Course specification and structure
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PMFURNDE - MA Furniture Design

Course Specification


Validation status Validated
Highest award Master of Arts Level Masters
Possible interim awards Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate, Advanced Diploma in Professional Development
Total credits for course 180
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 1 YEARS  
Part-time 2 YEARS  
Course leader  

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

MA Furniture Design is grounded in the understanding that design is a key driver for change in society and the environment. The challenges and opportunities for design and designers are being constantly reimagined, as the unpredictability of the future tests our capacity to adapt, invent and apply creative design solutions to emerging needs and scenarios. Graduates of this course will design furniture products and systems that have not yet been conceptualised. MA Furniture Design is one of several postgraduate design courses that co-exist at the Cass, offering rich opportunities for the collaborative multidisciplinary approach that is a feature of the current and future design sector and a requirement for success in the field.

Knowing that the future is largely shaped by design decisions implies a responsibility for designers to act in a manner that combines experimentation and radical thinking with care, effective research and collaboration with those who will be affected by the outcomes of designers’ work. The work of a designer is not, however limited to ensuring that furniture is safe and functions well. Designers will want to imbue their work with meaning, to use it to communicate, to engage the emotions and to inspire response. Commercial furniture also needs to be designed to be attractive and desirable in the marketplace and relevant to consumers, meaning that designers need an exhaustive overview of current and forthcoming furniture products in order to be competitive. Our goal is to lead our students to be ready for the requirements of the commercial and manufacturing sectors where qualities of deep analysis and flexible, imaginative design process are ever more in demand.

The overall theme and content of the course is intended to encourage independent design thinking in the field of furniture design. In this respect, the curriculum focuses in an advanced and systematic way on aspects of the profession and practice. Design and research for design occupies a large proportion of the course and the process of design is rehearsed through the vehicle of project work.

However, there is an emphasis upon situating the student in a more real, complex and ambiguous context for project work, with many more parameters that cover social, political and economic contexts as well as the physical context. The modules expand and deepen knowledge of a chosen area of cultural context or professional expertise particular to the student. The programme is designed to set out the breadth of the field and help students to secure a sufficient depth of understanding to ground their own work.

The main vehicles for the design modules are ‘projects’, the remit of which change annually. The design modules are therefore written generically to allow flexibility in the yearly setting and development of projects. The course is structured to accommodate substantial design process and development, appropriate to this level of study, while carefully guiding students through the early stages of independent postgraduate study with a blend of taught content and opportunities to test this in practice. The different design modules emphasise particular skills and outcomes, but broadly share similar requirements and work in parallel.

The design modules and projects are delivered within a design studio unit that set a theme for the design work over the academic year, in order to create a collaborative working model. The studio runs projects, which offer the student a choice of a range of research interests, sites, building types, cultural and theoretical contexts. The studio is led by an experienced practitioner tutor who sets a specific agenda. The Cass shares a commitment to contemporary design and its global and local contexts, a passion for design in all its forms, and desire to test the premises of the field, theoretically as well as practically.

Students completing the MA undertake a Master’s Major Project based upon their project work in the design studio units, or emerging from one of the thematic areas or a combination of fields. The individual student will select an approved area of study, undertake appropriate research, develop thorough investigative processes, formulate their own argument or theoretical position, and produce an independent and coherent body of work.

The course of study as a whole and the broad format of project requirements, are intended to encourage a high degree of individual choice and responsibility in the final project. The Master’s Project sets students the challenge of sustaining an in-depth and original study of a topic or field of interest which tests their creative ambition, through their control of its direction and substance within a framework of critical reflection, supported by and measured against an established area of scholarship and practice.

Consideration has been given to the following: the Master’s Degree Characteristics Statement, the Subject Benchmark Statement (Art and Design, 2017), the HE Qualification Framework, the University’s Strategic Plan and Student Charter, the University’s Undergraduate Regulations, the views and feedback of students, external examiners and employers/ clients, developments within the subject area, and the changing needs of the cultural/ commercial sectors and professions. Due consideration has also been given to inclusivity in course and assessment design.

Embedded in The Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, the course draws on the strengths of teaching staff from across the School and the wide circle of academic and cultural contacts and collaborators attached to the School and University.

Cass courses seek to provide and foster:

• learning through direct experience, connecting academic and creative studies;
• student choice in subject and style of learning;
• a culture of independent and critical thought, encouraging the challenging of received ideas and practice;
• employability attributes, through live projects engaging with external partners, institutions and companies that create a realistic environment of professional expectations for students, preparing students for graduate-level employment;
• engagement across the School and University, providing opportunities for collaborative project work during study;
• individualised learning and study support opportunities, that cater for different learning styles;
• awareness of the duty of all to understand the impact of their decisions and actions as furniture designers and to strive to act responsibly.

The course employs a range of teaching and learning strategies including:

• emphasis on individual, specialised and in‐depth investigative research to gain knowledge and understanding of particular issues pertinent to personal design project work;
• project work taught through the studio and based on direct contact with studio tutors, conveyed by tutorials, lectures, colloquia, site visits and contributions from visiting external speakers;
• project work set through written briefs which the student responds to as 'problem-based learning' and which directs the course of their more specialised, in‐depth investigative research;
• emphasis on demonstration and application through the design process, a process of 'making' the work ‐ drawing, modelling and prototyping ‐ exercising the skills of self‐critical analysis through practice;
• a design process as a dual activity, which mediates between conceptual frameworks and testing procedures and encourages conceptual leaps and connections as well as logical process;
• development of the wider application of skills in specialised and unpredictable contexts through interdisciplinary project work, which is situated in live scenarios;
• portfolio and live presentation encouraging the effective communication of ideas through drawn and oral presentation techniques;
• exposure to the expectations of professional partners in the sector, raising awareness of the demands of professional practice.

Teaching methods include: lectures, seminars, tutorials, external visits, live briefings and feedback from partners, group colloquia, workshops and opportunities for studio practice. Teaching and learning adopts a student-centered approach that identifies individual learning styles and accommodates them.

Lectures provide and encourage a critically informed view of a topic, contextualising the subject and illustrating applied approaches. Lectures provide students with a managed introduction to a theme, enabling them to continue with suggested or directed self-study.

Seminars enable students to debate and explore subjects, questions and assignments with peers and tutors, encouraging an open and collaborative approach to shared learning.

Tutorials support individual learning, allowing for individual approaches to study, and catering for individual interests. Tutorials can be diagnostic or can support specific assignment or project-related questions, and support differing student paths to achievement of learning outcomes.

External visits offer opportunities for vital direct experience with objects and sites of study, and to communicate with and learn from experts and specialists attached to partner institutions and bodies.

Live briefings and feedback are an important aspect of work-based learning, exposing students to experience of professional ways of working, of professional expectations of standards, and of the most current professional practice.

Course aims

The overall aims of the course are for students to:

1. identify a field of personal interest in furniture design through research and creative thinking;
2. plan and execute an appropriate Master’s major project programme;
3. synthesise the outcomes in the production of a design-based and theoretically grounded thesis/ project;
4. advance their range of conceptual and practical design skills and abilities and acknowledge the value of research;
5. explore and understand the theoretical frameworks of their work within its cultural and professional contexts;
6. develop professional skills in developing and delivering work that meets with high standards of communication; is sensitive to the needs and expectations of its intended recipients and the larger social context; is responsible towards its ethical, environmental and legal frameworks;
7. know and expand their own capabilities and see themselves as lifelong learners; to critically reflect on their experiences and take steps to consolidate their self‐presentation; to encourage them to contribute to the cultural debate and articulate these debates within the community at large;
8. develop disciplinary specialist skills and interests while seeking to enrich knowledge, understanding and intellectual abilities through interdisciplinary working.

The course addresses the needs of graduates from design backgrounds where
traditional roles are increasingly blurred and design skills may be needed in a variety of guises. It emphasises generic and transferable skills in design, and locates the subject in this broader context to encourage its graduates to seek and create opportunities for the practice of their discipline. Students whose first degree is not directly aligned to the named Masters will be supported and guided appropriately to meet the requirements and learning objectives of Master’s level study.

Course learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

Knowledge and Understanding

1. acquire, assimilate and apply processes of investigative, analytical and speculative research and design methodologies drawn from a range of disciplinary sources in design and the designed environment (CA2,3,4,8);
2. apply to the design process deep knowledge and sophisticated critical understanding of historical and theoretical frameworks and cultural traditions relevant to furniture design, and the various and diverse forms of design practice through which it is informed (CA 1,2,5,8);
3. identify and develop through project work a specific set of interests that can become the basis for professional and career development (CA 1,7,8);

Cognitive Intellectual Abilities

4. develop designs through an iterative process that tests and communicates ideas and propositions through critical, collaborative and self‐reflective processes of evaluation (CA3,4,7);
5. formulate and communicate clear and well‐founded conceptual frameworks that underpin design proposals (CA 3,4,5);
6. construct effective design research and development processes that can be used to test concepts against practical and theoretical criteria relevant to furniture design (CA 2,7,8);
7. critically reflect and engage in discourse on the practical, economic, social and ethical implications of design propositions (CA 1,3,4,8);
8. advocate a design scheme that responds convincingly to complex conditions; that navigates a feasible route through competing commercial, cultural and ethical issues, articulating a coherent intellectual position (CA 2,6,7);
9. clearly formulate a critical framework of ideas and propositions through appropriate models of representation or written argument (CA 2,3,4,6,7);

Subject Specific Skills

10. collate, document and present sophisticated and complex research material to produce a cogent body of work (CA 2,3,6);
11. direct and manage a design process to achieve a convincing and well‐worked proposition (CA 2,6);
12. communicate in an ambitious and effective way, the ideas and intentions behind a design proposal through an appropriate range of representational techniques (drawing, CAD, model making, collage, material sampling and testing, etc.) (CA 2,3,4,6);
13. give verbal and visual presentations of findings and proposals to an appropriate standard, in a range of formats such as live presentations, poster presentations, portfolios, slideshows and film (CA 2,6,7);
14. produce a cogent project document of a professional standard and express oneself effectively in written form (CA 2,6,7);

Transferable Skills

15. communicate effectively in writing and representational drawn and modelling techniques and in oral presentation of complex design concepts and propositions (CA 2,3,6);
16. apply research and design skills appropriately and be able to transfer techniques and design processes from one project or context to another (CA 1,3,4);
17. develop effective means of group or team working, including directing and working as a member of a team (CA 7,8);
18. plan, manage and audit time, progress and resources effectively (CA 2,7);
19. learn independently, demonstrating attributes of critical enquiry, lateral thinking, the ability to deal with complex and unstable problems, and developing strategies for continuous self-development (CA 3,4,6,7,8).

Course learning outcomes / Module cross reference

Module Title Module Code


Design Research for Practice DN7017
Design Project Development DN7018
Project as Professional Practice: Furniture Design DN7P02
Interior Contexts DN7010
Design for Change DN7012
Democratising Luxury DN7013
Material Thought DN7014

Learning Outcomes 1 - 19

Principle QAA benchmark statements

Subject Benchmark Statement; Art and Design 2017

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy for the course has been designed holistically, to ensure manageable timing, workloads and clarity of expectations for students, and to avoid duplication of assessment of learning outcomes.

The assessment regimes for the modules and tasks are designed together with the briefs, prior to the start of the year, taking into account student, external examiner, professional collaborator and colleague feedback from previous instances. The requirements of briefs and their components, the assessment criteria, grading scheme and descriptors are published and explained to students at the start of the year and are designed to be used as consistently as possible, to avoid unnecessary complication. Assessment is related to the achievement of learning outcomes; qualification frameworks and subject benchmark statements are consulted to ensure clear language that is appropriate to level of study. Students are informed of the procedures for first, second and parity marking, and external examiner scrutiny of the assessment process and marks, to ensure that they understand and have confidence in the probity of the process and security of the final marks.

In every case, there is required formative assessment and feedback prior to summative assessment at set points. This is recorded so that it can be used by both students and staff to track further progress and engage support where it is required. Feedback follows good pedagogic practice in that it is constructed as ‘feed-forward’, with a focus on specific actions and strategies as to how to improve, not only on what requires improvement. Challenge to students is managed, so that students performing well in-year are encouraged to strive for excellence, while those performing less well experience clear, targeted and structured guidance, including notice of where they are doing well or are showing potential.

The course adheres to the University’s requirements for assessment and feedback turnaround times and to academic regulations for marking and second marking sampling. Additionally, the course engages in Subject and School parity exercises to ensure that assessment standards are consistent. This is especially important in relation to studio delivery through which students on the same modules will be undertaking differing projects.

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

Work- related learning is embedded in the course through live projects, industry visits, visiting speakers and extracurricular opportunities.

The majority of tutors and lecturers on the course are practitioners and share their knowledge and experience with students throughout their course of study. The unit or studio delivery of the course means that opportunities for work-related learning through collaboration with external companies, agencies, institutions, competitions and professionals can be taken up as they arise, if appropriate to the programme of study.

Units and studios function as simulations of professional workplaces, with expectations of professional standards, conduct and delivery building as the students progress towards the completion and presentation of their thesis projects.

Course specific regulations

The course will undertake a formal academic review of student performance at the end of each semester. Students performing below threshold standard will be recommended and/or required to revise their programme of study.

DN7P02 Project as Professional Practice: Furniture Design module must be taken in the final year of MA study, DN7018 Design Project Development must have been completed and passed before the module is commenced.

Subject specialism ( 20 credit) modules:

The School maintains a portfolio of MA (level 7) 20 credit modules, two of which will be core to this course in any particular year. Prior to the start of the course each September, the course team, with Head of School approval, shall determine which of the modules should be the core 20 credit modules for the following academic cycle, based on the project opportunities arising and the balance of students across the portfolio of MA Design courses. All of the modules have been determined to make the required contribution to achievement of the course learning outcomes.

Modules required for interim awards

Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits):
DN7017 Design Research for Practice (40) or DN7018 Design Project Development (40) plus any 20 credit module from the course diet.

Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits):
DN7017 Design Research for Practice (40), DN7018 Design Project Development (40), plus any two 20 credit modules from the course diet.

Masters (180 credits):
DN7017 Design Research for Practice (40), DN7018 Design Project Development (40), DN7P02 Project as Professional Practice: Furniture Design (60) plus any two 20 credit modules from the course diet.

Part-time mode of study:
In part-time mode, the duration of study for a 180-credit MA degree will be 2 years. The prescribed pattern of study in this instance shall be as follows;

Year 1: DN7017 Design Research for Practice (40) plus any two 20 credit modules from the course diet;

Year 2: DN7018 Design Project Development (40) plus DN7P02 Project as Professional Practice: Furniture Design (60);

DN7P02 Project as Professional Practice: Furniture Design module must be taken in the final year of MA study, DN7018 Design Project Development must have been completed and passed before the module is commenced.

Alternate sequencing of the other modules may be considered with academic consent.

Arrangements for promoting reflective learning and personal development

The School’s studio system of curriculum delivery embeds collaborative and reflective learning and personal development planning throughout the course.

Most summative assessment is at the end of modules, with formative assessment points formally instituted in the course of the module. At these interim formative assessment and feedback points, students reflect on their progress to date with their peers and course staff (with the benefit of feedback from professional partners), seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. The feedback and student reflection is recorded and forms an action plan for the next period of study.

This system is highly individualised, but also benefits from peer engagement in studio colloquia. The School’s programme of extra-curricular events and industry-led projects supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress through the course, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Throughout the modules and the course therefore, in this way, students build bodies of work, including reflections on progress and achievement, and planning for their future achievement of targets.

Career, employability and opportunities for continuing professional development

The course provides a professional, practical and theoretical understanding of furniture design. Exposure to, and advice from leading practitioners is consistently available.
Graduates of the course often aim to work as self-employed designers and consultants in the furniture sector, but may also work for design consultancies in London, across the UK and overseas. Graduates may work as in-house designers for manufacturing companies both large and small, including for contract furniture companies and other businesses that require design input such as exhibition and event companies, cultural institutions, interior design practices. Others gain employment as independent design consultants, working as suppliers of design expertise to a variety of businesses or continue within design research. Graduates also have career paths open in design research, design journalism, cultural institutions, education and marketing. Students wishing to develop their research are encouraged to apply to undertake a PhD within the department.

Students can also benefit from support and guidance from the Careers and Employability services and the University’s business incubator unit, ‘Accelerator’.

Career opportunities

The creative industry in the UK is huge and about half of all those involved in the design sector work in London. Located in the creative hub of the East End, the Cass offers excellent opportunities for students and professionals to showcase cutting-edge design within related industries and venues. Through work placement and live projects, you will create design projects that are commercially and creatively relevant to global consumer markets.

Graduates of the course often aim to work as self-employed designers and consultants in the furniture sector, but may also work for design consultancies in London, across the UK and overseas. Graduates may work as in-house designers for manufacturing companies both large and small, including for contract furniture companies and other businesses that require design input such as exhibition and event companies, cultural institutions, interior design practices. Others gain employment as independent design consultants, working as suppliers of design expertise to a variety of businesses or continue within design research. Graduates also have career paths open in design research, design journalism, cultural institutions, education and marketing.

Entry requirements

You will be required to have:

  • a first class or strong upper second class degree, or equivalent, in a related subject

Applicants will also be expected to present a portfolio and provide a statement demonstrating their ambition for the subject area and for studying at postgraduate level.

Related employment or consultancy within the field can also be considered alongside the portfolio and statement.

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 2018/19 Specification version 1 Specification status Validated
Original validation date 18 Jun 2018 Last validation date 18 Jun 2018  
Sources of funding HE FUNDING COUNCIL FOR ENGLAND
JACS codes
Route code FURNDE

Course Structure

Stage 1 Level 07 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
DN7017 Design Research for Practice Core 40 CITY AUT+SPR MON AM
DN7018 Design Project Development Core 40 CITY AUT+SPR THU PM
          CITY AUT+SPR THU AM
DN7P02 Project as Professional Practice: Furniture Design Core 60 CITY SUM MON AM
          CITY SUM THU AM
DN7010 Interior Contexts Alt Core 20        
DN7012 Democratising Luxury Alt Core 20 CITY AUT MON PM
DN7013 Design for Change Alt Core 20 CITY SPR MON PM
DN7014 Material Thought Alt Core 20