This course is only accepting applications for 2025/26. If you are interested in an alternative design course for this year, please go to Design Engineering MSc by Research.

Study for a Master of Design at Cranfield

Innovative companies today (large or small) strive for excellence to create the next breakthrough innovation - whether that be to advance technology, stay competitive in the market place, or to provide positive change for a more sustainable future. To achieve this, companies need to maintain their competitive edge, employing talented professionals with creative ideas and vision, coupled with the skills to pioneer with confidence. We believe that Design Thinking is a powerful process that when mastered will empower our professional learners to unlock their creative potential to generate novel ideas and to translate these ideas into tangible and impactful outputs for innovation.

This course has been carefully designed to advance your knowledge of Design Thinking and you will benefit from working alongside leading academics with confidence to generate convincing ideas in Cranfield’s world-class facilities. Cranfield’s strong industrial links provides you with the opportunity to apply Design Thinking in practice with a company, to improve your opportunity of job success, enhancing your professional skills and innovation design portfolio, and provide you with the ‘know how’ to develop your long-term career as a creative professional working towards a more sustainable future.


  • Start dateFull-time and part-time students register in October
  • DurationOne year full-time, two-three years part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, Group projects 20%, Individual project 40%
  • QualificationMDes, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typeFull-time / Part-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

The course is designed for (but not exclusive to) creative professionals with an aspiration to use Design Thinking training to advance their career. It aims to develop creative design literate engineers, scientists and management postgraduates providing tools and techniques to visualise complex data flows and strategic communication processes. It is suitable for graduates from a variety of disciplines.

Your career

Successful students have turned their dreams into a reality developing diverse and rewarding careers in product, manufacturing and service industries in the private sector, public sector organisations such as environmental protection agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and design, environmental and business consultancies. 

We are proud of our alumni community. Here are some examples of what they are now doing:
Electrolux (Head of Design – North America)
PA Consulting  (Consultant in User Experience Design)
East Meets West Club (Business Development Manager)
Stanwell Consulting  (Manager)
FutureGov  (Designer)
BlueBea (Lead Designer)
Honeywell  (User Experience Manager for Latin America)
WiderFunnel – (Director of Behavioural Science)
Ellen MacArthur Foundation (Programme Manager)
Unilever  (Consumer Technical Insight Researcher for Refreshment)
Andiamo (Design Engineer)
PDD Innovation (Senior Consultant)
Dell  (IoT Field Marketing Manager EMEA)
Fjord  (Senior Design Researcher)
Nexant  (Senior Consultant)
Kinneir Dufort (Mechanical Design Engineer)
Borrow a Boat  (CEO and Founder)

Cranfield Careers and Employability Service

Cranfield’s Career Service is dedicated to helping you meet your career aspirations. You will have access to career coaching and advice, CV development, interview practice, access to hundreds of available jobs via our Symplicity platform and opportunities to meet recruiting employers at our careers fairs. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. Support continues after graduation and as a Cranfield alumnus, you have free life-long access to a range of career resources to help you continue your education and enhance your career.

I enjoyed problem solving and design gave me the opportunity to be creative and ‘think outside the box’ in a structured way that tackled real-world problems and C4D really nurtured this. The links to industry in C4D is vast and whatever sector you wish to specialise in, there are connections that can make this possible for you!

After leaving Cranfield I worked as a Design Innovation Advisor for Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network. I am now based in Charlotte, North Carolina and work as a Senior Director for Electrolux. Many of the methods I studied during my Cranfield course have been useful to guide diverse teams in delivering desirable, human-centred solutions that address genuine real-world challenges.

I wanted a blend of design and business from my master’s degree, that, along with Cranfield’s status, is why I chose to study here. The best part of the course was the chance to gain experience working with industry clients during the group and individual projects, which gave me a step up once I finished my course and was looking for employment.
When it comes to the Centre for Competitive Creative Design, I believe it is a truly unique place. It's what we could call an innovation hub – it has strong links with industry and we can say that it sometimes also acts as a business innovation consultant or a design consultant for those commercial partners.
I came to C4D to develop skills in design thinking and innovation. The practice-based approach not only helped me gain skills in design thinking, but it also trained me in the business of design thinking. I acquired more skills than I anticipated in innovation management, project management and whole systems design. C4D put me on the path to become the design leader that I am today.

Why this course?

If you are a professional wanting to advance your career using Design Thinking, then this course is perfect for you. All students on this course will be expected to work on solving several complex challenges set by companies, manage a project from start to completion, and the opportunity to rub shoulders with executive-level decision makers or senior innovation managers.

Powered by the Centre for Design Engineering, this master's in Design Thinking exploits existing expertise within Cranfield’s School of Water, Energy and Environment and School of Management. 

Informed by Industry

This MDes is taught by subject specialists at Cranfield and invited guest speakers from industry. The course is designed to meet the training needs of industry and has a strong input from experts in the sector to reflect state of the art industrial practices and global trends such as digitisation and the circular economy.


The MDes of this course is accredited by the Chartered Society of Designers.

Chartered Society of Designers accreditation logo

The master of design programme within the Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D) are the latest to gain Chartered Society of Designers accreditation within the CSD Course Endorsement Programme, a collaborative initiative with academia that recognises and supports excellence in nurturing designers ‘from learning to earning’™.

Prof. Leon Williams, Head of Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D), said, ‘We are delighted to receive this accreditation from the internationally renowned CSD, and look forward to a close working relationship with them.’ The CSD Course Endorsement Programme is a collaborative initiative with academia, the Chief Executive of the CSD, Frank Peters, said: ‘The courses delivered by C4D point the way forward for the design profession which is seeing design thinking increasingly adopted as a strategic business tool…’ As part of the five year accreditation licence all learners receive free student membership of the Society and will benefit from design practitioner visits and workshops.

Commenting on the accreditation, the Chief Executive of the CSD, Frank Peters, said: "The courses delivered by C4D point the way forward for the design profession which is seeing design thinking increasingly adopted as a strategic business tool thus requiring designers to practice in a new domain in order to deliver a competitive edge. This educational programme, together with the Register of Chartered Designers and our framework for professional design practice (CPSK) offers staff and students of design, practitioners and the design sector the means to successfully negotiate this new design paradigm."

Course details

The Design Thinking course comprises five assessed modules in which you will use design thinking to accelerate innovation.

You will engage in creative leadership, strategic design management, design thinking and innovation strategy, technology and prototyping and circular innovation.

Modules are delivered in facilities in Cranfield, supported by seminars, workshops and lectures in creative and design agencies, providing a closer link to professional practice.

You will also undertake a group project in which they apply their skills to real business challenges, and complete an individual thesis project. 

Water course structure diagram


Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) you will complete five modules and the group project. Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) you will complete five modules.

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, Group projects 20%, Individual project 40%

Group project

The group project experience is highly valued by both students and prospective employers. You will work in teams 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. If you study part-time you can prepare a dissertation on an agreed topic in place of the group project.

Industrially-orientated, our team projects have support from external organisations.

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.

Recent group projects include:

Individual project

The individual thesis project offers you 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.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

User Centred Design

Module Leader
  • Dr Adriana Encinas-Oropesa

    This module introduces you to new methods of observing and analysing tangible and intangible elements of behaviour, expectations, and associations of users and/or consumer groups. It intends to provide an insight into how developing a deep understanding of user attitudes and behaviour enables organisations to connect to what is ultimately important to consumers and importantly can help them to design innovative and strategic solutions that are appropriate for user/consumer use.

    • Users/Consumer insights theory and methods – from data to insights 
    • Design led, behavioural science led, and technology led approaches to users/ consumer insights
    • User-centred design and human-centred design theory and methods 
    • Design for behavioural change 
    • Qualitative/quantitative data gathering and analysis techniques
    • Empathic design, Introduction to Ergonomics and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I)Lifestyle analysis and cultural probes
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to: 

  • Explain new and established deep insight methods in studying user behaviour,
  • Select and apply appropriate research methods to explore users/consumer needs and desires,
  • Interpret data to identify innovation drivers for end-users/consumers,
  • Apply research information to applications within the commercial environment,
  • Present concepts to an audience in an engaging and creative way,
  • Critically appraise the importance of acquiring users/consumer insights as part of the design thinking process.

Design, Technology and Prototyping

Module Leader
  • Paul Lighterness

    A specialised module to advance technical skills in industry ideation, prototyping and supporting design processes. This module will also introduce the facilities/workshops available at Cranfield in support of external contributors.

    • Design thinking and creativity.
    • Collaborative Innovation.
    • Understanding the value and use of prototyping for innovation. 
    • Introduction to technology readiness levels (TRL’s).
    • How to identify and write good requirement for design
    • Hands-on use of professional CAD software.
    • Design skills workshops (sketching, CAD, mechatronics, Augmented and Virtual Reality, 3D printing)
    • Knowledge of advanced materials and processes (smart materials, bio-inspiration, nano & micro technologies, additive manufacturing)
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Prepare and write design specification requirements for a new product, service or system.
  • Formulate, plan and build low fidelity prototypes using design best practice and agile innovation techniques.
  • Critically evaluate industrial best practice tools and techniques for converting an idea into commercially viable solutions.
  • Assess the value of technology readiness levels used as an innovation process.
  • Examine creatively within a multi-disciplinary team using self and group reflective techniques.

Circular Innovation


    This module aims to introduce you to strategies and tools that enable integrated sustainable product development to take place.  In particular you will gain experience of the real life scenarios in which a holistic approach to designing for improved sustainability is required. Delivering environmental improvements in products requires organisations to take a longer-term integrated view of their product and service policies. To support this an appreciation for a range of tools and techniques, used to guide designers responding to the requirements for more sustainable development of products, services and organisational processes, will be developed.    


    • Introduction to the historical context of design for sustainability; 
    • Exploration and critical analysis of multiple approaches to the design of more environmentally and socially responsible products, services and systems;
    • Circular and Endurable Design
    • Application of Lifecycle Assessment tools and techniques;
    • Design for sustainable behaviour: consideration of ethical and societal implications of consumer focused design;
    • Principles and practice of designing for sustainability: material selection, energy consumption, design for disassembly, material recovery, reuse, repair and recyclability;
    • Industry focused case studies demonstrating the adoption of a holistic approach to more innovative and sustainable solutions;
    • Development of a practical application of WSD and formative tutor feedback
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Identify the design trade-offs and explain methods used to address the sustainable development of new products.
  • Discuss the definitions and scope associated with design for sustainability from different technical, environmental and social perspectives.
  • Explore and synthesise concepts of design responsibility and the ethical agenda of designing for society.
  • Develop and analyse the link between design activity and organisational strategy as an approach to addressing environmentally and socially responsible design.
  • Identify and utilise case studies from across design disciplines that have adopted a holistic approach to the design of more innovative and sustainable solutions.

Creative Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

Module Leader
  • Dr Trung Hieu Tran

    This module provides a forum for examining mindsets, methods, and managerial activities that are involved in the entrepreneurial process from opportunity recognition to growing ventures. While the most visible outcome of this module is a written business plan, we will cover a wide area of issues related to starting and growing new ventures. The module is intended to expose you to the main issues associated with the dynamic and uncertain environment of new ventures. During the module, you are therefore required to form teams around ideas for new ventures and to develop and present plans to launch your business idea.


    • The Entrepreneurial Process 
    • What is an Opportunity? How is it different from an Idea? 
    • What is a value proposition and how can you create value?
    • Pre-Business-Plan Analysis: Industries and Markets
    • The Entrepreneur and their Team: Competences, complementarity, creativity
    • Business Models Analytics
    • Business planning techniques and their application in entrepreneurial ventures
    • Resourcing and strategy in entrepreneurial context 
    • Sources of Financing and Valuation Issues in early stage companies
    • Protecting and securing intellectual capital
    • The evolution of the venture and managing growth
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Evaluate new venture opportunities.
  • Create and present a business plan and crowdfunding campaign using your understanding of the entrepreneurial process.
  • Estimate the financial needs of a venture in the early stages of its development and growth.
  • Formulate pitches for funding directed at different categories of investors.
  • Critically appraise the entrepreneurial process and their role within it.

Project Management Introduction

Module Leader
  • Dr Chantal Cantarelli

    This is an introduction to the subject. However, it is our contention that projects are the building blocks of strategy. Also, the module provides a logical and simple process by which you may approach your own modules and objectives, and may well be a valuable source of confidence for taking on projects later in the year. 

    Project Management Introduction (PMI) demonstrates how management respects no boundaries (either in terms of functional silos – departments, etc. or theoretical disciplines). PMI provides additional opportunities to practice personal communication skills, and generally the module provides a basis for personal development and increased confidence and self-awareness. 


    The central aims of this module are to develop an introductory understanding of:

    • The fundamental principles of project management applied in the contemporary environment of enterprise projects,
    • The application of the main techniques and processes of project management,
    • On completing this module, you should be able to: 
      • Develop an Executive Summary (a concise one-page overview of the project) linking the project to higher level organisational objectives,
      • Scope the project by creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS),
      • Identify key task sequences and the critical path using network (logic) diagramming,
      • Set up a graphical representation of the schedule using the bar chart (Gantt), and track progress against the baseline schedule,
      • Use knowledge of resource availability to adjust schedules (resource levelling) and establish realistic milestones, lead times and deadlines,
      • Recognise appropriate levels of detail for the scoping and scheduling process, the change management, the progress reporting requirements and the delivery,
      • Develop and manage budgets and cash flow for a project,
      • Have used Earned Value techniques to assess achievement and produce forecasts.


Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Apply the key tools and techniques in project management.
  • Identify, define, scope, schedule, track and bring to completion a project.
  • Apply financial management process in a project management context.
  • Brief and manage consultant project staff on behalf of your organisation.

How to apply

Click on the ‘Apply now’ button below to start your online application.

See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.