Last Updated on August 28, 2023
The branch of product design concerned with the process of designing and manufacture of products, normally those aimed at mass production. As an industrial designer, you will be responsible for designing and developing new products. These could include everyday products, mobile applications, as well as more niche products.
An undergraduate degree in industrial design will develop your foundation of knowledge in the area. The modules you study will cover the basic principles and theories of the subject. These modules could include fluid mechanics, engineering mathematics, solids and structures, computer aided design (CAD) techniques, and manufacturing systems.
Your degree will be delivered through a mixture of modes. These will include lectures and seminars, as well as incorporating practical, design studio based sessions, and potential field trips. You may also be presented with the opportunity to take part in a work placement year or module.
Study in the UK
One of the top 3 international study destinations, the UK has a number of universities that are consistently ranked in the top 10 universities in the world.The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also known as the UK or Britain, is regarded as the world’s second most popular international study destination. The UK welcomes almost 460,000 international students from around the world each year. Having built a world-class education system, higher education in the UK is a model for many countries around the globe.
Why Study in the UK?
With around 162 higher education institutions across the UK, and a generous range of degree types, it makes sense that Britain is a popular destination in international education. The education system varies depending on where in the UK you choose to study, with some subtle differences. Regardless of where you study, you will receive high quality teaching from leading professionals. Any qualification gained in the UK will be highly regarded internationally.
Many of the UK universities and colleges are seen in the leading education ranking tables. In the 2022 QS World University Rankings, the UK has 4 institutions in the top 10. There are also 17 UK institutions in the top 100. The highest ranked is the University of Oxford, which occupies 2nd place. It is followed by the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, in 3rd and 7th place respectively.
About the UK
An island nation, the UK is surrounded by 4 different oceans or seas. The UK is made up of four countries. These are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Britain is one of the few countries to still be ruled by a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II currently standing as the longest-serving monarch in recorded history. Home to 66 million people, the UK is the 78th most populous country in the world.
Britain’s 243,000 square kilometres make it one of the smaller countries in the world. The terrain and climate can vary, but the difference is not significant. The UK is known for having relatively cold winters, and warm summers, with 4 obvious seasons.
The UK’s university systems is sometimes referred to in groups or categories. These include:
- Ancient Universities – refers to institutions founded before the year 1600. Some examples are: Oxford University, Cambridge University, St. Andrews University.
- Red Brick Universities – refers to institutions founded in UK industrial cities. The term ‘red brick’ is due to the Victorian architectural style of the buildings. Some examples are: the University of Birmingham, the University of Manchester, and the University of Leeds.
- Plate Glass Universities – refers to institutions established or granted university status in the 1960s. The term ‘plate glass’ is due to the modern architectural buildings. Some examples are: the University of York, the University of Warwick, and the University of Lancaster.
- Russell Group Universities – refers to a group of 24 public research universities. These universities endeavour to maintain the best research, teaching and leading standards. Some examples are: the University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh, and Durham University.
Product design is about understanding people and society by questioning, speculating and reflecting on existing systems to explore where opportunities for innovative products lie.
Through practical experience, you will learn design research methods used at the forefront of the discipline. These will allow you to explore and understand cutting-edge materials, technologies and society.
How we teach
Our mission is to ensure that you develop your own approach to design. We support you to gain the creative, technical, critical thinking and interpersonal skills needed to become a highly employable graduate, entrepreneur or thought leader.
We aim to produce:
- empathic, experimental and provocative designers with strong communication skills
- flexible design thinkers who can explore social, economic and environmental contexts and opportunities to design original, useful and thought-provoking products
What you will learn
Across a suite of courses you will explore making, critical thinking and designing using a variety of materials and technologies. These are informed by thought-provoking briefs.
You will engage with a range of contemporary issues and future challenges, including:
- the circular economy and sustainability
- synthetic biology
- artificial intelligence
- the internet of things
Design and Screen Cultures Courses are integrated with your practical studio work. These provide a contextual and theoretical understanding of the holistic nature of contemporary design.
Our lecturers and technicians are highly skilled as makers and researchers.
Together, we support students to develop their own ways of exploring the world through design while understanding the needs of people and the environment.
The professional skills and abilities developed on the programme prepare our graduates for a rewarding career in the creative industries. Many of our alumni are now leading practitioners.
You will take compulsory courses from:
- product design
- Design and Screen Cultures
These will introduce you to fundamental skills required to develop successful designs.
Through Design and Screen Cultures lectures, seminars and critical debate you will learn about:
- design history
- visual and cultural theory
- contemporary design practice
You will be able to take up to 60 credits of option courses. These can be within ECA, or across the wider university. Your choices will be subject to availability and discussion with your personal tutor and relevant course organisers.
This offers you the flexibility to construct a suite of courses that reflects your interests and enhances your main study.
Through group projects you will develop team-working skills and have the opportunity to meet and learn from students in other year groups in product design and across the wider School.
Compulsory courses will extend your knowledge and expertise in product design.
Your Design and Screen Cultures lectures, seminars and critical debates will enable you to learn more about visual and cultural theory and contemporary design research and design practice.
These will further develop your:
- understanding of design in a wider context
- ability to plan and structure design writing
Alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses, you will be able to choose option courses from across the wider university, subject to availability.
Project briefs will introduce more complex knowledge and skills, including:
- advanced workshop prototyping and making
- computer-aided design and rapid prototyping
- additive manufacturing
- materials and manufacturing processes
- product assembly
- methods of design ethnography
- brand awareness
- critical thinking
A series of design projects enable you to practice and develop your skills, introducing a variety of approaches to product design and associated commercial considerations.
Projects and courses
This year you will develop your identity as a designer and work on more sophisticated project briefs.
Projects delve deeper into smart products and how software and hardware are changing what we know about the internet of things.
Subjects such as synthetic biology offer a rich context for you to explore moral and ethical questions for designing with living organisms.
Option courses are more limited this year but still available from within design and the wider university.
Exchanges and internships
This year you can apply for optional study abroad to one of our exchange partner design programmes in universities in Europe and North America.
Whether on exchange study or undertaking industry-led design projects at ECA, you will continue to build your design portfolio.
Our staff will provide guidance and support to help you:
- refine your portfolio and CV
- prepare for interviews
- make applications for a summer internship
Aligned with a thorough understanding of product design, you will define your approaches to develop major projects.
Projects will enable you to show potential employers your ability to:
- use research to recognise unique design opportunities
- define a design brief and a design specification
- plan and manage concurrent projects
- employ critical thinking skills and essential knowledge of the product design process
A written dissertation enables you to:
- research a topic of personal interest
- learn more about planning and structuring design writing
- further enhance written communication skills
To help you achieve your goals, you will receive teaching, guidance, support and advice from experienced and dedicated practicing product designers and researchers.
Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.
To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.
Design students benefit from studio-based learning along with the exhibitions and events associated with a vibrant art college at our Lauriston Place campus.
Studios and workshops
Within the Product Design studio there is a student-managed space. This allows you to quickly realise your ideas using:
- 3D printing
- standard workshop facilities and tools
Most of your teaching in product design takes place at the Lauriston campus close to the students’ studio. You will have access to a range of workshops, including facilities for:
- electronics and digital fabrication
- wood and metal work
- glass blowing
Throughout the degree your will take elective courses. Depending on your choices these may be taught in the School or in the wider university campus.
You will also have access to the University’s extensive libraries, computing and technical facilities within the School of Art and the wider University.
Investing in our learning environment
The University is investing in the Edinburgh College of Art estate and facilities. This will further develop our supportive, stimulating and sustainable learning and research environment.
Find out more on the ECA website.
In Year 3 you can swap some of your taught courses with an industry placement.
Finding a placement will be your responsibility. We will ensure the placement is relevant and the expectations the company has of you are reasonable.
We also support and encourage you to explore internships during your holidays.
Study abroad is optional in Year 3.
Studying abroad can help you to:
- learn about new cultures
- meet new people
- develop international networks
- develop an understanding of design from a new perspective
How will I learn?
Most design teaching and learning is through involvement in a range of experiential courses situated in a studio environment.
Conceptual, material and technical issues are explored through:
We see research, critical thinking, and study of the visual, intellectual, social and professional contexts that shape creative design practice as essential to your development.
These elements are taught through Design and Screen Cultures courses. This also involves participation in exhibitions, competitions, collaborations and live industry projects.
How will I be assessed?
We use continuous formative assessment throughout your study. This helps give meaningful feedback and encourages experimentation in the studio and beyond.
Formative assessment for compulsory courses can include:
- essays against course learning outcomes
There is a mid-session review, usually at the mid-point of any course you study.
Summative assessment at the end of all courses is informed by your academic and creative progress and performance throughout. Your course grades are calculated through this summative assessment plus a moderation process.
We are committed to providing you with enhanced career prospects and the ability to achieve at the highest level.
Our graduates enter the design industry with a fresh approach and the flexibility and adaptability necessary to respond to modern challenges. The huge range of career opportunities enables graduates to apply their knowledge and experience of the design process and their considerable skills.
Our graduates have a strong track record of employment in design jobs within six months of completing their studies.
Our graduates typically join:
- a design consultancy
- a product development team within a company
Graduates with a particular interest in designing and making often establish their own practice or start-up.
A range of skills
The wide range of skills you’ll develop opens up a diverse range of career options.
For example, our graduates have gone on to work in:
- user interface and user experience design
- interaction design
- service design
- design research
- design ethnography
- design management
- model making
- packaging design
Other examples include:
- retail design
- exhibition design
- 3D printing
- computer aided design
Some graduates choose to expand their knowledge and application of design research through postgraduate study.
Links with industry
Through self-directed and industry-led project work you will build skills in:
- project planning
- project management
- working as part of a team
We have built strong contacts with industry through:
- industry-linked projects
- staff research
- our range of visiting speakers
These ensure our graduates are aware of the full range of career possibilities and are provided with a strong footing from which to develop their chosen career.
Where our graduates work
Our graduates can be found working in companies, including:
- Microsoft, SusTrans and NCR
- Philips, RBS and NMS
- Herman Miller, Habitat and Zara Home
- Viaduct, Isu and Blue Marmalade
- MOO, Bodo Sperlein and Optoplast Actman Eyewear
- Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, In the Design Lab, Peebles CAN
- 4S Technologies, Martha Stewart Living and Sirona Event and Promotions
- Tayburn, HSBC and Unilever
- 1508 London, Lakeland and IKEA
Standard entry requirement
The standard entry requirement is:
- SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: ABB.
- IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.
Minimum entry requirement
The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:
- SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: ABB.
- IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.
The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:
- SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
- A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
- IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.
Applicants will be asked to submit a digital mini-portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process.
Dates for the opening of the mini-portfolio submission site, and deadlines for submission, will be posted in March 2021.
Applicants studying Pearson BTEC Level 3 Nationals in Art and Design will be considered for entry with the following:
- Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma with DMM.
- Pearson BTEC Diploma with MM plus one A Level at A (or DM plus B at A Level).
- Pearson BTEC Extended Certificate / Subsidiary Diploma with D plus two A Levels at B (or M plus AB at A Level).
Applicants studying the University of the Arts London Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design will be considered with Merit.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
International Foundation Programme
If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.
Entry to the second year is available. Successful completion of a Foundation Diploma (at Merit grade), a relevant HND or equivalent is required. Applicants with a Foundation Diploma will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the first year entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB, relevant HNC, etc). In some of our less competitive degrees it may be possible to consider applicants presenting ABC (or equivalent) or above at A Level. These must have been achieved in one set of exams, at first attempt.
A list of accepted HNDs, along with further information for adult returners, can be found on our adult returner page:
(Revised 25/05/2021 to provide more accurate information and link to further details.)
You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.
SQA, GCSE and IB
For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:
- SQA National 5 at C
- SQA Standard Grade at 3
- SQA Intermediate 1 at A
- SQA Intermediate 2 at C
- GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
- Level 2 Certificate Grade C
- IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)
English language tests
We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:
- IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
- TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
- Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
- Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.
We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.
English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.