Postgraduate MA

Visual Communication

School of Arts and Media





One year

Two year

Next enrolment

September 2020


In a nutshell

This course is designed for students to refine their subject specific practice through creative industry experience. You will tackle issues central to contemporary design practice – such as design authorship and social engagement – through a process of analysis, experimentation and the implementation of creative ideas. During your time with us, you will be encouraged to engage creatively with contemporary visual communication issues to enable you to graduate as a professional designer.

Throughout the course, you will be encouraged to undertake independent contextual and theoretical research that will improve your capacity for independent enquiry, creativity and professional practice. The course places an emphasis on problem setting rather than problem solving, through the development of self-initiated projects and briefs.

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in live projects as we work closely with key cultural organisations within the north-west. These include The Center for Chinese Contemporary Art, Hotbed Press, Islington Mill, Castlefield Gallery, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Artworks, Mark Devereux Projects, Textbook Studios, Dr Me and Magma Books.

You will:

  • develop your skills through creative thinking, research, visualisation, interactivity, social and multi-media.

  • capitalise on placements, residencies and exhibition opportunities with key arts and design organisations.

options available


students accepted

This is for you if...


The programme is suited to those with a background in or responsibility for delivering; creative skills, disciplines and media.


This course is intended to support your professional development and encourage your independent expertise and facilitation skills.


The course focuses on developing individual creative habits and strategies to be shared within a community context.

Course details

All about the course

This course embraces a range and diversity of practices and aims to:

  • Provide the skills needed to professionalise careers through embedded creative placements and live projects with industry and community organisations.
  • Develop creative, critical, analytical and intellectual competencies appropriate to Masters level degree study, which is informed by current industry practice.
  • Develop advanced understanding of research methods in the context of contemporary art & design practice and to understand how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research
  • Enhance the students’ knowledge and understanding of professional, contextual and collaborative frameworks appropriate to their experiences and objectives by establishing intellectual debate to enable the articulation and dissemination of their propositions.
  • Critically explore at an advanced level, knowledge and understand of specific contemporary issues and the application of creative problem solving in the field of communication design facilitating the student’s development as professionals within the creative industries.

This course is for students interested in observing practical and contextual issues within communication design. This could be as an individual artistic pursuit, generating a body of practice, through research and experimentation that seeks to address contemporary issues relative to a self initiated appreciation of the subject area, or as a method of engaging with professional and live projects that enable the student to produce a large body of critically aware outcomes that facilitate the transition further professional development.

Course structure

The programme structure consists of five modules, four of which are delivered within a collaborative framework allowing all students across the master's in art and design programs (Contemporary Fine Art, Socially Engaged Arts Practice and Design for Communication) opportunities to engage with your peers whilst working through individual assignments focused around each programme. The remaining one module is tailored to the specific programme learning outcomes.

For the full-time study option:

Semester one - October to February
Semester two - February to June
Semester three - June to September

During the first semester, focus is placed upon you investigating, critically-reflecting and presenting ideas and findings; developing an understanding of research methods for practice; experiencing different strategies and a broad approach to the subject area.

Importance is placed on developing:
  • the ability to explore, manage and present research content/drivers and potential of your individual practice.
  • the ability to identify and articulate practice-derived and research issues from your studio production or live projects.
  • the ability to analyse, critically reflect and present your developing concerns and any potential outcomes.

The second semester focuses upon developing student knowledge, ability and application to explore different practical and theoretical issues relating to a variety of practices in art and design, and the creative and cultural industries. The third semester focuses exclusively on either self-directed major project: practice/or major project: dissertation.

Semester one

Creative Research Methods

This module focuses on the understanding of and the application of a range of practice based research methods. You are initially encouraged to develop an individual line of inquiry that will be explored through a variety of creative research methods of which you are supported through lectures, seminars and tutorials. This module has two assessment points at week seven and 12 and submissions will generally be project based (70%) with an underpinning written component (30%).

Applied Practice

Within the module you will examine how your design practice can be applied to external contexts such as notions of live projects, commissions and external sites. You will be expected to commitment to a establishing a mature design practice and evidence your research focus through this.

Semester two

Real World Context

Through the Real World Context module you will undertake a placement in a relevant work place to gain new experiences and test out developing ideas and activities. The creative and cultural industries embrace a range of professional subjects. Given the transversality of these industries, it is important for you to have sufficient knowledge about the sector and its wider contexts, enabling you to identify and acquire professional skills within and across relevant sub-sectors. It is also important to enable you to understand and have experience of working in a multidisciplinary environment and an international context.

Exploring Theory and Practice

This module deals with the theoretical and practical issues faced by practitioners in the context of art and the creative and cultural industries. The module supports you in developing new ideas through research and practice and through an appraisal of the context in which they operate. Particular emphasis is placed on contexts that emerge from international perspectives and from contemporary debates around creativity.

Semester three

Definitive Practice

The aims of the major project are to offer you the opportunity to critically engage in a major project in which the emphasis will be on defining and analysing through action research, and developing a constructive practical response to a line of inquiry or research question while formulating your own resolutions or conclusions from your body of work. The culmination of this module is an exhibition or other form of public exposition.

During the 'major project’ you are provided with a supporting supervisor, in developing concerns and practice-drivers accrued throughout the chosen programme of study, via a programmed series of tutorials. Individual tutorials and peer interaction/group discussions are integral to the development of the major project.

Part-time structure

Year One

  • Creative Research Methods (30 credits)
  • Applied Practice (30 credits)
  • Real World Context (30 credits)

Year Two

  • Exploring Theory and Practice (30 credits)
  • Definitive Practice (60 credits)

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

What will I be doing?


Practical projects


Reflective writing and essays


Group presentations/exhibitions

This course uses a range of teaching and learning settings including lectures, seminars/workshops, tutorials, situated learning (e.g. ‘live’ projects) and independent learning. The combination of these aims is to develop an environment that allows students to progressively take ownership and direction of their learning so that they may develop as independent, life-long learners. The process of Masters level study, relating to an individual and independent arts practice, is one of dense critical self-reflection; this is achieved by including self-directed projects where students have the opportunity to negotiate their learning and assessment requirements.

Indicative to the course are:

  • formal lectures
  • seminar presentations
  • workshops
  • critical analysis and independent learning

Award specific learning activities include exercises; team and peer-based learning, studio practice and critical seminar-events, site visits, visiting professionals, work placements, online activities and critical debates.

You will study one day a week. Full-time students will have concentrated module delivery in both the morning and afternoon, whilst part-time students will have concentrated module delivery in the mornings alongside full-time students.


You will be assessed throughout the course on:

  • Body of work and contextual research: e.g studio/portfolio/exhibition/publication/etc.
  • Reflective journals: log or sketch-book/statement/critical writing/seminar or other presentation*

All submissions are comprised of a body of arts practice: ‘studio’ plus a contextual and critical research portfolio, and reflective logs/journals. As the ‘thesis’ is embedded in the practice there is no requirement for a separate, written dissertation - although you may elect to do so, if appropriate, by negotiation with final award Course Team.

*You can negotiate the format of your submissions, in response to the needs and priorities within your practice, and in line with contemporary professional practice habits.

School of Arts and Media

The School of Arts and Media is the largest School at the University of Salford with more than 4,000 creative students. Across sites at MediaCityUK and the University's Peel Park campus, we offer a huge variety of courses, from fashion image making and styling, television and radio, creative writing and music to journalism, animation, design and performance.


This programme is based at Peel on the main campus. Students working on site have access to their own studio space. You also have access to facilities in New Adelphi Building including:

  • 2D and 3D printing facilities
  • 3D workshop
  • Fibre workshop
  • Photography studio which includes a lighting set-up
  • Computer suites
  • Gallery spaces

You will be inducted into the workshops, which covers how to use all the machinery, by trained workshop technicians.

Teacher profile

Tim Isherwood

Tim Isherwood has taught in both further and higher education for 15 years over a number of art and design courses, predominantly teaching graphic and communication design at University of Salford from levels 4- 7.

As a specialist in typography, Isherwood has created Salford Type Foundry, a web based repository for the typefaces his students create, giving them platform to showcase their work to a wider community, as well as his own research interests, which include using digital and satellite technologies (GPS) to create letterforms and alphabets, working collaboratively with creative writers to produce responses that question the roles of typographic form within language.

Working as a visual artist, Isherwood’s interests predominantly concern typographic form in printmaking, but has also produces paintings, animation and film. Isherwood has exhibited his nationally over the last 15 years, showcasing his paintings, posters and typefaces, the latest of which showcases responses to a residency at the Portico Library in Manchester.

Find out more about Tim Isherwood

Employment and stats

What about after uni?

We encourage students to pursue an international profile and presence as soon as possible in support of their professional reputation. Opportunities during the programme offer industry experience and encourage students to make professional links with the art and design networks in the region.

Art and design alumni are actively employed in various sectors of design practice both in the UK and overseas, including Brazil, China and Taiwan. Previous graduates have also progressed into research, while several graduates are now employed as lecturers in the field of education in schools and universities

Graduates from this course pursue professional practice via a range of enterprise, employment and self-employment strategies and contexts. Continuing practice-based and driven research is supported via MPhil/Phd courses at the University of Salford.

Graduates can become associate members of the School of Arts and Media Research Centre or other Research centres as appropriate to individual practice drivers. Graduates are currently engaged in further study via PhD.

Career Links

We work with key cultural organisations within the north-west. These include The Center for Chinese Contemporary Art, Hotbed Press, Islington Mill, Castlefield Gallery, International 3, Salford Museum & Art Gallery, Artworks, Mark Devereux Projects, Textbook Studios, Dr Me, Magma Books and HOME. Opportunities for student collaboration range from exhibition opportunities to volunteering at the organization, live projects and mentoring.

Members of staff from the organisations visit to provide careers advise and guidance as well as inviting our students to events and talks with professional artists at their venues.


What you need to know

All students working in any media or discipline need to demonstrate a commitment to an ongoing career as a practising artist and a willingness to challenge the scope of their practice.

English language requirements

International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.5 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Which qualifications do I need?

To join this MA you should have a second class honours degree, 2:2 or above.

  • Interview
  • 250 word Statement of why you want to study Design for Communication at Masters Level
  • Portfolio of current design practice
Standard entry requirements

Standard entry requirements

To join this MA you should have a second class honours degree, 2:2 or above, and supporting portfolio of practice.

Alternative entry requirements

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

How much?

Type of study Year Fees
Full-time home/EU 2020/21 £7,920per year
Full-time international 2020/21 £14,670per year
Additional costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Apply now

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Enrolment dates

September 2020