Product Design BA (Hons)
Learn how to better create, invent, innovate and bring your ideas to life.
From the bespoke to the mass-produced, this Product Design degree is all about creativity and invention. This course gives you the technical skills to turn the product innovations of your imagination into reality. You will graduate with the theoretical and practical expertise to make you employable in a broad sector of the creative industry.
89% of Graduates from our Design courses were in employment or further study within six months - DLHE 2017
- UCAS Code – W200
- Location – York campus
- Duration – 3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
- Start date – September 2020
- School – Art, Design & Computer Science
Minimum Entry Requirements
96 UCAS Tariff points
3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language
UK and EU 2019-20 £9,250 per year
International 2019-20 £12,750 per year
The York St John Experience
You will graduate with a degree and an industry-ready creative portfolio to take forward into your career. During the course, you have the opportunity to partake in national competitions and work placements that put your ideas out into the world. Focusing on the practical applications of your learning, you will have opportunities to work with industry clients on live briefs, carrying out your own design research, presenting your own proposals and negotiating briefs with clients. This gives you the chance to develop skills not just in design but in project management, teamwork, client management and communication.
Whether you see yourself working as a freelancer or within a bigger organisation, we prepare you for your future as a professional Product Designer. Our studios, CAD facilities and state-of-the-art equipment allow you to build your expertise in drawing and graphic software applications. A programme of workshops introduces you to new techniques regularly and allows you to explore specialist design skills throughout the course.
A skilled team of practising designers and technical specialists are here to support you in your individual journey. Small class sizes mean our tutors really get to know you, your practice and your ambitions and our staff expertise means we can help you achieve them. Our impressive industry connections will help you to develop a professional network to take forward into your career.
You will cultivate your own design skills through visual and oral communication by undertaking a carousel of design workshops to serve both interdisciplinary and specialist design practices. You will explore a range of design research methodologies through holistic, sustainable and ethical approaches in order to understand how to acquire, examine and disseminate information. You will be working extensively in your design studio, the workshops and in the extensive CAD facility. The aim of the first year is to gradually enhance all of the professional skills a product designer requires in professional practice. Consequently you will be spending a good deal of time with both academic tutors who conduct the teaching and the technical staff who help and support you with a structured programme of technical activities in the workshops.
- 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 drawing, schematic and thematic sketching, rendering 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 product 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 builds upon the range of skills acquired in Level 1. You will be undertaking a broad range of practical assignments and project briefs extending the scope of your work in more demanding user-centred contexts and currently topical research themes such as design against crime, design for wellbeing, design for an aging population, design interventions and the environment etc. You will also have the opportunity to bias your work towards design for industrial production or the creation of bespoke artisan pieces using a a variety of materials and hand- made processes. You will also negotiate and undertake a period of work experience and have the opportunity to consider undertaking a suite of modules at our partner universities in the USA.
- 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:Product 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 product design. These will form an evolving practice in 3D and product 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: Product 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 consists of three modules concerning an extensive research investigation into an area of your personal choice. This informs the design brief for both a major project and a client based project. You will be developing more knowledge and understanding of the role of design in business as well as aiming to produce in your project outcomes new and unexpected proposals in the broad field of product design. You will continue to have access to your studios and workshops and also develop the skills to commission work to be made for you by industrial companies and commercial organisations. At the conclusion of level three you will present your work in the form of a graduate exhibition to which several hundred visitors attend all of whom are interested in you, your work and your progression into employment as a new product designer.
- 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 product 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 product design, furniture, homeware, CAD, electrical goods and consumer durables.
- Client Project: Product Design (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 product 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
It is anticipated that semesters will be divided between periods of intense activity (in practice based activity) and periods of independent reflection, supported by specific tasks, technical workshops, reading and proactive use of VLE (including forums, discussion groups, online portfolios, project briefs ).
Students will be taught using a wide and varied range of teaching methods, including:
- Individual and group tutorials
- Group and individual presentations
- Visiting speakers / lectures
- Use of audio-visual material
- Use of e-learning
- Use of appropriate IT
- 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.
The minimum entry requirements for this course are:
96 UCAS Tariff points
3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language
As well as a strong standard of written English, we also look for the ability to demonstrate knowledge and interest in the subject. 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.
Candidates can 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.