,680

Fees for the optional placement year

If you choose to take a placement as part of this course, you will be invoiced for the placement fee in Year 2. Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme and the costs for the placement year.


Additional costs

You may incur extra costs associated with your studies, which you will need to plan for. In order to help you budget, the information below indicates what activities and materials are not covered by your tuition fees:

  • Personal laptops.
  • Personal copies of books.
  • Optional study visits and field trips.
  • Printing costs.
  • Your own chosen art materials.
  • Costs of participating at external shows and exhibitions.

Funding and bursaries

Kingston University offers a range of postgraduate scholarships, including:

If you are an international student, find out more about scholarships and bursaries.

We also offer the following discounts for Kingston University alumni:


The Sino-British Fellowship Trust

The Sino-British Fellowship Trust has generously supported senior graduate students with a one-year fellowship to study Curating Contemporary Design since 2006. In addition, the Trust has kindly agreed to respond to the growing interest of Chinese practitioners with visiting scholarships for one term.

Bursary details:

  • For Chinese mature students: The Trust will allocate £15,000 per annum for a bursary towards living costs to enable a student from an academic institution in China to study the one year MA Curating Contemporary Design course.
    Applications need to be received by May before the academic year of study.
  • For Chinese practitioners: The Trust will allocate £5,000 per annum to be used for a one term visiting scholarship towards living costs to enable a curator or museum practitioner from an institution in China to study for a postgraduate certificate in Curating Contemporary Design. 
    Applications can be received all year.

Please contact Jana Scholze for further details on both the bursary and the scholarship.

After you graduate

Our graduates have successful careers in prestigious roles in museums, galleries, universities and cultural organisations around the world.

Through our alumni, the course has developed an extensive international network of curators that include:

  • Keinton Butler: Senior Curator of Design and Architecture, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Sydney.
  • Nina Due: Director, the Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg.
  • Raphael Chikukwa: Chief Curator, National Gallery, Zimbabwe.
  • Catherine Ince: Chief Curator, V&A East, London.
  • Ning Li: Deputy Director of the Collection department, the China Art Museum, Shanghai.
  • Eunjoo Maing: Director/ Head of D-TEC Academy and International Affairs, the Korea Institute of Design Promotion and Regional Advisor, World Design Organisation.
  • Sarah Mann: Head of Programmes, Design Council, London.
  • Sumitra Upham: Public Programme Curator, the Design Museum, London.

Studio visits and guest speakers

Guest speakers and studio visits give you the chance to meet a wide range of professionals directly involved in the public presentation of contemporary design.

In recent years, guest speakers have included:

  • Simon Andrews (Christies)
  • Marloes van Bhomer (designer and Senior Fellow KSA)
  • Daniel Charny (creative director ‘FromNowOn'/ Professor of Design, KSA)
  • Niamh Dillon (British Library)
  • Roberto Feo (El Ultimo Grito/ Professor of Practice, Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg (designer)
  • El Ultimo Grito (designer/ Professor of Design, HEAD Geneva)
  • Edwin Heathcote (architecture and design critic of Financial Times)
  • Onkar Kular (designer/ Professor of Design at HDK Gothenburg)
  • Olivia Oldroyd (V&A)
  • Mariana Pestara (The Decorators)
  • Lucia Pietroiusti (Serpentine Gallery)
  • Gillian Russell (designer, curator, academic)
  • Libby Sellers (independent curator)
  • Jane Withers (Jane Withers Studio)

Professionals involved in course projects, crits and briefs come from a range of institutions, including the Architecture Association Archives, British Council, Royal Academy of Art, Jane Wither Studio, National Trust, Fumi Gallery, Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Crafts Council, and the Wellcome Trust.

Facilities

This course is taught at the Design Museum and Knights Park campus, Kingston University.

Design Museum

At the Design Museum there is a dedicated teaching space in the Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning. You'll have full access to the museum's exhibitions and learning programmes and be issued with a Design Museum membership card, which provides the following benefits:

  • Free access to the museum at any time during the course.
  • Use of the Sackler Library and Archive: open Monday to Friday 10am - 5pm. The Library holds a collection of curating books and design journals specifically for MA CCD students.
  • Free access to, or reduced admission on, talks or lectures that sit within the Design Museum Adult Learning Programme.
  • A discount on books and other products in the Design Museum shop.
  • Discounts in the Design Museum café.

Knights Park campus

At Knights Park campus, there is a wide range of facilities. The campus is situated on the Hogsmill River, with its restaurant and bar opening on to the waterside. It has a friendly, creative feel and benefits from a reception area with a gallery, art shop and space, and the light and airy open-plan learning resources centre.

The workshops and studios are open for creative exploration and offer you plenty of opportunities to collaborate on projects and share ideas, whether you are studying or researching. Building on this open approach, there are many adaptable Architecture studio and workshop spaces, designed by Stirling Prize winning Haworth Tompkins, alongside active breakout spaces.

At the heart of the building are new state of the art workshop facilities, which include:

  • 3D workshop, with ceramics, concrete, resin-casting, plastics, metalwork, woodwork and a bronze-casting foundry, as well as a Big Build space for Architecture, set design and large scale model making
  • Animation and post production studios
  • Digital Media workshop
  • Fashion (knitting and sewing workshops), with digital and analogue facilities, plus a working dress archive which includes pieces from 1750 to the present day
  • HackSpace (for collaborative, creative, solutions-focussed projects)
  • Letterpress and printmaking workshop, with digital and analogue facilities, to experiment creatively
  • Moving Image workshop, with studios, editing suite, and industry-standard equipment
  • Photography workshop, including studios, colour, and black and white darkrooms, processing facilities

All our facilities are open access, meaning you can use them whenever you want, and irrespective of what degree you're studying.

The University also has its own on-site galleries, including:

  • Dorich House - the former studio home of the sculptor Dora Gordine and her husband the Hon. Richard Hare, a scholar of Russian art and literature. Now Grade II listed, the building was completed in 1936, to Gordine's design, and is an exceptional example of a modern studio house created by and for a female artist.
  • Stanley Picker Gallery - one of the leading examples of a university gallery in the UK. Its public activities are dedicated to the research, commissioning and presentation of innovative new practice across the fields of art, design and architecture for general, academic and specialist audiences.
  • project spaces at Knights Park campus, which you can book for the exhibition of large-scale work.

Resources in London

Kingston is just a 30 minute train journey away from central London. Here you can access world-famous museums and galleries.

What our students and graduates say

In my experience, Kingston University gives you the opportunity to interact with many talented creatives from around the world.

I met so many new friends and colleagues at Kingston School of Art and in other faculties across the University.

Raphael Chikukwa, Zimbabwean curator and Chevening scholar

I am very grateful for the Sino-British Scholarship, which has given me an amazing opportunity to acquire new ideas, improve my professional practice, enhance my curating skills and develop the career that I have always wanted.

As a Sino-British Fellowship Trust scholar, I found the Curating Contemporary Design MA a wonderful experience. I enjoyed working in a team; learning more about art and culture administration; visiting the splendid museums, galleries, art and cultural institutions in London; and developing future cooperation opportunities between the UK and China.

Feng Sun, Sino-British Fellowship Trust scholar

It has been very interesting to explore the anthropology behind the curator and the subtle changes the whole profession has undergone. As a history graduate, the whole question really appealed to me and I really enjoyed writing it. The course is very good at facilitating your own interests and specialisms - that's for sure.

Since taking the course I have gone on to manage major London events including COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery for the Crafts Council and Open House London weekend, London's largest architectural showcase.

Matthew Turtle, Producer Public Programmes, Design Museum London

Student work

Links with business and industry

Our links with professional practice provide a real-world base for the Curating Contemporary Design course. They also help us to ensure your studies are kept up-to-date and relevant to the workplace.

Study visits

As a student on this course, you'll also have opportunity to take an optional international study visit, which gives you the opportunity to explore another country's design practice and culture, and meet curators and designers that contribute to the local and global practice and discourse. Previous visits have been to Lisbon, Berlin, Amsterdam and New York.

Please note: this trip will incur additional costs which are not included in the course fees.

Research areas

Kingston School of Art has a strong research practice, focussed on the curatorial, which is demonstrated by a considerable number of PhD students. However, many of our Research Centres engage with the subjects as well, mainly: