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A student at a desk working on electronic circuitry Edinburgh College of Art

Undergraduate

Product Design - BA (Hons)

BA (Hons)

Features

4 years
Full-time
Study abroad

Outline

Teaching the product innovators of the future

We provide a dynamic learning experience that explores cutting-edge methods of design to enable students to operate at the forefront of the discipline. We believe that the only way to create the product design innovators of the future is to teach students the research skills needed to discover unique opportunities for design, the thinking skills to see their world critically and the design skills and technical knowledge required to develop those opportunities into desirable products that meet real needs.

Our mission is to ensure that students develop the necessary creative, technical, thinking and interpersonal skills to become highly employable graduates, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We seek to unlock the potential of students’ ingenuity to address the challenges they will face designing new and improved products. We believe in cultivating empathic, experimental and provocative designers with excellent communication skills; flexible design thinkers, able to take advantage of change, and able to discover unique, genuine problems and opportunities for the design of original, useful and thought-provoking products.

Our definition of product design is broad; encompassing all manner of objects from mass produced consumer goods to batch-produced limited edition pieces and from commercially focused products to products designed to meet humanitarian needs. You will be taught through a hands-on, project-led approach, and will work on design briefs that enable you to design a wide range of products ranging from electronic products to furniture, lighting to fashion accessories, products designed for the home and garden to products designed for use in public environments.

You will develop a wide range of knowledge and skills including design research, research analysis, creative thinking, design sketching, critical thinking, product semantics, model making, computer aided design, computer aided engineering drawing, model making, electronic prototyping, workshop prototyping, computer-aided design, ergonomics, anthropometrics, manufacturing materials, design for manufacturing processes, rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing, additive manufacturing, production economics, sustainability, computer presentation tools and visual communication, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of the product design process.

We encourage students to take risks, to rebel, to reject the status quo by trying new things, to be radical, to see things differently and to work with people to develop solutions that change things. We teach students that designing innovative products is an iterative, experimental process that involves working with others, a process that often involves a great deal of risk taking, and therefore also a great deal of failure, but that failure and having to do something many times to succeed is not something to fear but to embrace as an often necessary part of the process of making things better than they are.

Who should study this programme?

If you are interested in the objects that surround us, in why things look the way they do, in how things make people feel, in how things work, in materials and technology and how things are made, in questioning and challenging existing ideas and ways of doing things, in learning different ways of researching with people in order to discover their needs, in learning the methods used to help generate creative ideas, and in learning the knowledge, skills and process required to develop ideas into successful products, then we’re the programme for you.

Careers

Our programme is focused on developing designers who are not only able to understand consumer markets, branding, business development and manufacturing, but also environmental issues, social responsibility and people’s needs, and how product design can be used to improve our lives.

Why you should choose this programme

1

Our strong international reputation, the employability of our graduates and success of our alumni, who can be found working as product designers, design managers, and entrepreneurs around the globe.

2

Within stimulating teaching sessions in well-equipped studios, computer labs and prototyping workshops you will learn about leading edge research and design development methods used to discover opportunities for design, and you will learn how to develop those opportunities into innovative, useful, usable and thought-provoking products.

3

The programme teaches you the entire product design process and provides you with the opportunity to learn how to design innovative, desirable products that fulfil people’s needs. You will learn how to design products that can be economically manufactured, products that create opportunities for business, products that benefit society and products that question, challenge and provoke thought about the future of the world in which we live.

4

Small year groups of typically 12 to 18 students coupled with extensive one-to-one studio-based teaching, guidance, support and advice from experienced and dedicated practicing product designers, design researchers and workshop technicians, all with a passion for design, and opportunities to learn from a variety of inspirational visiting designers and design researchers.

5

You will have the opportunity to interact with industry partners within the courses, working on one or more live projects for companies. Previous industry briefs have been set by a variety of global design-led manufacturing companies including Philips, Herman Miller, Franke, Salcomp, NHS, RBS and NCR and also humanitarian organisations such as Oxfam.

Widening Participation

ECA works with the University of Edinburgh Widening Participation (WP) team.

Widening Participation for undergraduates at the University of Edinburgh

Find out about Access to Creative Education in Scotland (ACES), a Widening Participation programme for eligible S4 to S6 students at state secondary schools in the south-east of Scotland.

ACES website

How to apply and entry requirements

If you'd like to study on an undergraduate programme at Edinburgh College of Art, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. You can find out how to do this on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder, where you'll also be able to

  • see the structure of the programme and what you will study each year
  • see detailed entrance requirements for each programme on the Degree Finder
  • get information on what to expect after you apply
  • find out about fees
  • find out where to go for further advice and guidance.

If you have any questions about the application process, your qualifications or deadlines, our Undergraduate Admissions Office will be happy to help you.

Email the Undergraduate Admissions Office: futurestudents@ed.ac.uk

Application process

Portfolio guidance

The portfolio guidance listed below is for 2024 entry. Portfolio guidance for 2025 entry will be updated by September 2024. 

As part of your application, you are required to submit a portfolio as evidence of your artistic ability and potential. You should begin to plan your portfolio as soon as you decide to apply.

Assessors are not necessarily expecting a showcase of final work, but rather an indication of work in progress showing how you approach an idea or subject and develop the work from initial thought, through experimentation and enquiry, to resolved work.

In these short guides, you will find details of what we are looking for and how your work will be assessed. You will also find some general tips on how to plan and present your work and what makes a strong portfolio in different subject areas.

Assessment

Portfolios are assessed by a team of academic staff who are particularly interested in how you research and develop ideas in a visual way and how you engage with your chosen discipline. This is broken down into four main areas of assessment, briefly summarised as follows:

  • Visual Research and Enquiry shows the level of your engagement in intelligent, structured visual enquiry and how well you communicate this.
  • Idea Development shows your ability to appropriately explore and develop ideas, and your level of skills in the use of materials or techniques.
  • Selection and Resolution shows how well you judge which ideas have the most appropriate potential and your ability to bring them to a level of completion appropriate to your intended outcome.
  • Contextual Awareness shows the extent of your knowledge of the subject you have applied for and how your work relates to it.

How the content of a portfolio provides evidence for the above categories will vary enormously depending on the person and the subject being applied to, and no two portfolios will be the same.

Planning and presentation

Assessors are interested in how you have decided to put your portfolio together. This means that your portfolio should be carefully planned and well presented.

Assessors will be judging your ability to edit your work, so be selective and strategic in your choice of material.

Aim to show a clear narrative or sense of the themes in your work, as well as the connections between the pieces.

If you have lots of high quality work, include it. It can show that you have talent in breadth and are hardworking and committed. If you haven’t, select your best: these key gems can show us that you know what you are good at, and how to show it. There is no need to pad out your portfolio with work you’re not happy with.

Each image can be accompanied by a small amount of text, and applicants are strongly encouraged to make use of this opportunity. You should avoid including titles or descriptions of the work and instead explain the ideas behind the work, the challenge undertaken or any other significant factors.

It may also be useful to explain why you have included the image in its particular category (development work, resolved work or influences). Consideration should also be given to the graphical layout of the portfolio. Remember that assessors will be looking at your work on a screen so the digital image you present to them is what they assess, so be aware of the quality of photographs and scans. It is worth the time and effort to make your work look as good as possible.

 The images demonstrating your influences may be images of work or objects which have inspired or influenced your work e.g. people working in the same medium or for the same audience, now or in the past; people interested in the same subject or theme, now or in the past; natural or man-made phenomena, objects, places or events which have inspired or provoked a response.

A strong portfolio is likely to display the following:

Evidence of explorations through media that demonstrate strong drawing and image-making skills.

Evidence of making. Some level of prototyping, modelling through diverse media, with evidence of experimentation.

Design process: demonstration of iterative thinking and designing including sketchbooks. Individual creativity in response to mundane briefs. Demonstration of personal interests.

Research sensibility. Indication that applicants look beyond their own imagination for inspiration – images of people in their work, of things in the world, photographic studies, sketches, stories, cinema and wider culture.

What happens next?

We will contact you with our decision by mid-May. If you are made an offer, you will be invited to attend an Offer Holder Day.

Offer Holder Days typically take place in April and are opportunities for successful applicants to learn more about their subject areas and life as a student at Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh. Whether you visit us in person or attend a virtual Offer Holder Day, you will have the opportunity to meet with academic staff and current students from your programme, tour the studios and other facilities and attend general information sessions.

Portfolio advice video

Design portfolio guidance

Join Interior Design lecturer Gillian Treacy who will talk you through how to put together a competitive portfolio for our Design programmes, and what our academics look for when assessing your work.

Get in touch

College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Undergraduate Admissions Office

futurestudents@ed.ac.uk
+44 (0)131 650 3565

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