Ceramic Design MA

MA Ceramic Design
Location Stoke-on-Trent Campus
Duration 18 Months

2016/17 New Entrants, Full Time

  • Home and EU students: £5,130 per course
  • International students: £12,000 per course
Course start September
School Art and Design
LocationModeStart dateApply
Stoke-on-Trent CampusFull-time2016/17 Academic YearApply Direct
Stoke-on-Trent CampusFull-time2017/18 Academic YearApply Direct
  • Stoke-on-Trent is the centre of the UK ceramics industry
  • The opportunity we offer is unique and supported by substantial world of work facilities
  • Work placement opportunities, should this be appropriate for your career aspirations
  • Gain valuable computer aided design, entrepreneurial, business and employment skills
  • Postgraduate loans now available

Course outline

MA Ceramic Design is recognised worldwide as one of the leading postgraduate programmes in ceramic design for small and mass manufacture. Taught in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of UK ceramics for over two centuries in the Potteries, this long-established course consistently produces career-ready graduates that are in demand by leading ceramic companies both in the UK and overseas. With world-famous ceramic manufacturers quite literally on the doorstep, Stoke-on-Trent provides a unique venue for the study of ceramic design. 

This course provides a design-led creative experience of ceramics within a broad subject context. Designing through intelligent making allows you to access ideas through a unique material. The deep knowledge of one material helps you to appreciate the opportunities in ceramics but also its translation into other materials and professional opportunities. Whether your personal aspirations are embedded in 2D surface and pattern, and or 3D shape, form and function.

The relationship between the course and the global ceramic industry is mutually beneficial and is primarily responsible for the unique character and international reputation of the course. The strength of this award lies in the accumulated wealth of specialist knowledge and practical skills, which are the essential tools of the ceramics designer; and in the good working practices developed over many years. In the close working relationship with industry, and in the clarity of purpose that ensures academic coherence, and the credibility of the award.

Students are encouraged to pursue new and innovative ideas, redefining established ceramic craft and ceramic design market opportunities. These ideas may now be less wedded to the immediate perceived needs of the mass manufacturing industry and for the mass market. As a consequence encouraging students to take a wider perhaps more entrepreneurial, enterprising standpoint – working as designer-producers for example, engaging with small to medium sized factories in developing aspirational products of contemporary relevance with ‘added value’ aimed potentially at new and different niche markets.

The MA Ceramic Design course has in recent years provided the creative genesis for The New English ceramic design brand and the University’s unique Flux, blue and white fine bone china collection.

Course content

"The professionalism of the student work at Stoke-on-Trent and the course’s consistently good record of employment and subsequent career progression of its graduates is certainly unrivalled in Britain and probably worldwide in this subject area" External Examiner comment 2014

Semester 1 

Tools and Techniques aims to establish a common methodology and practice of ceramic design. This is introduced through a prescribed project which will serve also to encourage the acquisition of technical and practical knowledge, and seek to develop skills from ‘traditional’ craft to new digital technologies. The emphasis will be on the development and presentation of design ideas related to typical issues addressing both two dimensional surface and three dimensional shape design.

Collaborative Project introduces the activity of working with external clients. This practice is fundamental to the core aims of the programme. This would commonly be prescribed by a major ceramic manufacturer or a key retailer for example. 

Semester 2

Ceramic Design, Professional Pathways requires students to negotiate with course staff their own programme of design research and practice. This will build upon the foundation of semester 1 and encourage students to define their personal and professional objectives and aspirations. Running concurrently will be a contextual/business studies module, students will begin to understand the relevance and integration of theoretical and academic studies and design practice.

Creativity & Innovation encourages students to build upon the research skills established but to consider a variety of business, management and enterprise activities within which their creative design practice may logically locate. This will provide students with the appropriate knowledge, acumen and enterprising skills related to their proposed career in professional practice..

Semester 3

The Masters Project synthesises your acquired knowledge and skills gained through a significant body of design work. Through this you will prove your ability to choose, plan, manage, implement and contextualise a particular project in the field of ceramic design. 

Entry requirements

In making an application to us, we would expect you to have a genuine interest in ceramic DESIGN - The course is NOT about ceramic Art or Sculpture. For you to be able to execute your own ideas whilst on the course, You would be expected to demonstrate :

  • Your ability to communicate your creative design ideas visually, this is critically important. Through traditional sketching and drawing (drawing with your own hand) and through digital techniques (the use of appropriate computer software)
  • A broad understanding and experience of ceramic moulded techniques (the use of plaster moulds, typically slipcasting) or hand making techniques would be expected.
  • Alternatively you may be interested in ceramic surface, ideas for surface pattern design whether this be for graphics; textiles or ceramics.
  • Evidence that you have an awareness of the global marketplace for ceramic design, and as such develop innovative ceramic ideas informed by this knowledge.

Teaching and learning

The course is organised on a modular basis. Each module will have specific aims and clearly defined learning outcomes. A range of learning strategies are employed, including conventional tutorials/seminars, group critiques and lectures but the predominant learning experience is centred around project work. In semester 1 this will normally take the form of prescribed design briefs and then subsequently through negotiated personal programmes of study. These strategies centre on reflective practice, students will normally work individually or occasionally in groups, communicating the conclusions to others in interactive critiques, with a range of assessment methods forming an integral part of the educational process. 

See Course Content for details of modules studied. 

For submission for the award of MA students will undertake a major project that shows evidence of a substantial level of creativity and innovation. It should synthesise the acquired knowledge and skills previously gained through a significant body of design work. The Masters Project which takes place in semester 4 is a vehicle that exercises and proves the students ability to choose, plan, manage, implement and contextualise a particular project in the field of ceramic design. It is a demanding undertaking, but will provide a challenging and rewarding platform from which to develop a future career.

Students will negotiate the subject and methodology of their project with the course leader. Students will be provided with tutorial support and the relevant tuition during its undertaking, but it is expected that students will be largely self-reliant during this period of the course. There may be instances where commercial and external issues and constraints would need to be given greater consideration. It may be appropriate therefore in some cases for students to enter into closer dialogue with business and commerce and to work directly in collaboration with particular companies. A project proposal with objectives established jointly with interim support from company representatives as applicable.


Assessment is based on the submission of coursework, the nature of which is determined by the project/s or assignment/s set within a module, but which may consist of any one or combination of the following components:

  • Workbooks, sketchbooks or visual diaries, documenting the process of generating, developing and resolving thoughts or ideas, and demonstrating the influence of research on practical work.
  • Research files or folders, documenting the gathering and presentation of research material.
  • Finished design work, professionally presented in the format required by the assignment, project or brief.
  • An essay or report, written according to given guidelines as to word count and illustrated as required by the assignment.
  • A script for a seminar presentation, or the presentation itself.

Formative assessment is carried out in tutorial and critique situations and feedback is usually provided to you orally, with a written record kept by the award leader.  Summative assessment is provided in the form of a grade point (on a scale of 0 15), at the end of a module, and this is accompanied by written feedback from the module tutor to each individual student, relating your achievement to the learning outcomes of the module.

The grade point scheme is linked, within the University Postgraduate Modular Framework Regulations, to a set of general assessment criteria which distinguish attainment at particular levels. Assessment Feedback is provided to you in two main ways: orally, in tutorial and critique situations and in writing, using a feedback form that indicates performance against the learning outcomes of the module. 

Employment opportunities

Our ceramic design graduates take their knowledge of materiality into an ever increasing range of creative professional careers from ceramic ‘craft’ practice and design practice, commercial/retail and broader design professions, cultural trend-spotting and also working with both bespoke, batch and volume production. The typical route into professional design practice within the ceramic industry, whether this be within the manufacturing sector, supply chain, service industries or retail is clearly defined. Graduates will normally, have refined and specialized their learning, practice and achievements within either, two dimensional surface pattern design or in three dimensional product/shape and form design. The two activities are clearly disparate and the individual skills and talents of our ceramic design graduates are quite different. Industry, will expect, as a pre-requisite, a ‘studio designer’ to possess as appropriate then, significant skills and creative awareness of particular computer based digital tools, substantial evidence of an in-depth knowledge and skill base in ceramic craft is less important within the professional world of the ‘industrial’ ceramic designer. 

Increasingly, leading manufacturing brands previously synonymous just within the ceramic tableware sector have expanded their product port-folio, today many complimenting ceramics with additional related houseware products for cooking, drinking and dining typically associated with other materials. Our graduates aspiring to work in the industrial sector are able to demonstrate a transferability of their skills, an aptitude and talent to design three dimensional products in glass, metal, plastics or wood, within the broader context of ‘homewares’ similarly those designers concerned with two dimensional surface and pattern may be involved with the creative resolution of textile or paper based products.

A recent and exciting career path has emerged for the ceramic designer, major retail stores are increasingly developing their own brand/labelled products. ‘In-House’ design opportunities are now becoming more common place, such roles often linked with global travel, whether this be liaising with off-shore manufacturers/suppliers or trend spotting in emerging economies and global trade fairs.

The professional career of a ‘ceramic craft’ designer/maker or modern day craftsman potter/maker offers a rich model of practice that sustains creative autonomy and opportunity, often integrating into their professional lifestyle, freelance design work for industry with the development of an individual design brand, offering ‘design-led’ craft products, potentially for the hospitality and retail markets. They may develop a niche market appealing to specialist interests, promoting their work as unique, artisanal and handmade. Underpinning this profession is the expectation of an intimate and masterful understanding, knowledge, talent and skill of ceramic materials, processes and techniques employed by the individual designer. There is no doubt the modern consumer world is far more discriminatory than ever before, the increasing trend/popularity for hand made, crafted artifacts and products, as opposed to the sterility typically associated with manufactured goods, offers the individual ceramic designer/maker real commercial opportunity. Whether the product is for the discerning retail buyer/consumer or the next “on-trend” chef/restaurant.

The global ceramic industry and as a consequence the marketplace has been the subject of evolutionary change in the last decade. The ceramics industry in the UK, for example with its centre in North Staffordshire, “The Potteries” has inevitably out of necessity, re-aligned itself. Those proactive and design led UK brands intelligently and creatively responding to increasing volumes of overseas ‘cheaper’ imported products and inherent, relatively expensive manufacturing and labour costs. The introduction of new products underpinned by authenticity, integrity and provenance has further endorsed the global market requirement for ‘design-led’ high value ‘luxury’ aspirational products. As a consequence and aligned to the movement, new and exciting professional opportunities exist today for the entrepreneurial, enterprising, individual ceramic designer/producer in creating new brands, redefining established ceramic design and market opportunities, particularly through commercial partnerships and associations with small to medium sized manufacturers/factories.

Graduate destinations

Many of our Ceramic Design graduates now work as designers or senior managers and creative directors within the ceramics and related creative industries. Some have set up in business as designer-producers or as freelance design consultants. And others have become retail developers, stylists, buyers, trend forecasters, lecturers and teachers.

MA Ceramic Design Graduate employment 1991 - 2015

  • 226 graduates
  • 189 (84%) in design related employment
  • 152 (80%) of which in ceramic industries Worldwide

Graduates in directorate positions

  • Denby Potteries 
  • Lenox China, USA
  • Villeroy & Boch, Germany 
  • Moreland Potteries
  • Dudson Duraline 
  • Figgjo Hotelware, Norway
  • Pfaltzgraff, USA

Graduates in management positions

  • Denby Tableware 
  • Josiah Wedgwood x2
  • Churchill Tableware x2 
  • Pfaltzgraff, USA
  • Hall China, USA 
  • Inhesion, Hong Kong
  • Patra Ceramics, Thailand 
  • Marks & Spencer
  • H&R Johnson Tiles 
  • Compton & Woodhouse
  • Belleek Ceramics, 
  • Ireland Goodson Lighting
  • Jersey Pottery 
  • Next Retail
  • Royal Doulton UK 
  • Sainsbury’s Home
  • Ideal Standard 
  • Hangcook China
  • Vista Alegre, Portugal

Programme specification

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