Design, Strategy and Leadership MDes/PgCert/PgDip


Design, Strategy and Leadership

The successful use of strategic and tactical design within industry and private sector organisations is able to impact on business performance, build market share, generate and sustain growth, improve productivity and increase competitiveness (Design Council, 2011). The Cox Review Report (2005) stresses the importance of the creative sector in the national competitiveness of the UK. It highlights the notion that future growth can only be achieved through a long-term commitment to promoting and harnessing the wealth creating potential of creativity and innovation.

Offered by Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D), the MDes in Design, Strategy and Leadership exploits existing expertise within  and School of Management. This executive Master's course reflects the need for qualified professionals with a range of skills in both the creative and strategic domains, who can combine the disciplines of creative innovation strategy and design leadership in order to deliver growth and increased competitiveness.

The course integrates world-class design-driven innovation and strategic management teaching and research activities through a unique teaching approach.

Course overview

The MDes course comprises eight assessed modules, in which students engage in creative leadership, strategic design management, financial and business planning, design thinking and innovation strategy. Modules are delivered in facilities in London, supported by seminars, workshops and lectures in creative and design agencies, providing a closer link to professional practice. Residential elements will be delivered at Cranfield. Students also undertake a group project, in which they apply their skills to real business challenges, and complete an individual thesis project.

Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) students complete eight modules and the group project. Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) students complete six modules.

Group project

The group project experience is highly valued by both students and prospective employers. Teams of students work to solve an industrial problem. The project applies technical knowledge and provides training in teamwork and the opportunity to develop non-technical aspects of the taught programme. Part-time students can prepare a dissertation on an agreed topic in place of the group project.

Industrially orientated, our team projects have support from external organisations. These include: Airbus, Atkins, Altro, Bromford Industries, Benaa Group, BT, Caterpillar, Centre for Process Innovation, Cisco, DPD, Dragon Rouge, Engineering Photonics Centre, Environcom, ERA Foundation, GKN Hybrid Power, HS Marston Aerospace, Ihsan Center, Labinal Power Systems, Maier Group, Novartis, Okaz Organization for Press and Publications, Operations Excellence Institute, Rolls-Royce, Safran Power, SENTi, SPI Laser, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Ultra Precision Centre, and Whirlpool.

As a result of external engagement Cranfield students enjoy a higher degree of success when it comes to securing employment. Prospective employers value the student experience where team working to find solutions to industrially based problems are concerned.

View our Manufacturing, Materials and Design 2015 Manufacturing Group Projects

Watch video: Paul Ewers, Visteon Engineering Services, talks about his involvement in the Manufacturing Group Project at Cranfield University.

Watch video: Manufacturing MSc students talk about their experience of the Manufacturing Group Projects at Cranfield University. 

Individual Project

The individual thesis project offers students the opportunity to develop their research capability, depth of understanding and ability to provide world-class solutions to real problems in design strategy and leadership.


This course comprises eight assessed modules, a group project and an individual project.


  • Personal Leadership and Development
    • Personal career paths to date
    • Personal experiences of design strategy and leadership
    • Learned leadership experience
    • Teams, organisations and power
    • Comparative study of models of leadership in creative industries
    • Collaborative and distributed leadership in creative industries
    • Action learning and reflective practice
    • Leadership in new organisational forms in creative industries
    • Influencing skills.
    Intended learning outcomes
    • On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:
    • Develop and enhance participants’ core leadership capacity
    • Deepen participants’ self-awareness, self development, reflective practice and emotional intelligence
    • Develop participants’ understanding of the diversity and dynamics of the creative industry
    • Increase participants’ interpersonal, communication and strategic skills
    • Prepare participants to translate higher level vision and policies into a design-driven change agenda.
  • Consumer Trends for Design, Strategy and Leadership
    Module LeaderDr Peter Ball - Reader
    Dr Fiona Charnley - Lecturer in Sust Product & Service Desig
    Dr Leon Williams - Senior Lecturer in Product & Services
    • Market research methods
    • Market sensing
    • Trend analysis
    • Empathic design
    • Lifestyle Analysis
    • Personal cultures
    • Group lifestyle cultures
    • Lifestyles factor abstraction
    • Observation techniques
    • Co-design
    • Data Gathering and Analysis Techniques
    • Life observation
    • Activity Simulation methods
    • Developing prototypes
    • Applying questionnaires
    • Setting up and carrying out a Customer Lifestyle Observation Exercise.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Develop a knowledge and understanding of managing new and established deep insight methods in studying
      user behaviour
    • Develop the ability to select and apply appropriate research methods to explore customer needs and desires
    • Understand and interpret data obtained and identify innovation drivers for end-consumers
    • Foster and understanding and knowledge of how to apply research information to applications within the
      commercial environment
    • Demonstrate a knowledge of new and established deep methods in studying user behaviour
    • Determine appropriate research methods to explore customer needs and desires
    • Interpret data obtained and identify innovation drivers
    • Apply research information to applications within the commercial environment.
  • Design and Brand Management
    • Visual communication interpretation
    • Cultures of imagery
    • Graphic production methods
    • Theoretical and practical models of visual research 
    • Research methodologies in Graphic Design
    • Thematic approaches to problem solving
    • Relationships between audience and message 
    • Principles of branding and association
    • Corporate identity
    • Brand stakeholders
    • Brand communication methods
    • External communication within corporate structures
    • Stakeholders 
    • Measurement of success.

    This module will involve teaching input from University of the Arts London staff.

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Effectively apply visual messages to meet commercial objectives
    • Determine and communicate value systems relevant to corporate communication
    • Make judgements within expressions of contemporary communication media
    • Organise creation of visual communications towards branding objectives.
  • Creative Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
    Module LeaderDr Stephanie Hussels - Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, Full-time MBA Director & Co-Director, BGP
    • Entrepreneurial risk, performance and environment
    • Business planning techniques and their application in entrepreneurial ventures
    • Venture strategy in dynamic markets
    • Start-up and resources to exploit a profit opportunity
    • The evolution of the venture and managing growth
    • Protecting and securing intellectual capital: IPR and antitrust law
    • Financial management for new ventures: financing a start-up
    • The entrepreneurial financing process: buying and selling a venture.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:

    • Understand the key stages and challenges involved in identifying opportunities and strategies for business start-ups
    • Manage and finance the early stages of new venture development and growth
    • Evaluate, research, write, and present business plans using their knowledge of the entrepreneurial process.
  • Managing Innovation and New Product Development
    Module LeaderProfessor Keith Goffin - Professor of Innovation and New Product Development
    • Introduction: elective content, style of teaching and learning; expectations of students and faculty; project teams; course assessment; reading; etc
    • Understanding Innovation: the need for innovation in the service, manufacturing, public and other sectors
    • Creating Customer-focused Ideas: understanding customers’ hidden needs through enhanced methods for market research
    • ‘Auditing Innovation Performance’: determining how innovative an organization is, in terms of not only its output of new products and services but also its internal processes
    • Prioritisation: Methods for assessing the technical, market and financial risks of innovation projects
    • Implementation and new product development: how to define and quickly implement concepts for new products, services and processes
    • People and Organisation: building a culture of innovation
    • Developing an Innovation Strategy
    • Boosting Innovation Performance.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the nature of innovation – identified by Michael Porter as one of the two most important business processes (with marketing) – and be able to identify the relevance and potential for innovation within an organisation and/or network
    • Critically evaluate appropriate (quantitative and qualitative) data on the performance of an organisation and generate ideas for boosting innovation performance
    • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the key tools and techniques for managing innovation, know where to find information on leading edge approaches, and have the ability to critically evaluate, select and systematically apply these in actual business situations
    • Demonstrate fundamental understanding of the people issues when applying and managing innovation, including where there can be political, cognitive and other barriers to overcome.
  • Whole System Design
    Module LeaderDr Fiona Charnley - Lecturer in Sust Product & Service Desig
    • A framework of ecodesign: history and definitions
    • Strategies and drivers for the integration of environmental considerations in product and process development
    • Lifecycle (systems) thinking; tools and techniques for environmental improvement; integrated product and service perspectives toward sustainability;
    • Frameworks for eco-innovation; resource productivity and factor 10
    • Product - service - systems (PSS); design, society and ethics; practical examples of PSS design activity
    • Principles and practice of eco-design: material selection, energy consumption, design for disassembly, material recovery, reuse, repair and recyclability
    • Case studies demonstrating the adoption of a holistic approach to more innovative and sustainable solutions.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Identify the design trade-offs and demonstrate a knowledge of methods to address the more sustainable development of new products
    • Critically evaluate the definitions and scope of design for sustainability from different technical, environmental and social perspectives
    • Explain the methods used, trade-offs considered and significance of using life-cycle techniques for the appraisal of product and process development options
    • Explore and synthesise concepts of design responsibility and the ethical agenda of designing for society
    • Develop a systemic understanding of the link between design activity, environment and society and the concept of  ‘product service systems’ as a framework for organisational activity
    • Demonstrate an understanding of case studies from across design disciplines that have adopted a holistic approach to the design of more innovative and sustainable solutions.
  • Strategic Management and Leadership
    Module LeaderDr Jeffrey Alcock - Reader
    • This course follows a logical step-by-step progression towards above average performance and feedback loops to
      further improve strategic fit in the long run
    • What do I need to achieve strategic competitiveness?
    • How do I articulate strategy?
    • How do I lead implementation of strategy?
    Intended learning outcomes
    • On successful completion of the module the student will be able to:
    • Develop a basic understanding of strategic management
    • Foster appreciation of strategic analysis of inputs, actions and outcomes
    • Introduce the strategic management process and the role of strategic leadership
    • Enhance leaders’ capabilities related to the selection of analytical tools and methods in formulating a strategy
    • Strengthen leaders’ capabilities related to the selection of appropriate tools and methods in implementing strategic
    • Grow participants’ awareness of the influence of hypercompetition and commoditization as drivers for strategic
    • Help overcoming seeming contradictions such as the need to innovate and to increase efficiency as antecedent to
      strategic innovation.
  • Programme and Project Management
    Module LeaderDr Ip-Shing Fan - Senior Lecturer in Enterprise Systems
    • Project and Programme Management
    • PM Tools and Techniques
    • IT Project Management
    • An introduction to Prince 2
    • An introduction to Managing Successful Programmes
    • Project Complexity and Risk
    • Project Management simulation
    • IT Project Readiness
    • Organisation and People issues.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Understand the nature of project and programme management
    • Appreciate the recognised approaches to project and programme management
    • Understand project complexity and risk
    • Understand characteristics of IT projects
    • Appreciate the dynamics of project execution. Understand the basic concepts of project and programme management
    • Understand the tools and techniques required to manage a successful project implementation
    • Understand common approaches to project and programme management
    • Understand the characteristics of IT projects
    • Explain the issues surrounding the management of risk
    • Appreciate the complexity in project execution.


Taught modules 40%, group projects 20%, individual project 40%.

Start date, duration and location

Start date: Full-time: October. Part-time: throughout the year.

Duration: Full-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgCert - two years, Full-time PgDip - one year, Part-time PgDip - two years

Teaching location: Cranfield


Offered by Cranfield’s Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D), the MDes in Design, Strategy and Leadership exploits existing expertise within Cranfield’s School of Applied Sciences and School of Management this course is suitable for mid-career professionals in the creative industries sector looking to improve their skills in the strategic, tactical and implementation aspects of the management of creativity and innovation in business.  

Informed by industry


Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. These include:

  • Aspire Measurements
  • BRE
  • KTN Network
  • LA Design
  • ViaDynamics.


Your teaching team

You will be taught by industry-active experts from Cranfield School of Management, with an established track record in design and innovation, supported by guest speakers from industry.

Facilities and resources

The Centre benefits from its own purpose-built facility, designed by architects Niall McLaughlin Architects, which emphasises strong light quality and capitalises on the relationship between the building and its surroundings. This provides an inspiring space for students, researchers and clients. 

Entry Requirements

Candidates must possess, or be expected to achieve, a First or Second class UK honours degree in a relevant business, engineering or design-based discipline, or the international equivalent of these UK qualifications. Other relevant qualifications together with industrial experience may be considered.

English Language


If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

IELTS - 6.5

TOEFL - 92 

Pearson PTE Academic - 65

Cambridge English Scale - 180

Cambridge English: Advanced - C

Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa must ensure they can meet the English language requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and we recommend booking a IELTS for UKVI test.



Home EU Student Fees

MDes Full-time - £8,000

MDes Part-time - £1,500 *

PgDip Full-time - £6,400

PgDip Part-time - £1,500 *

PgCert Full-time - £3,200

PgCert Part-time - £1,500 *

Overseas Fees

MDes Full-time - £17,500

MDes Part-time - £17,500 **

PgDip Full-time - £14,000

PgDip Part-time - £14,000 **

PgCert Full-time - £7,000

PgCert Part-time - £10,800 **


The annual registration fee is quoted above. An additional fee of £1,300 per module is also payable.


Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at six month intervals (i.e. the full fee to be paid over the first two years of their registration). 

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.


To help students in finding and securing appropriate funding we have created a funding finder where you can search for suitable sources of funding by filtering the results to suit your needs. Visit the funding finder.

Prestige Scholarship

The Prestige Scholarship provides funding of up to £11,000 to cover up to £9k fees and a potential contribution to living expenses. This scholarship has been designed to attract exceptional candidates to Cranfield University so we welcome applications from UK or EU graduates with a first-class honours undergraduate degree. Prestige Scholarships are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Merit MSc Bursary

The Merit MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be UK or EU graduates with a first class honours, 2:1 honours or in exceptional circumstances 2:2 honours undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. Merit MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

International MSc Bursary

The International MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be from outside the EU with a first class honours or upper second class honours undergraduate degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. International MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS)

The Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) is a funding programme providing affordable tuition fee and maintenance loans for full-time UK/EU students studying technology-based MSc courses.

Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia)

Cranfield offers competitive scholarships for Mexican students in conjunction with Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia) in science, technology and engineering.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme

Students from developing countries who would not otherwise be able to study in the UK can apply for Commonwealth Shared Scholarships for Master’s study, jointly supported by UK universities.

Application Process

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at that time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.

Career opportunities

Takes you on to essential leadership roles in the creative industries, public and private sectors, embedding creative and innovation techniques into all areas to fill the provision gap between creativity and commerce.

Design Programmes in Competitive Creative Design (C4D)

Dr Fiona Charnley, a director of Design Programme in Competitive Creative Design (C4D) at Cranfield University, shares moments from engaging group projects in collaboration with industry.