The University of Southampton
Winchester School of ArtPostgraduate study

MA Communication Design

A distinctive focus on digital media practice and theory sets this course apart from traditional communication design courses, preparing you for an exciting career in a range of design roles.

Introducing your course

MA Communication Design is the study of information and interface design, the course combines creativity with critical analysis of contemporary media and knowledge of the latest methodologies and tools. In our modern, well-equipped studios you’ll learn how to develop effective concepts and prototypes for current and emergent platforms, informed by user experience design principles. Your practice will be supported by excellent facilities including a recently launched Interaction and Prototyping Laboratory (iLab), 3D printing and laser cutting as well as traditional design and print equipment. You’ll learn from academics with industry experience in graphic design, interaction design and design for broadcast media. The course culminates in a practice-led research project, which is an exciting opportunity for you to engage with key debates shaping the design industry and scholarship. When you graduate you’ll be ready for a career in established and emerging design fields, such as, interaction design, user experience design, data visualisation, digital product design and publishing.

Communication Design

Overview

This course will be of interest to recent graduates or those with professional experience who wish to extend their creative skills and design knowledge into the realm of digital media, user experience design and design research. While a working knowledge of Windows and Adobe software is required, it is not a technical course; the focus is on how you effectively research users and contexts, develop innovative concepts and produce lo- and hi-fidelity prototypes.

Click here to download the full Programme Specification.

Programme Structure

This is a one-year, full-time masters degree. It comprises modules taught over two semesters; in semester three you’ll undertake supervised independent study for your final project.

In semester one, the studio-based module Design for New Media will introduce you to design thinking and user-centred approaches to design as well as technical tools and practical methods for each stage of the design process. You’ll be set themed briefs, supported by talks, workshops and group tutorials, which you’ll work on in the studio.

You’ll consolidate your learning in semester two in the Design Laboratory module, during which you’ll apply your skills and prepare for your final project through increasingly critical and experimental forms of design practice. You’ll be encouraged to think not only about what the market is demanding, but how design can be used as a tool for research, innovation and creativity that can challenge industry norms.

Alongside your design studies and practice, you’ll take Professional and Academic Skills modules. These give you the chance to develop your professional competencies through activities such as CV workshops, portfolio feedback and sessions with our industry-experienced academics on how to position yourself as a practitioner. You’ll also gain the essential scholarship and research skills that will underpin your studies.

Semester two also offers an opportunity to tailor your course by choosing an optional module. Depending on your interests and career aims, you could select a topic that complements your communication design studies, such as digital cultures or experimental publishing, or gain skills and knowledge in another area, such as global marketing, responsible design and visual culture, or entrepreneurship.

The final project is your chance to explore a contemporary industry and/or scholarly issue. Again, you can choose from a range of subject areas that will help you build a strong portfolio and progress towards a particular career. Projects pursued by past graduates include:

  • a ‘design thinking’ kit for engineering students in Columbia
  • a transmedia story demonstrating how narratives and promotion play out across different media platforms
  • data visualisations aimed at encouraging behavioural change
  • a musical instrument that explores the parameters of gestural interfaces
  • a research project analysing access to UK primary care services for international students

Pioneering practice-led research

Integral to the course is an emphasis on research and how ‘making’ processes can contribute to knowledge production. Our academics have experience in this field, which emphasises process over outcome and encourages an iterative approach that combines prototyping and reflection.

Industry connections 

You’ll be exposed to external industry professionals and practice throughout the course. Guest speakers are a regular feature of the core modules, with additional events, workshops and competition briefs run by or with design companies.

Past opportunities have included:

  • working with interaction design company Kin Design on projects related to smart cities
  • studio visits to the London offices of international branding company Design Bridge
  • workshops on electronic prototyping run by product design and development company ONN Studio

Outstanding facilities

You’ll have access to the innovative Interaction and Prototyping Laboratory (iLab), where you can take part in a range of technology focused workshops and seminars.

Also, our students work in a modern, spacious studio with access to high-spec computers, a 3D printer and laser cutter. The latest audio visual and photography equipment is available to borrow from the School’s Media Store. While the curriculum is primarily focused on digital media, there is the opportunity to combine this with more traditional image-making methods, such as screen-printing or letterpress printing. 

Industry-experienced, research-active academics

You’ll be taught by academics who have worked in senior design, education and media roles. They bring their industry insights to the course, as well as their research and teaching expertise.

Programme leader James Branch ran a design company in London and also worked freelance with leading design agencies, publishers and architectural organisations before joining Winchester School of Art. He has had his research published in the Journal of Communication Design and continues to pursue an interest in the role of practice in research and relationships between people, media and technology 

Andy Lapham is a web designer and photographer as well as an experienced educator and lecturer in interaction design. His work focuses on the role of research in the development of design for digital devices. He has a longstanding interest in enhancing learning experiences through digital technologies – his impact on learning and teaching has been recognised with the award of a Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

Jacqueline Perkins has extensive professional experience in graphic design and art direction and has conceived and directed titles, content, commercials and brand identities across a wide range of media, for clients including the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV. She has been a judge for the British Film and Television Awards. Her international network of industry contacts enriches her research into work-related learning in design, industry collaboration and employability.

Key Facts

A distinctive focus on digital media·         

Taught by academics with industry experience and research expertise.

Guest lectures, studio visits and activities with industry partners will enhance your learning.      

Superb facilities include a dedicated Interaction and Prototyping Laboratory (iLab), 3D printing, laser cutting, and high-spec computing and the latest photography equipment.

The chance to study a topic in depth for your final project and develop a portfolio that will enhance your employability.

Graduates have gone on to work for Ogilvy & Mather, Alibaba Group, EMI and the Singapore Institute of Technology.

Entry Requirements

Typical entry requirements

Selection process

The admissions policy for the MA Communication Design is based on students having a good honours degree in a relevant subject (2.2 or above) or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University.

MA Communication Design at Winchester School of Art is both practice and theory based. It is important that you demonstrate your artistic ability in a portfolio, as this will be the determining factor for entry. Your portfolio should include evidence of exploring how design responds to developments in media and digital culture, examples of work that shows an innovative and experimental approach to tackling a design challenge, and examples of work that demonstrates an engagement with the full range of contemporary ‘communication design’ not just graphics design . Please include a variety of projects in your portfolio. Your portfolio should not exceed ten megabytes in size.

Personal statement

WSAmacd is about exploring (and preparing you for) the fast changing design industries and media spaces. Use your personal statement to tell us where you are in relation to these shifts - new technologies, mobile media, new readership practices, new attitudes to media and design, social media, globalised distributed media etc. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing design? What do you is the role of the designer in these new spaces? Yes, we want to know about what you do and why you do it but we also want to know what you think, what writers and designers you have looked at to help you think through these issues? WSAmacd is about making you a thoughtful designer, a practice-researcher using communications design to explore emerging media and design and creating new design practices and philosophies that can exploit the new possibilities.

If you have any questions, you can contact us via our Facebook page www.facebook.com/WSAmacd  or mail the Programme Leader, James Branch at j.branch@soton.ac.uk

If you would like the opportunity to discuss any details of the course in more detail, please email Pgapply.FBL@southampton.ac.uk

If you have professional experience, or credit through prior learning at another institution, you may be eligible to use this experience against some of the programme requirements for period of study. You will need to present evidence that you have met the learning outcomes of the programme. Full details can be found in the University’s Policy on the Recognition of Prior Learning .

English Language Requirements

International and EU students applying for this course are required to have a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 overall with 5.5 in each component or equivalent, prior to starting the programme. For a full list of English language tests accepted please see here

The University also runs a number of English language courses to prepare students for study, details can also be found here for more information about the WSA pre-sessionals.

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.

Modules

Typical course content

MA Communication Design students study compulsory and optional modules aimed at honing their own artistic practice.

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Fees & funding

Tuition fees

Fees for postgraduate taught courses vary across the University. All fees are listed for UK, EU and international full-time and part-time students alphabetically by course name.

View the full list of course fees

Funding

Scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships or grants may be available to support you through your course. Funding opportunities available to you are linked to your subject area and/or your country of origin. These can be from the University of Southampton or other sources.

Explore funding opportunities

Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

There will also be further costs for the following, not purchasable from the University:

TypeDescription
EquipmentApproved calculator: The University approved models are Casio FX-570 and Casio FX-85GT Plus. These may be purchased from any source and no longer need to carry the University logo.
StationeryYou will be expected to provide your own day-to-day stationery items, e.g. pens, pencils, notebooks, etc). Any specialist stationery items will be specified under the Additional Costs tab of the relevant module profile.
BooksWhere a module specifies core texts these should generally be available on the reserve list in the library. However due to demand, students may prefer to buy their own copies. These can be purchased from any source. Some modules suggest reading texts as optional background reading. The library may hold copies of such texts, or alternatively you may wish to purchase your own copies. Although not essential reading, you may benefit from the additional reading materials for the module.
EquipmentArt equipment and materials: Drawing paper, painting materials, sketchbooks Students on the Studio programmes will be required to purchase Sketchbooks the cost of which will vary.
EquipmentArt equipment and materials: Fabric, thread, wool Students taking the Studio based Fashion Design and Textile Design Programme will be required to purchase their own materials, the cost of which will vary. A student can choose the quality.
EquipmentDesign equipment and materials: Standard construction/modelling materials will be provided where appropriate, unless otherwise specified in a module profile. For customisation of designs/models calling for material other than standard construction/ modelling materials, students will bear the costs of such alternatives.
Printing and copyingWritten coursework: In most cases, written coursework such as essays, projects and dissertations is submitted online and by hard copy. The costs of printing a hard copy for submission of such coursework will be the responsibility of the student. The cost of photocopying will also be the responsibility of the student. https://www.southampton.ac.uk/isolutions/students/printing
Printing and copyingPortfolio: Printing for the collation of a student’s portfolio will be the responsibility of the student.
OtherOptional visits (e.g. museums, galleries): Some modules may include optional visits to a museum, galleries, or industry. You will normally be expected to cover the cost of travel, admission and food unless otherwise specified in the module profile.
OtherParking costs: Free parking is not normally available on campus to students.
TravelThe Student’s Union provide a mini free bus service which runs every two hours between the Winchester Campus and the Highfield Campus. Students are responsible for all other daily travel expenses.

In some cases you'll be able to choose modules (which may have different costs associated with that module) which will change the overall cost of a programme to you. Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

Career Opportunities

You’ll graduate with a portfolio of high-quality design work and the professional skills you need to secure employment, start your own businesses, or pursue further research.

The degree opens up a wealth of opportunities in the digital, media and design sectors. Depending on your interests there are opportunities to specialise in interaction design, data visualisation or digital product development, publishing or design research.

Past graduates have gone on to work for:

  • Ogilvy & Mather
  • Alibaba Group
  • Singapore Institute of Technology
  • EMI

Learning & Assessment

Study locations

Winchester campus

Winchester campus

Winchester School of Art is set in pleasant, green surroundings close ...Find out more

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