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Undergraduate course

Furniture Design BA (Hons)

Interested in becoming an accomplished small-scale or industrial furniture maker?

Green sofa and chairs with coffee table

This programme allows you to specialise in the design and production of furniture. There are two main pathways, allowing you to specialise either in industrial furniture production or on the smaller-scale, more bespoke end of the market. Both options encourage you to explore your creativity while building your practical and theoretical skills.

York campus

  • UCAS Code – W2S9
  • Duration – 3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2021
  • School – School of the Arts

Minimum Entry Requirements

    96 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

Discover why York St John is The One

Course overview

The Furniture Designer-Maker pathway allows you explore the possibilities of hand-making on a small scale, producing highly crafted furniture for creative, commercial and cultural contexts. If you choose to specialise as a Furniture Maker for Industry you will focus more on the industrial and commercial manufacturing processes needed for mass production. Students on the two pathways share core modules and work together on collaborative projects, which build your problem-solving, team-working and communication skills.


As you progress through the course, projects become more technical and design briefs more challenging. Our small class sizes mean that we get to know you and your practice as an individual, and can support you on your own personal journey. Our experienced and enthusiastic team of academic and technical staff are here to help you reach your creative potential and develop the practical skills to turn your ideas into reality.

The technical abilities you will develop include 3D printing, orthographic drawing, schematic and thematic sketching, CAD and CAM, rendering and prototyping. You will also gain the creative skills needed to solve complex design problems and the business skills needed to find your niche in the market. Theory is backed up by practical workshops and kept relevant through real-world application. Competitions, client projects and other opportunities to showcase your work will allow you to build a professional portfolio to start your career.

Course structure

Level 1

At Level one you will be equipped with the basic skills and understanding for furniture design practice. You will develop an effective design language and establish a foundation of important skills in the studios and workshops. These core skills will include drawing, modelling, making, communication, graphic layout, creative thinking, research methodologies, processes, materials, aesthetics, presentation etc. Extensive workshops support your practical skill development.


Modules Include

  • Design Practice 3D (60 credits) This module covers a variety of aspects involving the use of visual language. You will develop a broad range of visual skills, such as perspective and orthographic drawingschematic and thematic sketchingrendering and understand the use of materials for prototyping ideas. In addition, you will learn digital skills for graphical presentation and software applications relating to computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CAM). More broadly, the module will conduct lectures and tutorials to address oral communication and presentation techniques in order to equip you to become a more versatile designer.
  • Design Research for the Designer Maker (20 credits) This module addresses some of the research methods commonly used in three dimensional design. Typically the aim of 3D design research is to ask, observe, think and learn (with objectivity) from people who interact on a day to day basis with products, furniture and interior spaces. The module will involve you in a process of problem based learning; observing people to find out how ‘user types’ work with products, furniture and environments (user centred clinics) thus enlisting user participation in the design of three dimensional artefacts and spaces. With the user positioned at the heart of 3D design research, you will consider the materials and technologies that are appropriate to make objects and environments that more precisely fit the real needs of a user population.
  • Specialist Projects 3D (40 credits) Students of design need to undertake assignments set in a variety of working situations in order for them to be able to work effectively as an individual with others and to develop knowledge and understanding of emerging technologies and practices in both interdisciplinary and specialist project contexts. In part 1 of the module you will choose from a selection of collaborative projects that calls upon you to problem solve using generic design skills in research, communication, concept development, negotiation and presentation. In part 2 of the module you will develop discipline specific skills embedded in a selection of a specialist project that helps you to focus and progress into year 2. As a furniture designer you will develop a specific knowledge and understanding of theory and practice in areas such as human factors, ergonomics, contextual studies, user-populations, materials and processes.

Level 2

At Level two, projects become more technical and design briefs more challenging to enable you to further develop knowledge, understanding and practical skills as a ‘Furniture Designer-Maker’ or a ‘Furniture Designer for Industry’. As a furniture designer-maker you will have the opportunity to develop a set of ‘hand-making’ skills, producing highly crafted furniture embedding technology in a creative, commercial and cultural context. Furniture design for industrial production is an adjacent pathway. You will benefit from professional practice initiatives which include speakers, live projects and ‘crits’ and client feedback culminating in the work experience module.


Modules Include

  • Digital Design Applications (20 credits) This module is designed to equip you with theory and practice of industry standard digital applications for product design. You will develop the analytical and critical skills associated with Computer Aided Design (CAD) software necessary to match the specific needs in the creative industries. You will also develop an awareness of ‘cross platform’ digital applications, enabling you to utilise these more effectively when working collaboratively or through interdisciplinary contexts. The module will extend your knowledge about technical processes, including demonstrating the advantages of the different systems from rapid prototyping including areas such as stereo-lithography, laser cutting, and 3D printing. This will enable you to confidently articulate your work and to experiment with a range of digital tools to achieve real and virtual outputs.
  • Specialist Studio Practice:Furniture Design (60 credits) This module offers you the opportunity to undertake a variety of specialised design work. You will identify design problems, write a design brief, plan for and execute a range of work that is based on research into the sector or topic of choice. This is delivered through a series of projects, including tutor led, client and competition projects. Alternatively you may propose self-generated design briefs. This module is an ideal vehicle for you to practice and apply your developing skills to construct a portfolio of design work that articulates both technical competences and your own developing ‘voice’ in furniture design. These will form an evolving practice in 3D and furniture design studying the following; an advanced knowledge of materials, processes and technologies, design for craft based, batch and industrial production, ergonomic modelling, product testing and evaluation and CAD-CAM.
  • Specialist Studio Practice: Furniture Design (Student Exchange) (40 Credits) Students, who are wishing to study abroad with our International partners during semester 2, will need to undertake this optional module during semester 1 of year 2. This will provide you with sufficient credits to enable you to undertake additional programme related modules abroad in semester 2.
  • Professional Portfolio (20 credits) It is important that students gain some experience of professional practice in industry and commerce particularly as many are ambitious at graduation to start their professional careers in a freelance capacity. The module offers ‘preparation’ and ‘practice’ for a period of work-related learning through the development of a student CV, letter of application, interview techniques and planning. Visiting speakers from a variety of disciplines will be invited to inform you of real world scenarios. Additionally, you will undertake ‘work based learning’ either through a client project or within an appropriate design related environment. Both the ‘Careers Department’ and programme tutors will support you to secure an appropriate work related learning placement.
  • Collaborative Project (20 credits) This module will be structured as an intensive collaborative group project requiring you to collaborate across the specialist design awards and also with external “clients” to resolve complex social, spatial, economic or cultural problems through design. Drawing on models such as service and systems design thinking, you will engage in live collaborative research and problem solving, presenting your solutions in an exhibition context. This will enable you to understand the possibilities of interdisciplinary practice, through a range of real and virtual processes. This will provide you with fundamental practical and interpersonal skills referenced to in professional industry practices.

Level 3

At Level three, furniture design briefs allow you to develop your specialist interests. Focus will be on professional practice, working on personal briefs or those set by private clients and/or furniture companies such as Vitra. A range of designers will provide guest lectures to expose you to how the design process actually works commercially. You will develop a range of effective techniques for presenting work in both 2D and 3D.

Collaborative project work for furniture designers is currently well established in the Art and Design Department. This can be witnessed in the form of the exhibits at the annual summer shows, the student work showcased at New Designers - the Creative Industries Partner Employer Forum, and graduate progression into professional practice employment.


Modules Include

  • Design Research and Innovation Proposal (20 credits) The Design Research and Innovation Proposals module (DRIP) supports the programme aim and aspirations for emerging design graduates to produce ‘new and unexpected outcomes’ leading to various forms and levels of innovation. Innovative design in a contemporary society requires thinking design practitioners who are able to understand the theoretical, cultural and social structures which underpin design problems and their potential solutions. This module aims to enable this level of thinking for you as a graduating design student.
  • Major Project (60 credits) The aim of this module is to enable you as a furniture designer to execute your graduate design brief. The brief will be researched, proposed, argued and planned for in the adjacent module- Design, Research & Innovation Proposal(s). You are tasked to demonstrate that you are capable of applying design skills to identify and overcome problems, present a critical argument to support decision making and apply reasoning and practical skills in order to offer creative and technical solutions to the problem(s). You will aim to make work that contributes toward and embeds discipline based debate in the contemporary cultural and technological context. The module is a frame work that enables you to demonstrate your graduate skills as a designer and to focus on your plans for continuing professional development. You will be encouraged to engage in designing for the following areas of professional practices such as furniture design, products, homeware, CAD, electrical goods and consumer durables.
  • Client Project (40 credits) This module enables you to build competences with and produce work that addresses the needs and requirements of clients, competitions and user groups. The context and detailed requirements of the client centred design brief will be established in the adjacent module - Design Research and Innovation Proposal. Work in this, the Client Project module, will therefore extend and address the developmental, technical and presentational design resolution aspects of the client-centred design brief. Therefore you will be expected to research and negotiate a furniture design brief with a client and in so doing establish your credentials as an autonomous independent practitioner. The programme is well connected to a variety of designers and studios around the local and national region, providing you with the opportunities to engage with projects that have ‘real world’ experiences. You will engage in ‘live’ project(s) in liaison with our industry partners helping to prepare you in a broad range of design practices for further employment opportunities.

Teaching & Assessment


The programme is concerned with ensuring that you have the opportunity to experience a variety of teaching and learning strategies across the modules offered. These are structured to facilitate successful achievement of the learning outcomes of each module.

You will be provided with a range of teaching and learning strategies across the modules, including:

  • Reflective learning
  • Independent learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Facilitated learning

Teaching methods

Students will be taught using a wide and varied range of teaching methods, including:

  • Lectures
  • Demonstrations
  • Seminars
  • Individual and group tutorials
  • Group and individual presentations
  • Visiting speakers / lectures
  • Use of audio-visual material
  • Use of e-learning
  • Use of appropriate IT
  • Workshops
  • Technical support


The programme recognises that, as a higher education student, you need to gain and develop a range of graduate attributes which is why the programme places a significant emphasis on your independent learning. The programme thus aims to provide an environment in which you are encouraged to take responsibility for your role in managing your learning and outcomes.

Reflection is central to learning on this degree. It encourages you to relate new material you may encounter to your existing knowledge and expertise. In addition to being a part of good quality knowledge transfer, reflection supports learning by enhancing the whole experience. The new programme will offer you the time to reflect in a variety of ways; such as learning journals, formative feedback, the use of portfolios, reflection on work related learning and internships, tutorial interaction, peer and self-assessment, assignments and a review of your own continual professional development (CPD) plan. It will also facilitate an understanding of your own learning processes and their relationship with and to other creative industries.

You will be encouraged to recognise your learning is not confined to formal teaching situations and encouraged to undertake independent preparation as a follow up to your formal teaching sessions. The programme seeks to offer a range of technical support and independent study that might include both theory and practical sessions. The Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team support staff in using some of the core online student services, such as Moodle (VLE) and Mahara (e-portfolio), which you can openly access as part of your online learning experience.

Assessment & feedback

Project feedback will be undertaken at timely points to enable effective progression into the next project, usually at the same time as a portfolio review to enable ongoing holistic assessment. A personal design and learning portfolio is key to the reflective CPD process and the programme will offer a system for developing a professional design portfolio which will record both the process and outcomes of your design projects, and also enable you to record other professionally relevant achievements and competences. This portfolio will be reviewed regularly, usually three or four times per semester, to track progress and aid with setting objectives for future projects. This will be timed to coincide with appropriate stages in projects and modules. This will also particularly be used to provide context for your specialism decisions at the end of level four and also to guide the independent project choices for level six. The portfolio review will be integrated into the academic tutorial system to provide coherent personal learning support for all design students. Summative feedback, reflecting the formative feedback stages and portfolio reviews, will be communicated within 3 weeks of the final submission at the end of a module.

You will not be expected to undertake any examinations whilst on the degree.

Entry Requirements



96 UCAS Tariff points

3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

International Students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements. Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our international pages.

If your first language is not English you must show evidence of English language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

Personal statement

Essential criteria

As well as a strong standard of written English, the ability to demonstrate knowledge and interest in the subject is essential. This can be done in a variety of ways, for example, visits to design exhibitions, museums or collections. Applicants will also show an ability to 'think outside the box' and have relevant experience of group work.

Valued criteria

We also value the ability to demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the subject that goes beyond achieving good grades in exams. Examples of this include involvement in projects or entering competitions, and being aware of any current issues relating to design, such as sustainability. Candidates will also be able to discuss influences including favourite designers, design product or style of design.

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.

Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK or EU, or internationally (outside the UK/EU). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK and EU 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 202 entry onto this course is

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time.

These prices apply to all UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page.

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

International 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this course is £12,750 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK/EU.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a student visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree.

International Fees and Funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

All undergraduates receive financial support through the York St John Aspire card. Find out more about the Aspire scheme and how it can be used to help you purchase equipment you need for your course. 

Aspire Card

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