MDES Design Innovation & Transformation Design

The world we live in and the issues we face are becoming increasingly complex. The practice of design as a profession and as a form of exploring the world and creating knowledge must respond to this. We now recognise it is not enough to solve problems. Expanding opportunities exist for design to play a strategic role in mapping complex situations and enabling transformation towards preferable futures.

Transformation Design focuses on change-oriented approaches to design, which engage with complex social or systemic issues. We seek to understand complexity and work with stakeholders in participatory design processes to combine multiple alternatives, images, narratives and aesthetics, and develop strategies to trigger processes of transformation.

Real world engagement
Through this programme you will experience collaborative working and real world engagement preparing you for a dynamic design career. We research and teach through projects that combine strategic thinking with hands-on exploration to shape future contexts in areas such as healthcare, education, housing and politics. The programme is studio-based and many projects are ‘live’ with organisations as diverse as Toshiba, the Scottish Government, Tesco Bank and Alzheimer Scotland, offering you a professional portfolio of work upon graduation.

Design for the future
In this course you will learn to apply innovative design practices and emerging approaches to the increasing body of work, which addresses complex systemic issues. You will explore new forms of design in relation to public participation, social and technological innovation and policy-making. You will develop your own personal perspective on Transformation Design and define new roles for the designer within complex social, economic and political contexts.

An international outlook
This programme is taught at the GSA’s Highlands and Islands campus. Our international links provide an opportunity to gain experience that is relevant on a global platform. You will experience our annual Winter School, which is a collaboration with students and faculty from schools such as The Royal Academy of Art & Design (Copenhagen) and KISD (Køln), while participants from Japan and the USA may also feature. Sharing knowledge, methods and approaches to design issues shaped more by culture and context than by formal considerations will allow you to explore complex issues and the experiences of the diverse users and stakeholders of contemporary design – whether these are artefacts, services, interactions or systems.

Career destinations
The course is ideal for those who wish to work at a strategic level collaborating with diverse stakeholders including policy makers, industry and those in the third sector. Graduates of this programme should be able to demonstrate a critical faculty, an awareness of Design Innovation as a way of thinking about the present as it relates to the future, and understand the complexity of contemporary life as an issue for exploration rather than a problem to be solved.

Programme Director
Dr. Gordon Hush
Programme Leader
Don McIntyre
Programme Coordinator
Dr. Iain Reid
Studio Leaders
Leigh-Anne Hepburn & Dr. George Jaramillo
Studio Tutors
Dr. Janet Kelly & Sneha Raman


You will study at GSA’s campus in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Located just outside Forres, the campus is a research and postgraduate teaching centre for international excellence in creativity and innovation. The combination of modern studio environment and workshop with a traditional highland setting offers a unique educational experience. We deliver Masters and PhD programmes, and the campus location enables us to research in geographically diverse and distributed contexts as well, as develop innovative forms of teaching with our academic partners around the world.

How to Apply

More information about this course is available on The Glasgow School of Art’s website.

Further information on applying to the Graduate School is available from [email protected]