Design Informatics Masters
The Design Informatics course combines the craft of designers with the cutting edge technologies of Informatics.
Our Design Informatics programmes are advanced, full-time courses for professionals and recent graduates. They are extremely hands-on, progressive and designed with industry at their heart. As a student, you’ll combine cutting-edge design with information hacking to develop products and services that will transform lives.
The central premise is that data is a medium for design: by shaping data, we shape the world around us. Data Science provides the groundwork for this, with Design Thinking underpinning reflective research through design. You will use this in working with the internet of things and physical computing, machine learning, speech and language technology, usable privacy and security, data ethics, blockchain technologies. You will connect technology with society, health, architecture, fashion, bio-design, craft, finance, tourism, and a host of other real world contexts, through case studies, individual, and collaborative projects. You will understand user experience in the wider socio-cultural context, through an agile programme of hacking, making and materialising new products and services.
As a designer… you will develop your ability to work with digital systems and computer scientists as well as taking your design practice in a new direction.
As a computer scientist… you will learn design methods, working alongside designers, and apply your computational skills to cutting edge creative projects.
The DI Masters can be taken either as a 1 year programme (MA or MSc, 180 credits) or 21 months (MFA or Advanced MSc, 240 credits). In-depth information about the course can be found in our course handbook: Download Course Handbook
During the first semester (September to December) students attend lectures, tutorials and group practicals and acquire the creative practices and theoretical foundation to enable them to engage in independent research. Int the second semester (December to March) the emphasis shifts to application of skills – individual and group projects on student-led themes. In the summer, 1 year students complete a dissertation, while those on a 2 year programme carry out an internship in a leading creative or digital organisation.
- Histories and Futures of Technology: Cultural and technical context for Design Informatics. Covers Digital Media, Critical Perspectives, Introduction to Arduino
- Case Studies in Design Informatics 1: Analysing Design Informatics case studies and learning research methodology
- Data Science for Design: Introduction to data wrangling, data visualisation and Python programming with a design perspective
- Design Informatics Project: Self proposed personal project, exploring themes from Semester 1
- Design with Data: Creating interactive pieces in small groups, working with an external organisation’s data.
- Elective: one or two courses of your choice (see below)
In second year, the first semester focuses on project leadership: students develop a research proposal, lead a team of first year students to revise and extend a project, and explore the wider curriculum. In the second semester, students carry out a dissertation.
- Case Studies in Design Informatics 2: Responding to the internships, developing mentoring skills, and creating a dissertation proposal
- Electives: two courses of your choice (see below)
One year or two?
The one year MA and MSc are standard UK masters programmes. They are ideal for those who wish to take a year out to develop the skills necessary to work with data as a designer or UX specialist and to build or enhance their portfolio of project work, and for students who are preparing to do a UK PhD.
The two year MFA / Advanced MSC option is taught over 21 months. It gives students the following advantages:
- A three month internship with one of our industry partners
- Theoretical and practical training in mentorship and leadership as you support Year 1 students in their group projects
- Opportunity to deepen your portfolio of skills with an additional two electives
- For European students, a UK Masters programme that fully conforms to the Bologna standard of 120 ECTS in only 21 months.
MA or MSc?
The curriculum of the MA and MSc is largely identical – as is the MFA and AMSc. This reflects our emphasis on group work, and on learning skills from each other, which prepares you for the reality of Design and User Experience practice in mixed teams. The key differences between the two programmes are:
- MSc students can ‘test out’ of the Year 1 course of Data Science for Design, if they can prove a high level of relevant programming and data science skills.
- Dissertations are judged on different scales – the MA and MFA dissertations have more scope for creative practice.
Electives can be chosen from across the University, but typical choices include: Internet, Society and Economy, Researching Digital Life, Digital Media Studio Project, Dynamic Web Design, Digital Crafting in Glass, Disseminating Design Practices, Economic Sociology: Theories and Enquiries, Online Language Learning, Adaptive Learning Environments, The Human Factor: Working with Users, and Biodesign.
Students about studying the course
Fabian, MA Student 2013/14:
“As an Interior Designer, this MA course offers me how to creatively expand the dialogue between body and place with current technologies and how to design theories about life for the future.”
Alumnus Fionn Tynan-O’Mahony, Creative Lead, RBS on studying Design Informatics:
- Why did you decide to apply to study Design Informatics at Edinburgh College of Art?
I was studying at ECA during the merger with the University of Edinburgh and had heard about a potential joint venture between the School of Informatics and the School of Design. At the time, I was really intrigued because it blended a lot of the concepts I was interested in while studying product design – the evolving use of technology, the social implications of technology, experimenting with new ideas and use cases in both technology and design methods – but nothing seem to come of the rumours.
A couple of years later, while doing a residency at the art college and thinking about further study, I heard about the masters course and it felt like a perfect blend of the ideas I had previously been excited about. It also felt very timely. A lot of product design was moving digital, and I felt it was important to build my skillset and understanding in that area.
- What are the most valuable things you learned during the course?
I think the most valuable thing I developed during my time at Design Informatics was a deepened, foundational understanding of the emerging tech and ideas at the centre of the tech industry (AI, IoT, Data, Blockchain, Crypto). Having the time and opportunity to explore both the technologies and the social conditions they create has allowed (and continues to allow) me to quickly navigate the current innovation landscape and identify new opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to do previously.
- Design Informatics is a truly interdisciplinary subject. Has this been beneficial in your working life? How?
Yes, definitely. During my Masters at Design Informatics, we had the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines on group projects, learn basic programming and had access to a broader range of modules from the university. Of course, the studio environment was also great for natural relationships and collaborations to emerge and a lot of the ideas and knowledge I gained were through those relationships with my peers. All of this brought a holistic perspective to what I was learning.
I currently work in an environment where I communicate and collaborate with a range of stakeholders and disciplines everyday. From strategists to developers to business people. Without this experience, I would be much less effective at communicating and building relationships across these disciplines.
- How did studying Design Informatics influence your current job?
Hugely. I’m a designer that works in financial services. If I hadn’t studied the MA Design informatics, I don’t believe I would have made that move or connection. My relationship with my current employer also came about because of a direct relationship between Design Informatics where I had the opportunity to meet new people and discuss new opportunities.
While I still use a lot of straight-forward design tools and methods in my role, these are enhanced and made applicable to new areas and disciplines through the understanding I built during my time at Design Informatics.
Design Informatics Studio Space
Students and their projects
Our current students work on a variety of different projects and also have the opportunity to connect to the Centre’s research projects which include events which have been part of the Edinburgh International Festival.
Facilities & studios
The course is based around the T-Room studio, situated in Edinburgh College of Art. The studio itself features a 3D printer, hacklab, soldering points and is equipped with a variety of technologies such as Arduinos, LEAP motion and 3D projectors. Students also have access to workshops in the Art College such as metal-work and woodwork. Students are also able to access equipment in the Informatics department, which includes a robotics lab. For working in a non-Design Informatics lab or workshop, you will typically require an induction and/or supervision by somebody who regularly works in that space.
Do I need to have coding skills as an entry requirement?
If you come through the MSc route, you should be able to demonstrate solid programming skills. For the MA route, previous coding experience is not necessary. However, in both cases, you should be prepared to write your own code and create your own artefacts. If you have no experience, then working through an introductory Python tutorial before arriving is a good idea.
How to Apply
If you are interested in applying for one of our programmes, you can find information about entry requirements, tuition fees, funding, scholarships and the application procedure here:
If you have any further questions about the programmes, please contact the Programme Directors:
MA/MFA: Dr Dave Murray-Rust
MSc/Advanced MSc: Dr. Maria Wolters