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Setting Yourself Apart from the Crowd

set apart from crowd

Are you in the final stages of your degree? Wondering what step to take next? Should you go straight into a job or further your studies? I chose the latter and little over a month ago I completed a Masters in Multi-Disciplinary Design at the University of Ulster, Belfast. Hopefully some of my thoughts about it will help you make a decision.

The MA Multidisciplinary Design responds to continuing changes in contemporary design practice and challenges the perceived boundaries between the many and varied recognised art and design disciplines.

The programme seeks to establish an environment where creative, self-motivated practitioners from a diverse array of design backgrounds, with different methodologies, can experience a cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches to the design process.

Web, fashion, print, product and textile designers (along with a variety of other creatives) come together in a challenging environment, allowing a totally original style of working to evolve.  Coming from Interactive Multimedia Design at Jordanstown, we primarily worked in an online design environment, along with around 80 other web designers.  There was little interaction with creatives from other disciplines, which left us in a world of our own.

With competition for jobs pretty high in the web sector at present, I felt it was important to set myself apart from the other IMD graduates.  I also wanted to explore other areas of creativity, while broadening my design skills.  The MA in Multi-Disciplinary Design offered me all of these and therefore seemed like the obvious choice.

masters paddy donnelly


The course runs for a year and a half (3 semesters). The first two semesters consist of 3 modules and the final semester is devoted to your Masters project. The content within each module varies, ranging from creative entrepreneurship to design thinking, giving you a wide array of topics to tickle your creative muscles.

The Work

The structure of the MA leaves your choice of research topic wide open.  While there is constant guidance and advice from the lecturers, you are pretty much able to study anything you want, which is refreshing and daunting at the same time. I chose to research viral marketing, social media and Internet culture over the year and a half, in an effort to understand the web better and create a name for myself.

The Big Word Project is one of the projects created by myself and Lee Munroe in an effort to promote ourselves and research each of our chosen subjects. The project allows you to purchase a word from our list for $1 per letter to represent your site. Your site will then represent this word in our list and when people click on it, they will be taken to your site. The site received huge publicity around the net, including being featured in WIRED magazine!

Great Points

The Masters has a ton of advantages for anybody wanting to further their education and get a step up in this economic downturn. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved presentation skills
  • Networking opportunities
  • Increased self confidence
  • Multi-Discipline environment
  • Enhanced research skills
  • Access to experienced knowledge base
  • Advanced writing practice
  • Entrepreneurial advice
  • Expert guidance
  • Masterclasses

Not so Great Points

There aren’t that many bad things I could say about the Masters, however I should point out a few issues that affected me:

  • It’s not cheap, around £3,200
  • Not having strict guidelines can make you feel lost in the beginning
  • Can be a difficult transition from a multimedia background to a more artistic environment

I got a Job!

And what was the point in all this? To get a job of course! And, well, it worked! I started work as a Creative Strategist for Belgian company Nascom two weeks after the MA ended, and I’m loving it! You can read more about my first week at the Nascom blog.

The MA got me this job in a couple of ways. The first reason was my research into social media, which gave me the skills to join the Nascom ‘Tactics Squad’. The second reason the MA got me the job is because I met Steven Verbruggen as part of The Big Word Project and he in turn got my foot in the door with Nascom. It just shows that you should seize every opportunity and network like crazy! You never know what could happen, you could end up in Belgium!

Want to know more?

For another point of view on the Masters, check out Lee Munroe’s post. You can download some information on the Masters. Any questions you have about the MA, don’t be afraid to email me or Chris Murphy (Course Director).

Comments (7)

  1. Thanks Paddy,

    Great Post, its good to hear you and Lee’s opinion on the course. So much so that it made much easier for me put my name down for the course. Cheers :-)

  2. Paddy

    24 Feb

    Not a problem, glad to help Danny! Hope you enjoy it

  3. Chris

    24 Feb

    Thanks for that Paddy, is there many Zebras in Belgium?

  4. Paddy

    24 Feb

    @Chris – It’s coming down with them! You wouldn’t believe it, they’re everywhere :)

  5. Great piece of experiential writing. Congratulations on your new job Paddy.

  6. I dont usually comment, but after reading through so much info I had to say thanks


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