Design MA

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Students must apply via one of the following online application forms:-

To apply for the full time course, click apply now.

Course starts: 12 October 2020Apply now

To apply for the part time course, click apply now

Course starts: 12 October 2020Apply now

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Pursue your passion for particular areas of design, at an advanced level and with professional support. Contextualise your chosen areas within the broader field of design with theoretical elements. Join our graduates in exciting jobs throughout the design industry and around the world.

Register your interest


This Masters is built around your personal design interests and aspirations. It allows you to push the boundaries of creativity, within a framework of academic rigour and contextual research. You can choose to study any of the following areas: Advertising, Animation, Calligraphy and lettering, Creative computational design, Design thinking, innovation and ideation, Design leadership, Fashion, product and promotion, Graphic communication, Graphic design, Illustration, Interactive media, Motion graphics, Typographic design. Other specialised design disciplines will also be considered.

Our specialist tutors will work with you as you create a portfolio of creative designs that will excite and impress potential employers. By the end of the course, you will have completed a major project that has evolved from your practice and research. The project will be supported by a critical evaluation report.

Why us?

  • The University of Sunderland is a member of the highly respected Design and Art Directors Association (D&AD), an influential body that rewards creative excellence. The prestigious D&AD Award is well-regarded in the world of advertising and design and recognised globally as the ultimate creative accolade
  • We have excellent engagement with industry, locally, nationally and internationally and have several academic partners overseas including Hong Kong, Malaysia and the US
  • Acclaimed guest speakers from every corner of the design world, such as Jill Calder, Fig Taylor and Bruce McLean from the Association of Illustrators
  • MA Design achieved a 100% overall satisfaction rating (from 17 respondents) in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2019 (PTES)
  • We host the International Research Centre for Calligraphy (IRCC) which promotes and supports the development of calligraphy both nationally and internationally
  • According to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), people with a postgraduate qualification earn an average of 27% more than graduates with just an undergraduate degree
  • Our Creative Arts and Design courses, which include MA Design, were ranked 5th for Engagement and 7th for Overall Satisfaction out of 39 institutions in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2019 (PTES)

New Sunderland Culture logo

A city brimming with creative potential

Offering a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and performances, Sunderland Culture brings big-name artists from the worlds of contemporary visual arts, glass, ceramics and performance to the city, alongside showcasing the best and most exciting local talent. There is a huge range of opportunities for students to visit the venues, take part in events and get involved in the programme. Learn more about Sunderland Culture.

Course structure

Compared to an undergraduate course, you will find that this MA Design programme requires a higher level of independent working. The course aims to stretch your creativity and maximise your sense of personal fulfilment.

We use a wide variety of teaching and learning methods, which include lectures, seminars, critiques, workshops and practical demonstrations. These sessions are supported by a range of guest speakers from diverse academic and industry backgrounds. You will also have high levels of weekly contact with tutors who give regular feedback and support.

MA Design Stage 1 (60 credits)

You will negotiate a ‘statement of intent’ with your tutors that will identify the topics that you intend to study and research. You can choose to specialise in just one area or explore a number of different areas. Your studies will include aspects of creative studio practice that are relevant to your interests. There is also a theoretical element that contextualises your chosen area(s), alongside other design media, within the broader field of design.

MA Design Stage 2 (60 credits)

This is usually the prototyping stage, where you would test out your ideas and experiments before the final outcome in Stage 3. Alternatively, you can either continue your studies in your chosen specialism or diversify your studies into an alternative area. You will explore the techniques and application of your ideas as it applies to a wide range of design disciplines. Practical output and theoretical contextualisation will continue to interact and build on each other.

MA Design Stage 3 (60 credits)

In the final stage, all students will produce a portfolio of creative work that has evolved from the practice and theoretical research developed up to this point. This will be supported by a Critical Evaluation Report.


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

More about MA Design at Sunderland

Discover more articles
  • The University provides generous studio spaces, well-equipped workshops and excellent facilities for design students.

    Within our digital design suites, there are Apple Macs, PCs, HTC VIVE VR and Wacom Cintiqs with Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium. This includes software such as ZBrush, Unity 3D, Maya, Blender, Cinema 4, Dreamweaver and Adobe Creative Suites. Our specialist technical staff, including qualified Adobe and Maya Certified Instructors, offer back-up and help in making the most of the software.

    Design facilities
  • The University Library has an exceptional collection of photography books and monographs and subscribes to a comprehensive range of academic journals and databases so you can access reliable and up-to-date information.

    A dedicated Academic Liaison Librarian supports students and staff in the arts, design and performing arts disciplines.

    The key resources for your course include:

    Discover: The Library’s multi-disciplinary search tool

    Art Full Text: A major resource for media and arts information

    JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’): Giving access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences

    Lexis: A major resource on full-text newspaper articles and legal information

    Library Services - arts and design
  • Map and directions


Our Priestman building provides well-equipped facilities and industry-standard design software so it's easy to make a seamless transition from your studies to the workplace.

Entry requirements

We usually require applicants to hold a good honours degree (2:1 or above) in a design-related discipline such as graphics, illustration, animation or digital media. We may also consider applicants who have relevant experience and who can demonstrate their suitability for the course.

We ask applicants to prepare a portfolio of work, which should be simply mounted and accompanied by preparatory work. Sketchbooks are an important feature of your preparatory work and should be included. Where possible, 3D and large 2D work should be photographed. Digital and screen-based work should be saved on a memory stick.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

Fees and finance

The annual fee for this course is:

  • £6,750 if you are from the UK / EU
  • £13,500 if you are an international student

The part-time fee is £375 per 10 credits.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.

Use our scholarships calculator to see what you may be entitled to.

Scholarships calculator

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This information was correct at the time of publication.

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Postgraduates are highly employable and, on average, earn more than individuals whose highest qualification is an undergraduate degree. On completing this course, you will be equipped for roles throughout the creative industries. Potential roles include animator, graphic designer, illustrator, calligrapher, lettering designer, typographic designer, interactive designer, lecturer or broad-based designer.

A Masters degree will also enhance career opportunities within Higher Education and prepare you for further postgraduate studies, such as MPhil or PhDs.

Career options

Our graduates have forged careers all over the globe in graphic design, editorial, infographics, motion graphics, advertising, web, packaging and interactive design. We have graduates working in Ordinance Survey, MTV, SEGA, and the creative industries of publishing, design consultancies and advertising design. 

This creative degree can also open doors into many other careers, such as teaching, or further study at Doctorate level.

The Enterprise Place

If you have a good idea for a new business and have the dedication and motivation to make it happen, then we want to hear from you. The Enterprise Place, based on-campus at St Peter's Gate Business Centre, is the perfect environment for entrepreneurial students and graduates to turn their business ideas into reality. You will have access to free hot desk space, IT facilities, specialist advice and support and business mentors and networking opportunities.

To find out more about how we can help you start a business, please contact the University's Enterprise Team:

0191 515 3751

Meet the students

  • The course allows you complete freedom to explore the discipline fully, cultivating originality.
    Adam McDade

    Adam McDade

  • If you are older, or even younger and worried about going to university, I say ‘just do it’.
    Gary Nicholson

    Gary Nicholson

Meet the team

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