Course specification and structure
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UDFUPRDE - BA Furniture and Product Design

Course Specification

Validation status Validated
Highest award Bachelor of Arts Level Honours
Possible interim awards Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Higher Education, Certificate of Higher Education, Bachelor of Arts
Total credits for course 360
Awarding institution London Metropolitan University
Teaching institutions London Metropolitan University
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Subject Area Design
Attendance options
Option Minimum duration Maximum duration
Full-time 3 YEARS  
Part-time 6 YEARS  
Course leader  

About the course and its strategy towards teaching and learning and towards blended learning/e-learning

The CASS’s unique BA (Hons) Furniture and Product Design course prepares students for a future career through direct access to the industry and its practices. The Faculty has a 200-year history of education for industry and the wealth of knowledge and resources for furniture and product studies held by the course is unsurpassed. As a student, you will be asked to exploit your talents to the maximum in the designing and making of commercially aware products and you will graduate with unparalleled hands-on experience of contemporary furniture andn product design and making practice. The course and its team will ensure that every design pursued is developed and presented appropriately to the market sector it is intended for.
With an emphasis on critical and investigative creative development alongside attention to manufacturing excellence, the course introduces the principles of contemporary furniture and product design practice in both design and making alongside the effective utilisation of communication strategies for a range of professional and employment opportunities.
You will cover key conceptual and technical aspects of furniture and product design and making, including visual communication, research methods for designers, design technical drafting skills, material and process specification, 3D making skills, professional ethics and critical thinking. The course programme integrates the development of academic attributes and subject-specific learning to help you to fulfil your potential as highly informed contemporary creative design activists with a capacity for independent thinking and problem solving.
Interaction with contemporary furniture and product practice and industry is fundamental to the development of confident and work-ready graduates. The contacts and experience that you will have on the course are a bridge between university studies and life as a professional practitioner. The course provides you with a structured environment that encourages external professional engagement with a range of high profile, national and international designers, companies, live projects and competitions. You will work in excellent, industry-specification facilities including extensive workshops for wood, metal and modelmaking, finishing and digital manufacturing for research, testing and exploration.
The course aims to prepare you as designers and makers to be independent practitioners or to work as part of a larger furniture or product design or production team; for individual business start-up, and for entry to courses at a higher level. Graduates may also work in related fields such as design journalism, retail or marketing, management or teaching. The teaching and learning practices within the course promote:

  • Opportunities for students to experiment and learn through direct experience, achieving practised understanding of discipline and context.
  • A culture of independent thought embedded in teaching and learning, to foster professional industrial and bespoke practitioners.
  • A blend of industrial studio and workshop practice, provided in digital and traditional manufacturing workshops, computer labs, design studios and multi-media facilities.
  • Student participation in collaborative project work with industry to ensure awareness of current industry practice.
  • Opportunities for students to experiment and research within both subject specific and cross-disciplinary projects.
  • Use of London’s rich cultural heritage as a resource, allowing for projects to take place off-site as well as on campus.
  • Deliberate disruption of conventional design and research processes, to avoid banal and repetitive outcomes and to promote innovation.
  • Real life testing of proposals in ethically sound scenarios.

Teaching methods include: lectures, seminars, tutorials, critiques, workshops, studio practice and independent studies. Students work through studios and projects, progressively building up existing skills, developing and realising new ideas, techniques and working practices; every effort is made to ensure teaching is as varied and student-centred as possible. Students are constantly exposed to the feedback and comment of commercial and industry partners, and of potential or actual clients and users. Technical equipment is located in practice-based studios and workshops, students having both taught and facility access to an unprecedented wide range of equipment.

Each year of study comprises of four year-long (30 weeks, 30 credit) modules in the areas of concept and realisation, industry practice and cultural and contextual studies. The CASS Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design fosters a studio culture, built around the current practices of professional creative industries with strategies of co-operative, collective, collaborative as well as individual working.

Lectures seek to provide a critically informed overview of a topic, to conceptualise and contextualise the subject and illustrate applied approaches.

Workshop and practical teaching takes a variety of forms. The objective is to apply knowledge and/or acquire technical competence, think critically and creatively, master technique and develop the capacity to work independently and within teams, and to challenge accepted ways of working

Studio practice enhances lectures, seminars, study visits, critiques, workshop activities, group and individual tutorials. Both projects and theoretical work offer opportunities for developing professional competency in presentation (including visual, spoken and text-based modes), using digital technologies, blogs, videos, photography and websites. Through a rich mix of teaching styles and learning contexts, the course seeks to foster in its students confidence as autonomous learners, promoting imagination and effectiveness of design practitioners in the making.

Project briefs develop from year to year in accordance with contemporary practice, furthering research interests and project opportunities in context of the School and Faculty ethos. Disciplinary skills are embedded at the beginning of the course, moving to a studio (cross-disciplinary) theme-based system in later years, led by the student in the final year. The body of work accumulated at Levels 5 and 6 is significant, making up an academic portfolio that demonstrates the full range of attributes that are required for career development in creative practice and/ or for entry to MA level Courses. Shared projects across courses and/or years enable opportunities for peer-to-peer learning to be maximised.

Critical and Contextual Studies run in parallel to the design and subject-specific industry practice modules. These modules focus on transferable graduate skills in the field of academic scholarship and writing and professional practice. As part of their professional profile, students need to be able to retrieve, analyse, interpret, articulate and structure information and knowledge for different purposes and audiences. These modules frame key skills of research within the specific context of design history and theory, taking into account the practice requirements of the industry, its professional, legal, ethical and institutional contexts. Intensive blocks of learning in seminar and lecture presentations, alongside site visits, image analysis, case studies, and workshops, aid acquisition of skills in presentation, visual and textual analysis and representation.

The course engages with national and London-based competitions and encourages students to extend these opportunities as extra-curricular activity, including collaborative publication and exhibition wherever possible.

Use of virtual learning supports students day-to-day and through project work in progress, enhancing the studio practice through a blended learning approach. Blended learning encourages students to form learning communities, whilst providing a personal reflective space, offering a knowledge portal that supports research-banks and studio sessions, exercises and lecture notes.

The teaching team includes highly experienced furniture designers, makers and restorers, and the wider Faculty includes specialist practitioners in interior designers and architects, fashion and textile designers, jewellers, modelmakers, metalworkers, film-makers, providing opportunities for collaborative working that reflect professional life.

Course aims

The aims of this course are aligned with the qualification descriptors within the Quality Assurance Agency’s Framework for Higher Education Qualifications. The course aims to:

  • Develop the student’s capacity to work within a professional and socially responsible framework.
  • Foster creative approaches to problem identification, design development and innovation in furniture and product, seeking to challenge accepted conventions of furniture and product design.
  • Synthesise knowledge, skills and strategies that enable designers to improve quality of experience with the made world.
  • Develop confident promotional, entrepreneurial and presentational skills across a wide range of media, encouraging multidisciplinary approaches and critical thought.
  • Develop visual curiosity, independent enquiry and capacity to reason, critique and reflect upon practice through an integrated approach to practice and theory, research and analysis.

Through the experience of materiality and making, enable professional ways of working (with knowledge, efficiency, confidence and autonomy) relevant to a student’s professional sphere and creative ambitions.

Course learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

Knowledge and Understanding

  1. Recognise how furniture andn products are situated within the broader histories and practices of material culture and the part that it plays in social and economic frameworks.
  2. Utilise a range of making and production technologies, material types and traditional and digital processes.
  3. Approach design questions, situations or problems through a systematic application of research, analysis and synthesis, using observation, recording, collaboration and creative thinking to develop design solutions that enhance human experience.

Cognitive Intellectual Skills

  1. Apply ‘reflection in practice’ in order to foster autonomy, independent thought and professional confidence in presentation.
  2. Generate relevant design propositions that challenge accepted paradigms and consumer expectations of contemporary furniture andn product design.
  3. Recognise the symbiotic relationship of design and manufacture with design concept and theory and conduct informed making as an intellectual process and activity.

Transferable Skills

  1. Present projects at various stages of development through visual, written and verbal presentations communicating knowledge and thought in practice.
  2. Recognise the effect of complex, multiple participant, human factors upon creative thinking, project timescales and commercial constraints.
  3. Take responsibility for individual and group practice, developing professional interaction, collaboration, negotiation and communication within problem-solving.

Subject-Specific Practical Skills

  1. Make informed material choices and manipulate a range of traditional and contemporary processes, at scale and full size.
  2. Describe and practically implement data relating to ergonomics and anthropometrics and consider a full range of human and sensory factors with consideration of function and interaction upon human wellbeing
  3. Analyse, communicate and represent structure, scale, form and material qualities through drawing, modelling, and visualisation skills

Principle QAA benchmark statements

Subject Benchmark Statement; Art & Design

Assessment strategy

An appropriate range of formative and summative assessment methods is used, including peer appraisal and reflective practice, studio based work and personal projects, presentations, seminars and portfolio reviews.

Formative assessment and feedback are provided in relation to each component of work in progress. Summative assessment corresponding to published criteria is given within each module on completion of coursework requirements.

Students are guaranteed a consistent approach to assessment and feedback across the years and Faculty to ensure they have a secure grasp of their progress. These approaches to assessment and feedback support students’ understanding of their learning by providing timely developmental feedback that promotes a deeper learning approach to their studies. Assessment methods such as reports, essays, critiques, presentations, digital and studio portfolio reviews, allow differing learning styles, whilst encouraging reflective and reflexive approaches. Each assessment (formative and summative) seeks to build students’ confidence as independent learners, providing pertinent advice for all aspects of learning.

The course team provides ongoing opportunities for scheduled tutorial ‘drop in’ sessions and the course’s virtual learning environment offers students opportunities to discuss (with tutors and peers) their assessment strategies. Further support is available via personal academic tutors, Library Services, and University Student Services.

Organised work experience, work based learning, sandwich year or year abroad

Work placements and industry experience are an integral part of becoming a practitioner and give undergraduates the opportunity to experience and participate in creative problem solving whilst working in teams with other employees. Students are encouraged to acquire industrial experience through live projects. Not only does this broaden practical experience but it also enhances CV development. Within their final year, students are expected to work independently towards completion of professional portfolio of projects, culminating in exhibition of these in the annual graduate show. Level 6 students are encouraged to develop entrepreneurial opportunities throughout the course and to gain professional experience appropriate to their discipline throughout the course through contact and collaboration with industry partners. In addition, the course has collaborative links with the creative industries directly through visiting professionals who regularly contribute real-world knowledge to projects.
Work-related learning is an integrated and mandatory part of the course, with at least 70 hours working on live projects for real organisations delivered through placement, live briefs and real entrepreneurial activities built into the course. The level six module ‘Exhibition Practice’ is designated as the placement or work-related learning module. Students will experience a competitive recruitment process or pitching for opportunities, and they will be required to reflect on their experience of the project and undertake forward career action planning.

Course specific regulations

ACADEMIC PROGRESSION: As a condition of progressing from level 4 to 5 and level 5 to 6, students are required to have gained 120 credits per level, that is, by achieving pass marks (40%) in all four modules in the preceding level of study.

Level 6: In order to achieve an honours degree award on this course, students must have completed and passed each Level 6 module at 40% or above.

Part-time study is defined as 60 credits per year. Consequently, in part-time mode, the duration of study for a 360-credit degree will be 6 years. The pattern of study in CASS degrees shall be as follows:

Year 1: 3D Design Principles, Workshop Practice
Year 2: Critical and Contextual Studies 1(3D), 3D Visual Research and Communication
Year 3: 3D Design, Design Resolution
Year 4: Critical and Contextual Studies 2(3D), Making Matters
Year 5: 3D Project Design and Development, Major Project Realisation: Furniture and Product Design
Tear 6: Critical and Contextual Studies 3: Dissertation(3D), Exhibition Practice

Arrangements for promoting reflective learning and personal development

The course places special emphasis on the processes of reflective learning, through a range of embedded methods within studio projects, to develop self-motivated and self-critical students, equipped with critical and creative skills vital to future employment prospects and development of the profession.

Throughout the course, students are asked to reflect upon their own learning development, peer participation and practice, through dialogue and structured guidance in relation to sketchbooks, journals, logs and online feedback. Portfolio reviews, formative self and peer assessments, tutorials and written feedback support students’ understanding of their own working practice. Constructive guidance on work in progress is provided throughout, while engaging and developing personal and professional competency in an open, studio environment of reciprocal learning and reflection.

Ongoing dialogue and review of sketchbooks, critical reviews and professional-practice portfolios and presentations stimulate reflection and understanding towards achieving the learning outcomes of the course, in the process of developing as a furniture and product designer.

Regular critiques of work in progress provide constructive feedback, enabling students to reflect and develop their outlook and approach in relation to current and future projects. Industry specialists contribute where possible to critiques, providing further ‘real-world’ insight within the professional context and focus.

Arrangements on the course for careers education, information and guidance

  • Study visits to furniture and product design & making enterprises, restoration/conservation workshops, exhibitions, museums, galleries and retail outlets inform students of potential employment opportunities
  • Contact and liaison with industry clients and design professionals through live project work, competitions.
  • Careers advice (both promotional and presentational) is integral to the course within lectures and portfolio reviews
  • Competition, exhibition and publicity opportunities exist throughout the course.
  • Portfolio surgeries are carried out wherein the student is given encouraging and specific advice in regards to their presentational focus
  • External exhibitions and trade fairs enable selected students to develop further career opportunities
  • Students are supported to reflect upon their own practice throughout the course to progress successfully to their chosen field within the furniture industry

Extra-curricular programmes such as the ‘Making a Living’ series of events offer opportunities for students to gain enhanced knowledge of specific aspects of professional life

Other external links providing expertise and experience

The course enjoys ongoing links with professional practices that regularly support students. Industry professionals and specialists play a strategic role in live projects, developing students’ understanding of context, client constraints and the commission process. Opportunity for industrial visits and national and international exhibitions occur regularly and lectures by visiting professional practitioners provide insight and inside knowledge and act as stimulus to learning. Design briefs engage students with companies and organisations such as Heal’s, Lloyd Loom Furniture, The Design Museum and LigneRoset.

In addition, teaching staff bring a wide range of expertise and visibility for the Faculty collectively, recognised widely as expert professionals operating in the field of furniture, cabinetmaking and product design including bespoke, office and public/ architectural furniture and product consultancy.

Faculty Support and Consultancy:
The Frederick Parker Collection of chairs and the extensive company archive (on permanent loan to the University) provides a unique study collection. The ‘Projects Office’ provides a supportive professional environment that allows students and staff to undertake consultancy commissions and research projects as well as providing project management support to live projects carried out by students as part of their course.

Career opportunities

The degree prepares you to enter the design profession in areas including the creative industries, commercial and public sector bodies and self-employment. Our graduates attend major international furniture industry and trade events, and have gone on to work as furniture designers for companies including Kesslers International and McLaren Furniture. Former student Yinka Ilori has successfully set up his own design studio and now exhibits his work all over the world.

You could follow in the footsteps of our students who regularly win international competitions and participate in events such as the London Design Festival and Milan Furniture Fair. Such opportunities provide you with the connections to help launch your own career.

As well as opening up a wide range of occupations within furniture, product and architectural/interior design, you may also work as a buyer, furniture technologist, design journalist or educator in furniture and product design. The course will also prepare you for entry to courses at a master's level.

Entry requirements

In addition to the University's standard entry requirements, you should have:

  • a minimum of grades BBC in three A levels in relevant arts, humanities and social science subjects (or a minimum of 112 UCAS points from an equivalent Level 3 qualification in relevant art and design subjects) plus a portfolio review

We encourage applications from international/EU students with equivalent qualifications.

We also accept mature students with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We're proud of the fact that many of our students are changing their careers, finding their calling later in life. Formal qualifications are not always necessary since life and work experience can be considered. In such cases, we ask for a CV and supporting letter. Commitment and enthusiasm are key factors.

Suitable applicants living in the UK will be invited to a portfolio interview. Applicants living outside the UK will be required to submit a portfolio of work via email.

We also offer a two-year Furniture FdA course, providing successful students the option to either progress directly to Year 3 the Furniture BA or leave with a foundation degree.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

Official use and codes

Approved to run from 2016/17 Specification version 1 Specification status Validated
Original validation date 11 Jul 2016 Last validation date 11 Jul 2016  
JACS codes W260 (Furniture Design): 100%
Route code FUPRDE

Course Structure

Stage 1 Level 04 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
CP4011 Critical & Contextual Studies 1 (3D) Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR TUE AM
DN4005 Workshop Practice Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR MON PM
DN4006 3D Design Principles Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR MON PM
DN4007 3D Visual Research and Communication Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR MON AM

Stage 2 Level 05 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
CP5011 Critical & Contextual Studies 2 (3D) Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR THU AM
DN5006 Design Resolution Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR TUE PM
DN5011 3D Design Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR TUE PM
DN5021 Materials, Technology and Markets Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR THU PM

Stage 3 Level 06 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
CP6011 Critical & Contextual Studies 3: Dissertation (3D) Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR WED AM
DN6011 Major Project Realisation: Furniture and Produc... Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR TUE AM
DN6013 3D Project Design & Development Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR FRI PM
DN6035 World of Work Core 30 CITY AUT+SPR TUE AM