MA in Service Design

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90 (Level 9 NFQ)


€4,500 per year



What is this course about?

Looking to advance your skills in service design and make a meaningful impact in sectors such as healthcare, technology, finance, transportation and education? Look no further than the award-winning MA Service Design programme, offered as a 24-month, part-time taught masters CFA programme.


Our programme is designed to teach students the application of service design methods, tools, and thinking in real-world contexts. Through a series of live design projects, students will engage with complex economic, technological, political, and social issues, creating new service solutions that revolutionise everyday experiences.


One of the key strengths of our programme is the opportunity for students to learn from and be mentored by industry experts from across the public and private sectors. Our guest lecturers include designers from leading companies such as Snook, BNP Paribas, Verizon Connect, Fjord, Optum, Pfizer, Scottish Government, Novartis and many more.


You will develop a deep understanding of the service design process, from research and ideation to prototyping and implementation. You will learn how to apply design thinking to identify and solve complex problems, and how to communicate your solutions effectively to stakeholders.


Our graduates go on to work in a variety of industries and sectors, from healthcare and finance to transportation and education. They are equipped with the skills and knowledge to make a real impact in their chosen fields and to drive positive change through service design.


If you are passionate about service design and want to take your skills to the next level, then look no further! We look forward to welcoming you to our community of talented and motivated designers.

Who is it for?

The MA in Service Design provides a scholarly framework for students who wish to develop their expertise as a Service Designer.


The modules seek to prepare students, from the broadest range of undergraduate backgrounds, with the practical and theoretical means to develop contemporary service design practice and theory, while also benefiting from a broader design discourse and student cohort through interdisciplinary projects.


Target groups include learners with background or an interest in: 

  • Banking 
  • TV and film 
  • Customer Service
  • Product Design 
  • Animation 
  • Graphic Design 
  • Urban planning 
  • Procurement 
  • Textile Design 
  • Tech 
  • Photography 
  • Public Sector 
  • IT


The MA is designed to provide a solid foundation in service design theory and practice and to equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in a variety of industries and sectors.


What will I study?

Students undertake a number of core modules, and have the opportunity to undertake a 5 credit module from a suite of elective options from across the college and partner institutions.


Trimester 1


Design Principles – 5 credits
This module introduces learners to fundamental principles, working methods, skills and theories within their specific programme of study that underpin contemporary creative practice. This module will focus on the theoretical underpinnings, contemporary issues, topics and concepts relating to Service Design. Introducing learners to the fundamental principles and processes of the discipline, and enabling them to approach studio work from a theoretically informed perspective. The module aims to improve their awareness of the issues that determine the usability of a designed service through the lenses of People, Data and Systems.


Service Design Fundamentals – 10 credits
This module focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of Service Design, covering topics ranging from participatory design to human factors. Learners are introduced to various theories, factors, methods, and tools of Service Design. They will engage with the key hard and soft skills involved in the service design process, from user research and facilitation to prototyping, testing and implementation.


Trimester 2


Design Practices 1 – 5 credits
This module enables learners to undertake a body of work within their chosen creative specialism, supporting their personal and professional development as a designer.


The aim of the module is to give the learners experience of a range of approaches relating to the design of services and their constituent touchpoints, with a focus on users, experience and context of use. Students will learn and apply fundamental service design approaches, methods and tools. The module will incorporate lectures, seminars, workshops, fieldwork and studio work. Students will work independently and in groups, giving them the opportunity to work in a self-directed and collaborative manner.


Service Design Studio – 10 credits
During this project learners will operate in teams and respond to a brief using human-centred, qualitative and quantitative research and insights. Learners will assess an existing user experience using a mixed methods approach, and develop concepts to improve, or fix service delivery. Learners will then evaluate and measure the effectiveness of their solution.


Trimester 3


Creative Elective – 5 credits
The programme facilitates inter and intra institutional mobility through the Creative Futures Academy (CFA) partnership, enabling MA Service Design students to undertake a 5 credit CFA elective module offered by another NCAD programme, or from our CFA partners at IADT and UCD.


Design Proposal – Major Project – 10 credits
Learners will initiate and state a design project of their choice (by negotiation with their tutor/s) which will encompass: information retrieval, collation and interpretation. The module will develop the learner’s ability to understand how to find scholarly and professional literature on the topic that interests them, and relate that literature to their research question. Their goal is to describe what is already known about their topic, how it has been researched by others, and how their question and the research methods they seek to employ different methods from that of previous design researchers. This will then enable learners to develop a feasibility study where through a process of analysis and evaluation of a proposed project they will determine if it is required, appropriate and feasible.


Trimester 4


Design Collaborations 1 – 5 credits
This module introduces learners to methods and techniques that will help you to navigate the evolving creative landscape, identify opportunities and collaborate to address creative challenges. Learners will undertake a thematic project with colleagues and creative peers, and develop work through teamwork, negotiation and collaboration.


During this project learners will operate in teams and will be tasked with a live project brief from a client. The response to the allocated brief must be grounded in human-centred research and insights. Learners will move through the process of understanding the challenges faced by the client, identifying key insights, generating and exploring ideas and evaluating these with project stakeholders. Teams will deliver and present ideas that demonstrate a comprehensive process for solving complicated, multi-faceted problems of design.


Strategic Design for Change – 10 credits
This module will enable learners to explore the capacity of design as a critical and collaborative agent of social, cultural and economic change. It also seeks to position design as a creative forum for exploring a dynamic, changing world full of critical, contradictory and provocative ideas. The module considers the potential impact of design on a range of specific topics including human behaviour, societal change and international development. Through a series of lectures and group tutorials students will examine the role of the designer in the 21st century in relation to these broad issues. Learners will develop and present their own ‘Strategic Design for Change’ concepts and engage with a combination of faculty, industry and external stakeholders in the development and delivery of their project.
Trimester 5


Design Capstone 1 – 5 credits
This capstone module enables learners to undertake a project that demonstrates their fundamental knowledge of specific creative practices and theories. Learners will reflect upon, document and disseminate their creative practice.


Learners will undertake a project with an external partner. Learners will generate a bespoke methodological approach for the specific design context and execute this approach. This approach will span all stages of the design process from interpretation of the brief, research, ideation, evaluation and delivery. An individual reflection piece on the learning acquired through this process will be required.


Collaborative Design Studio – 10 credits
This module will see learners undertake a live industry project working with stakeholders to devise, prototype and text service design concepts and solutions in ‘the wild’. Learner’s will build on their ability to work within a team, alongside a client in a problem-oriented, project-oriented and collaborative way. This will give students the opportunity to further develop and apply primary research methods, incorporating research findings and insights in a collaborative design project. Learners will also employ a variety of techniques to evaluate their solution with relevant stakeholders from across a range of disciplines. Outcomes will be disseminated and communicated visually and verbally at an appropriate professional standard.


Trimester 6


Design Studio – Major Project – 15 credits
During this module learners will work on a self-selected and generated major project, which offer the opportunity to undertake a wide-ranging and in-depth practical and theoretical investigation into their chosen field of practice. Students will be supported to execute projects from both a pragmatic and speculative perspective, demonstrating their ability to prepare and present their work in a variety of contexts and formats both for the purposes of assessment and for the wider dissemination and promotion of their practice to peers, public and a professional audience.

Future Careers

The part-time MA provides the opportunity for students to engage in an inter-disciplinary educational experience, working alongside postgraduate students from across the School of Design.  We encourage our students to explore contemporary themes that connect all the design disciplines.  Building on the knowledge and skills developed at undergraduate level and professional practice, students encounter new contexts in which to develop their skillsets and deepen their knowledge of design through a range of interdisciplinary projects, before undertaking a major project within their chosen design discipline.


A number of modules has been design specifically with the collaborations in mind, ex: 

  • The Design Studio Major Project consists of a live studio project undertaken with a project partner. Following sign-off on the Major Project Proposal at the end of Year 1, students will complete a research phase, extract meaningful insights, create and visualise concepts, and develop & test service solutions.
  • During the one week breakout What’s the Mater? project students will be divided into teams and tasked with a live project brief from the Mater Hospital. Responses to the allocated brief must be grounded in human-centred research and insights. 
  • In the Design Capstone module Learners will undertake a project with an external partner and reflect back on their experience. 
  • For the Collaborative Design Studio module learners undertake a live industry project working with stakeholders to devise, prototype and text service design concepts and solutions in ‘the wild’


Previous project partners have included: 


Rediscovery Centre 

The Mater Hospital 



We encourage our students to experiment and take risks in order to carve new understandings of design and make technical innovations within, and across Service Design. Graduates have gone on to secure positions in the fields of Service Design, UX, Experience Design, CX and Strategic Design.


In challenging the purpose, methods and ambitions of contemporary service design practice and research, students will identify opportunities and develop their own creative careers.


It is intended that some graduates will choose to remain at NCAD progressing to PhD level.  


The programme aims to contribute to the development of the research culture of the College by expanding the scope of expertise in design and by providing a pathway into further research specialisation in the field of design.  By supporting the academic development of students there is scope for the development of a research cluster, which will explore a wide range of topics in the field through both theoretical and practice-based research.

Entry Requirements

Educational Standard

All applicants are expected to present an approved Bachelor degree at minimum level of 2nd class honours (2.2)


Applicants who do not meet the minimum academic entry requirements may be considered on the basis of prior work or learning experience (RPEL). Candidates may be required to pass a qualifying examination set by the relevant department before being accepted to a Masters degree programme. Attendance at selected undergraduate lecture courses at NCAD, together with related written work may be prescribed. 


You may apply for the programme if you are currently completing your Undergraduate Degree. NCAD will review the rest of your application If necessary, we can make you a Conditional Offer. When your degree is completed and you send us final transcripts we will upgrade this to a Full Offer. 


Applicants who have not been educated through English must show proof of achieving IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 6 in the writing section on the Academic Version) or an equivalent score in another accepted test.


Graduates from the Professional Diploma in Service Design will be accepted onto the programme, and receive dispensation for the 4 modules (20 credits in total) they will have already successfully completed. 


As part of your application, you will be asked to upload the following supporting documentation:

  1. A Statement of Interest – 500 words framing your reasons for applying to the programme. Please indicate a subject/discipline area that you believe can best advance your practice.
  2. A recent CV
  3. Certified transcripts of previous programmes followed
  4. Certified copies of degree / certificates and/or other appropriate third level qualifications bearing the official stamp of the institution.
  5. Reference 1 (Academic – Head of School/Department preferred)
  6. Reference 2 (Tutor or Current/Recent Employer)
  7. English Language Proficiency certificate 
    • This is only required if English is not your first language. 
    • You can see the full list of the English Language Qualifications NCAD recognises at this link
  8. Portfolio / Evidence of previous work:
  • Applications must be supported by documentation that best represents your practice. Applicants are requested to upload a document via the online application with access to your portfolio. This document can include a link to an on-line portfolio or a link to a folder on Google Drive.
  • We do require evidence of previous work undertaken, even if your background is not Design related. This will depend on the experience and background of the candidate making the application. Feel free to submit any material you feel showcases an aspect of your skill-set that is relevant to the programme you are applying for.
  • We are open to reviewing written work or documentation of a project that might be more theoretical or technical in nature. Some candidates chose to describe projects they have been involved with in a “case study” format, eg. for the MA in Service Design if they have been involved in improving an aspect of customer service in a business, they describe the process they engaged with to do so. 
  • There is no set requirement on the number of pages or projects – this is up to each individual applicant.

Fees and how to apply


Fees for this course are €4,500 per year


Apply via NCAD HERE

Contact the course leaders:
Dr Caoimhe McMahon,


Contact NCAD Admissions


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