Product and Furniture Design with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)
Our BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design with Foundation Year degree course focuses on the design and development of creative, contemporary and innovative products and furniture, considering user centred design, social context and commercial understanding....
Studying with us in 2021/22 and 2022/23
The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses. Information about the arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year can be found here.
Should the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the 2022/23 academic year or subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.
Our BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design with Foundation Year degree course focuses on the design and development of creative, contemporary and innovative products and furniture, considering user centred design, social context and commercial understanding.
You will be encouraged to explore materials, techniques and processes in relation to scales of manufacture, from one-off bespoke design to design for standardised mass production.
You will learn a range of research and design methods alongside continual practical skills development. Live student projects take place throughout the course to enhance your employability, communication skills and professional practice.
About foundation courses
This four year degree course has been specifically designed to you to undertake additional level 3 study designed to ensure you are successful on your chosen degree.
After successful completion of your foundation year, you will have the flexibility to switch (should you wish to change direction) onto a number of related undergraduate degree options within Birmingham School of Architecture and Design.
What's covered in this course?
You will examine the process of designing and developing functional and desirable products and furniture, examining how social and cultural factors influence design decisions. You will develop knowledge and understanding of design in response to collaborative, professional, commercial and economic considerations.
Alongside research and design development skills, you will also increase your practical knowledge through extensive hands-on exploration. Engaging with making from the outset enables you to fully realise design concepts and create convincing models and prototypes. Underpinned with strong contemporary design thinking, you will explore the breadth of scales of manufacture across product and furniture design to be able to position yourself within a global industry.
By working on live projects, work placements and collaborative projects, you will explore how businesses operate at a commercial, technological, ethical and sustainable level. Second year students recently worked with Philips, developing user-centred lighting applications and third year students exhibited and sold work at Minima: one of Birmingham’s key contemporary design showrooms. You’ll also benefit from the insight of guest speakers from across the design spectrum from designer makers to industrial designers and product and furniture developers.
I had the most amazing experience on the Product and Furniture degree. There was such a wide range of projects and skills learnt over the three years, which meant I was able to discover the niche of design I am truly passionate about. This allowed me to really develop my design ethos, specialist knowledge and skills in my final year.
2019 Graduate – Alice Evans
Why Choose Us?
From Barcelona to New York, study trips and international opportunities provide new cultural perspectives and shared common experiences.
You’ll have the chance to join the student-led Society of 3D Design to take part in collaborative opportunities, creating a community between different disciplines of 3D design.
You’ll develop design communication and visualisation skills using recognised industry standard programmes such as SolidWorks, Adobe Creative Suite and AutoCAD.
You will develop practical skills throughout the programme through extensive workshop practice and develop skills in rapid prototyping and digitally driven techniques.
Live projects and industrial collaborations provide you with invaluable real world experiences and hone your communication and professional development skills.
Talk to the Course Director
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
88 UCAS tariff points.
|LEVEL 2 QUALIFICATIONS|
|IELTS||6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in each band.|
|Plus one of the following Level 3 (and above) Qualifications|
|A Level and Advanced VCE||
|AS and AS VCE||Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications (AS Levels must be in different subject to A-Levels) to obtain 88 pts|
|Access to HE Diploma||
|Foundation Studies (Art and Design, and Art, Design & Media)||
|IBO Certificate in Higher Level||
|International Baccalaureate Diploma||Obtain a minimum of 24 points overall|
|Irish Leaving Certificate (Highers)||Pass the Irish Leaving Certificate with a minimum of 88 tariff points, achieved in five Higher level subjects.|
|OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma||MMM|
|Scottish Advanced Higher||
|UAL Extended Diploma in Art & Design||Merit overall|
|UAL Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production & Technology||Merit overall|
|UAL Extended Diploma in Performing and Production Arts||Merit overall|
If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.
Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.
Additional information for EU/International students
Please see your country page for further details on the equivalent qualifications we accept.
addition to the academic entry requirements listed above, international and EU students will also require the qualifications detailed in this table.
|EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications||Requirements|
6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in each band.
If you do not meet the required IELTS score, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English courses. Please note that you must have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study on the pre-sessional English course. More information.
|International Baccalaureate Diploma (or equivalent, including internationally accredited Foundation courses).|
International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).
Applications from mature students (21+) with alternative qualifications and/or considerable work experience will be considered on their merits.
Fees & How to Apply
- UK students
- International students
Award: BA (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2022
- Full Time
- 4 years
- £9,250 per year
- Apply via UCAS
Award: BA (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2022
- Full Time
- 4 years
- £13,500 per year
Access to computer equipment
You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.
You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.
All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.
Access to Microsoft Office 365
Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.
You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.
Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.
Free access to Rosetta Stone
All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.
Project materials (mandatory)
This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the materials selected.
Clothing and safety equipment (mandatory)
This course requires the purchase of safety equipment in order to use the workshop facilities, including safety boots at an estimated cost of £40.
Media consumable items (mandatory)
This course requires the use of consumables, including a basic 'art kit' of pens, pencils, sketchbook, craft knife/scapel, scale ruler and compass.
Specialist equipment (mandatory)
This course requires the purchase of specialist equipment.
Excess printing (optional)
Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.
Field trips (optional)
This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.
Accommodation and living costs
The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.
Guidance for UK students
UK students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.
Applying through UCAS
Register with UCAS
Login to UCAS
Complete your details
Select your course
Write a personal statement
Get a reference
Pay your application fee
Send UCAS your application
You are not required to submit a portfolio for this course.
Course in Depth
The foundation year provides an opportunity to explore the exciting world of contemporary design through various scales and develop creative solutions, encapsulating Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Interior Architecture and Design, and Product and Furniture Design.
It provides a supported learning environment to explore conceptual ideas through to detailed design, mapping and modelling and is assessed through mini design-focussed projects and a specialised final project in a chosen field.
The foundation year is ideally suited to students who need to develop their design, drawing, technical and presentations skills before entering a BA course, or for those who have not yet decided which specific design discipline or career to pursue.
In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):
This module focuses on developing the 2D design skills and techniques required to communicate and visualise design concepts around space and form. You will work on a series of mini projects using predominantly manual techniques such as freehand sketching, technical drawing, and physical model-making. You will also be introduced to some digital techniques such as Photoshop and Desktop Publishing via InDesign.
This module is designed to develop your academic skills and make the transition to degree level study. It specifically focuses on your ability to critique, reflect and verbalise your thoughts and concepts through channels such as presentations, blogs and live journals.
You will learn how to use research methods to inform your practice and have the opportunity to advance your academic writing and referencing skills.
This module is designed to give you an introduction to the design processes used by the various disciplines and includes appraisal of design briefs, understanding context, design drivers, and the development of concepts and visuals through design feasibility studies. You will begin to understand how to turn your ideas into designs and the level required to reach a professional standard.
Underpinning the practice, you will explore and discuss fundamental concepts, particularly relating to human scale, ergonomics and anthropometrics, looking at design and its relationship to the physical aspects of the environment.
This module is designed to encourage you to make connections between theory and practice and engage further in critical analysis. You will explore the historical aspects across the two design disciplines (a major and minor) and scales and current practices.
You will further explore the use of precedent studies, which will provide you with the tools to respond to the challenges and changes in different environments and habitations.
This module focuses on developing presentation skills, from visual and graphic presentation techniques to pitching and presenting ideas.
You will have opportunities through workshops and online tutorials to learn Adobe Creative Suite and 3D software such as Sketch-up.
Hands on workshop practice will be introduced across a range of materials.
The aim of this module is to develop a concept design within your chosen discipline. You will document the design process, reflect on the experience and the final outcomes and the reasons for selecting your chosen field. The project will culminate in a comprehensive presentation, which will capture the whole design process via a design portfolio.
First-year modules introduce key principles, processes and methods.
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):
Studio and workshop based activities will introduce you to a range of fundamental design principles to broaden and improve your knowledge and understanding of the design process. You will explore a variety of issues, guidelines and general design considerations that are relevant for designers.
The module introduces you to some of the critically defining key events and precedents that have influenced and shaped historical and contemporary design. This module engages with the key design ideologies of the 20th and 21st Century, developing an understanding of the principles of design analysis, critical analysis, academic writing, questioning and debate.
This module introduces students to fundamental elements and key methodologies of visual expression and communication. Through drawing and image building assignments, students will develop a comprehensive range of 2D and 3D skills in order to develop a visual language to respond effectively and creatively to design tasks and formal briefs.
The design process relies on a rich understanding of the nature of materials; their physical properties, inherent qualities, and how they can be manipulated (processed). This module seeks to embed an understanding of material and process technologies that will enable you to design with specific parameters in mind and appreciate the limitations of what you are designing with. This will encourage you to embrace material qualities as part of the design process, and actively explore the creative application of current and future technologies.
This module will introduce basic principles and considerations when designing for various scales of manufacture, helping you to develop an awareness of the impact of economies of scale on design thinking. The module will introduce fundamental strategies in designing for different markets and you will explore the relationships between scale, context and implementation.
Employability-focused modules during your second year year enhance industry knowledge and experience.
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 100 credits)
The main focus of this module is to enable you to develop more advanced CAD skills (SolidWorks) and use these in relation to the design process. As your skills develop you will be expected to utilise and correctly synthesise the SolidWorks program in line with industry recognised production methods and techniques. This will enable you to develop and realise designed concepts using digital technologies and to effectively communicate design intentions within the context of manufacturing and industry.
This module will apply the ‘user-needs’ design philosophy as a framework to enable you to build upon and synthesise core design skills introduced at level 4 of the programme.
Design Synthesis will engage our students in the appropriate observational and analytical approaches required to develop user-centred design outcomes. The module will address the philosophy behind human-centred design and will encourage you to develop your own reasoning by putting the ‘needs and requirements’ of the ‘person/client/user’ at the centre of the process.
This module will give you the opportunity to ‘focus’ your studies through self-directed practice, researching a personal area of interest and creating outcomes that reflect your developing knowledge of Product and Furniture Design. This gives a guided introduction to the largely self-initiated study you will experience in level 6.
In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules.
The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration by enabling you to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines, or with academic staff. Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the Creative Industries and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities and with the support of academic staff. Within this module framework, several kinds of collaborative opportunities are available.
For example, with the approval of your supervisor, you can determine a project based on your own interests; your supervisor may set you a predetermined project to enable you to work with other students in a way that is appropriate to your subject area; or there may be opportunities for you to collaborate with staff on research projects. In all cases, you must apply your subject skills to an interdisciplinary project which will be agreed in advance with your supervisor.
This module provides an opportunity for you to apply your knowledge and skills to an external, professional brief. The brief will be set by an external client/ agency, in consultation with your supervisor, and it could be a ‘real life’ problem to be solved, or a simulation. It is an opportunity for you to engage in a professional manner with an aspect of your subject area, which contributes to the development of employability skills within the supportive infrastructure of the University. Where appropriate, the project may involve interdisciplinary collaboration with students from other courses. In this way, it reflects the collaborative, flexible nature of employment within the Creative Industries.
The purpose of this module is to enable you to develop professional attributes and subject skills through experience in the work place, and to critically reflect upon your learning in that context. You will normally be expected to arrange your own placement, with support from academic staff and ADM Careers+.
Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.
Modules in your final year encourage individual direction through live projects/competition and a self-written major design project.
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits)
This module seeks to familiarise you with the initial stages of client contact in terms of responding to a brief and analysing an opportunity/problem. You will produce and evaluate appropriate innovative concepts with a view to selecting the most suitable for presentation back to the client/organisation as a series of options.
The source of the briefs for the module may be a competition such as the Royal Society of Arts or a live client company contact. In all cases, the briefs would be industry facing.
The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. It is important that we can support you appropriately, so you will be guided towards choosing a research topic which is relevant to your discipline and in which your lecturers have expertise. The outcome may take the form of a written dissertation or a practice-based portfolio.
This module provides the opportunity for you to undertake a major self-directed design project derived from the major project research undertaken in the previous module Major Project. In consultation with academic staff you will be responsible for the planning and implementation of a programme of work that will enable you to showcase the skills you have attained throughout the course.
Taught by experienced designers, makers and academics, this course combines practice with theory to give you a fully rounded learning experience.
Extensive workshop facilities will help you to realise your proposals, creating functional and commercially viable designs. This hands-on approach allows you to understand the opportunities and limitations of materials and construction methods.
Studio activities and projects
Final year BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design students recently exhibited and sold their work at Minima; one of Birmingham’s key contemporary design showrooms. The fifteen selected students work in the collection included table-top products, desk and pendant lighting designs, furniture and homewares.
The students’ final pieces were created in response to a brief that tasked them with designing and making a collection of innovative and desirable objects or artefacts that could be sold in either John Lewis, Made.com, Heal's, WallpaperSTORE, or Not On The High Street. The designed objects also needed to fit within the retailer’s ethos, beliefs, style and approach, and fulfil the necessary requirements to be sold within their retail spaces.
Speaking afterwards, Level 6 Co-Ordinator and Lecturer Richard Underhill said: “As aspiring designers, our students aim to create objects which can be touched, lived with and worn. Being able to show their work within a collective of designers is a powerful experience; it’s a boost of energy to any designer to be celebrated and seen.”
Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers
In 2019, three students were given the opportunity to take part in the yearly Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers Tour. The four-day tour takes students around North West furniture businesses to see how the industry operates.
“I am very grateful to my tutors and the Furniture Makers Company for providing such an educational and valuable experience. Every day was a chance to learn about different methods of production within the furniture industry, this opened my eyes to the range of job opportunities that are out there. I had many interesting conversations about the current furniture industry, what is predicted for the future, portfolio advice and general career tips. It was extremely heartening to see the shared concern about the sustainability of furniture manufacturing within the UK.
We were all impressed by the companies we visited and the steps which have already been taken to reduce environmental impact, in addition to the acknowledgement that there is more to be done. The industry tour also allowed the meeting of like-minded people – everyone was enthusiastic about design and really friendly. It was great to share ideas and projects and we still keep in touch now.”
Emma Jones – Second Year Student
Students continue collaboration with Philips Lighting
Product and Furniture continued our industry collaboration with Philips Lighting during 2018 -19. Once again students were tasked with exploring Philips Lighting cutting edge technology and applying it to the ‘user centred’ design framework.
The focus of the project centred on the work space, with significance placed on new working practices and environments such as, co-working spaces. STEAMhouse was used as a live ‘co-working’ environment. Part of the objective was to understand both the cultural significance of co-working spaces/studio practice environments and home office environments and the various activities carried out within them. Students also explored and utilised a range of Philips Lighting technologies, which could enhance either the co-working / studio practice or home office environment itself and/or enhance and add value to the users experience of the co-working / studio practice / home office environment.
Throughout the project key members of staff from Philips Lighting provided students with feedback as well as technical guidance. The project also provided students with the experience of pitching and presenting their ideas to an established global company, which enriched the overall project from a student perspective.
Enhancing employability skills
The course has a vocational emphasis and is focused on employability. Throughout your study you will engage with real briefs, collaborative opportunities and external industry links. You will develop skills in a broad range of working approaches, from synthesising and applying problem solving and creative thinking skills, to 3D computer modelling, where you will use the latest industry standard software.
Extensive workshops support modelling and prototyping skills, and you will create high-quality outcomes using a wide range of materials, techniques and processes. The course supports personal development as a creative, knowledgeable designer, maximising the potential to obtain positions in national and global companies.
The course develops skills and experience in and around the subject of scales of manufacture, from bespoke, one-off and batch production to standardised mass production. The interdisciplinary nature of design engages relationships across a broad spectrum of specialist areas of study, and we nurture this philosophy through collaborative and professional practice approaches.
Working with local industry develops professional understanding and creates opportunities for work placements and internships.
In the past, students have worked with interior designers, product designers, furniture manufactures, and design fabricators, including McMaster, HF Contracts, JSC Rotational and Scruffy Dog Design, Create and Deliver.
OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.
It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.
Product and Furniture Design graduate takes his work worldwide
Alex Round, a 1st class graduate from BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design, has designed ground breaking safety features for ambulance trolleys carrying neonates, a term for a newborn child, in the UK and worldwide.
The UK Neonatal Transport Group statistics show that there are approximately 16,000 transfers of premature and ill babies each year. The transfer of neonates is a stressful process that could contribute to long-term health complications caused by excessive movements of the neonate during acceleration and deceleration or in the event of a crash of up to 40MPH.
Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.
The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.
Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:
Our international students
Our course is popular with students from around the world, particularly China, Hong Kong, Brazil and Malaysia.
Brazilian student Julia Damiati Rezende developed a significant portfolio of work during her studies on the second year of Product Design. We welcomed Julia from the Brazilian scholarship programme Science Without Borders. As well as completing the second year of the BA, Julia has continued to work with postgraduate staff and students, developing her conceptual approach to design. She is currently researching Arts, Design and Behaviour: Convergences Between Body and Digital Technology.
Facilities and Staff
When you join Birmingham City University, the first thing you will notice is the exceptional quality of our campuses. With an investment of £340 million across our buildings and facilities, we are committed to giving you the very best learning environment to help shape your experience.
You will be based in our multi-million pound Parkside building – a state of the art facility located within our City Centre Campus. Here you will have full access to our recently upgraded, high spec CAD (Computer-Aided-Design) workstations situated within our dedicated computer labs and open access areas. We also provide access to leading edge digital design software, enabling you to explore technical drawing, graphics, 3D modelling, visualization, animation, computation, simulation, and virtual reality.
The Parkside Building is also home to our digital fabrication labs, where you will be able to explore 3D printing, laser cutting, water-jet cutting, CNC machining, ceramics, glass and traditional model-making, guided by our team of expert technicians with access to our on-site material store, and professional printing facilities.
You’ll also benefit from:
- Design studios
- Physical and digital library
- Loanable laptops
- Dedicated social spaces
From industry-standard software, to our workshops and studio spaces, everything you need will be at your fingertips from day one. Working with our dedicated teaching teams and expert technicians, you'll be supported from concept through to completion.
Workshop facilities are integral to the programme and you will have access to an extensive range of prototyping equipment, including wood machining equipment, metal fabrication, CNC router, four axis milling, waterjet cutting, plaster, ceramic, glass workshops, 3D printing, laser cutting and etching, plastic forming, and ply moulding. A large range of hand and power tools also support model making and prototyping for Product and Furniture Design.