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MA Design for Digital Media

Course Description

Why take this course?

This course is about designing interactions of humans with digital interfaces. The design focus is on human aspects of digital interaction such as multisensory perception, cognition and emotion. You will have the opportunity to enhance your skill set in terms of creative, technical and visual experimentation, concept development, production and communication.

As a cultural producer with a critical eye for media and technology usage and implementation, you will strive to develop innovative design solutions that matter. Projects are often speculative, allowing a wide scope of creative exploration.

What will i experience?

On this course you can:

Explore theoretical, practical and cultural frameworks that underpin design research and thinking
Use the latest software and equipment, and work in our purpose-built studios and workshops which offer a wide range of production methods to enable you to bring your practical project work to life
Opt to do an industry placement

What opportunities might it lead to?

This course can lead to considerable success within the professional fields of interactive and digital media design. Your specialist knowledge of digital media will pave the way to careers in the creative, internet, media or services industries (such as retail, finance, tourism or social media to name a few).

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

Online product/service development
Interaction design
Multimedia production
Social media marketing/communications
Web design
Digital graphic design/motion graphics
Video editing
Further study/research degree

Module Details

This course is structured into distinct project-based stages involving a combination of learning modes and progressive development of your project management skills.

The units you will undertake are:

Proposal: You will research a topic related to Design for Digital Media of your interest and develop a proposal of a design project, with independent and self-directed research and development.

A Question of Research: This unit provides an introduction to debates and research methods relevant for creative practitioners, e.g. Visual Analysis, Ethnography, User Experience Research, and their application to a pertinent research question. It also encourages self-reflection on the research process.

Digital Futures: Critical Design: The theoretical input delivered via lectures will provide you with an overview of some of the contemporary issues related to digital interactive design – such as sensory perception, engagement with dynamic data networks and layers of meaning in an interactive space. Through your own research and development, you will design concepts addressing possible future scenarios of technology use, in a critical design approach. The rapid prototypes developed here can act as a catalyst for your own individual body of work in the Major Project.

Design, Innovation and Enterprise: The group project at the centre of this phase requires you to investigate the surrounding social and cultural and economic factors when designing for Digital Media. This investigation will be applied within the framework of a live brief in collaboration with external professional partners, such as local businesses or charities. This allows you to connect your design research and practical abilities within an environment under ‘real-world’ constraints, working in a team and communicating your solutions to a real client.

The Major Project: The major project will allow you to develop and design your own brief. The range of possible topics and media used/addressed is driven by your personal interest. Outcomes can be speculative, allowing for a great scope of creative exploration. Importantly, the research has to be shown to achieve breadth and depth, your concept needs to be well developed and communicated, and you will achieve and sustain a systematic investigation of a research project. You will also foster relevant skills in your chosen area of study and will combine a body of theoretical and visual research with practical experimentation, to result in a presentable outcome with relevant documentation.

Programme Assessment

Though there is an emphasis on self-initiated learning and project work, you will be supervised and receive full support via one-to-one tutorials with staff. We also aim to encourage seminar-based discussions where you will have the chance to participate in group activities, give and receive feedback from your peers or collaborate on projects.

Through the Professional Practice unit you will gain contemporary workplace experience, insight and knowledge that employers demand, making you highly employable upon graduation. During the final stage of the course in the summer term, the learning becomes more independent and self-managed, making your timetable more flexible.

The main form of assessment will be the practical artefacts you are producing during your project work. However, you’ll also be assessed for the research, development and written component of each project. This includes:

Research documentation/journals
Project logs
Project reports

Student Destinations

Once you have completed this course you could find yourself working across a range of media including design for print or web, interactive design, motion graphics and film, which are converging fields in the creative industries.

Depending on your chosen focus of study, you will develop skills relevant to a range of digital media jobs such as designer, producer and/or manager. Your strength will be in the ability to connect these fast moving fields by having a critical overview of not just the state-of-the-art, but also the ability to conceive of future scenarios.

Roles our graduates have taken on include:

Web designer/developer (employed/agency/freelance)
Head of online product development
Graphic designer
Digital marketing associate
Video editor
General manager for digital media development
PhD student
Graduate trainee
Lecturer in higher education

Visit the MA Design for Digital Media page on the University of Portsmouth website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Jonathan Skilton

422.jpg Jonathan completed a degree in BA (Hons) Illustration in 2001 and graduated with an MA in Design for Digital Media in 2007. Jonathan’s choice of MA was based on his desire to expand his understanding of this relatively new and emerging subject and he believed that it would benefit his career as a designer. The MA offered by Portsmouth in this subject area was the closest fit to Jonathan’s areas of interest. He was familiar with the university and staff and at the same time he had fond memories of life in the city.

The highlight of the course was being given the freedom to undertake his major project in a self directed way and also having the benefit of the exceptional direction and tutorials from Dr Paul Newland (Senior Research Fellow, School of Art, Design and Media). He said “If you like the freedom and are prepared to be self motivated and self directed, this is the course for you”.

During his study Jonathan worked as a freelance designer completing website graphics designs for the IT company, Tecknowledge, at the same time as working part time at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Southsea, Portsmouth. He now works as a Graphic designer for Amey Imagery working on contract designs for Amey, QinetiQ and Dstl. “The course gave me the confidence in my skills and knowledge as a designer to produce high quality design and it has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking creatively. I had time to develop my expertise and proficiency with certain software that I now use in both my professional and personal work”. Jonathan is keen to maintain his links with the University and especially to stay in touch with Paul Newland to see how the course is developing in the future.

(Student Profile)

Rachel Lovie

423.png I did Access Art & Design before going to Middlesex Uni to do a degree in 3d Design (ceramics, glass, metal, painting, sculpture). I graduated in 1995 and came back to Portsmouth Uni & did a Btec Nat Dip in Computer Visualisation (Dave Jones & Mark Way). This amazing course taught me how to creatively use Photoshop, Premier, and 2d and 3d computer animation software.

The course looked intriguing & innovative, and it was unusual to find an MA in this subject area – most of the other courses I looked at in similar areas of study were MSc’s & I wanted to focus on the philosophical, conceptual & visual design aspects of the field rather than on programming.
My background ranges from fine art to ceramics, to computer animation, to graphic design – I wanted to update my skills and knowledge in a contemporary field of design. I wanted a course of study that would enable me to use my artistic skills, but also expand my theoretical knowledge base too.
I enjoy thinking so hard about something that it makes the brain ache and tickle with excitement at the same time. This course induced that feeling in me almost constantly!

The entire course was inspirational from start to finish. The set themes were great launch pads for opening up whole new areas of study and ideas for me. The tutorial support was fantastic throughout. The Major project enabled a well structured adventure into creative exploration of ideas, backed up by a solid foundation of theoretical research.

If you feel creatively frustrated as an artist or designer or just eager to move on but don’t know how, and you want to get your teeth into a contemporary, exciting and creative subject then this course is for you. Yes it’s a lot of hard work, but you get out as much as you put in. It’s enabled me to develop my conceptual skills, creativity, problem solving, academic writing and research skills; and greatly improved my confidence in my own abilities as a multimedia, multi-platform designer and all round creative.


Entry Requirements

A minimum of a second-class honours degree in a related subject including design, media, communications, illustration, information technology and cultural and theoretical studies, or equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. An online portfolio submission may be required as part of the selection process.English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

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