Three Dimensional (3D) Design: Idea Material Object

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IMO graphic 1BA(hons) Three Dimensional Design [Idea Material Object], otherwise known as IMO, is an experimental design programme that seeks to explore ideas through objects, spaces and experiences.

Creativity comes in many different forms and is often separated into categories such as ‘art’, ‘design’, or ‘craft’. IMO looks at all of these areas [and many others] as sources of inspiration - intentionally interlinking and overlapping between them.

The course develops, and elaborates upon, each student’s personal map of overlaying fascinations. Over the three-year programme, students hone their design process and develop the skills to turn abstract ideas into physical outcomes.

IMO graphic 2IMO is a course for ambitious students who are driven to experiment, to question, to adventure, to blur, to break and to reinvent.

IMO focuses on developing each students own design methodology, resulting in a challenging and diverse collection of outputs.

Our graduates have produced a range of work from exhibition display to objects and furniture, events and performances to magical kinetic machines, some have even created their own experimental material processes. The course supports new ideas around possible outcomes of design thinking, supporting students with regular talks from visiting practitioners across many creative disciplines.

IMO Studio 1

Why study Three Dimensional (3D) Design: Idea Material Object?

The course develops each students personal design process with an emphasis on the act of making as a means to realise ideas.

Projects and outcomes cover a range of materials and scales – work may be built by hand in our workshops or digitally manufactured. Large scale physical structures and group projects are balanced with introductions to basic coding, electronics and ‘making’ in the virtual world. This range of experience and exposure allows students the opportunity to make an informed decision when specialising in the final year.


A strong professional grounding underpins the programme with live projects, internships and public exhibitions, taught by a team who are currently active and working in the creative industries.

Teaching on the IMO course is delivered by tutors who are specialists in their field, for example a project in exhibition design is taught by an experienced and ground breaking exhibition designer, whereas sessions in experimentation are taught by designers whose work reflects this.

Being taught by professionals is not only inspiring and valuable for gaining real world experience, but also begins to build your professional networks from a very early stage of your design career.

Every summer project is with a live client [last year we designed clothes rails for ASOS new head quarters], the second year includes a work experience component and final year students organise and build an independent exhibition. All of these activities add to your CV – our student’s leave with a list of exhibitions, professional skills and personal network that has helped many of them secure work in the creative industries upon graduation.

Students are guided to experiment and explore a wide range of materials, processes and techniques and make full use of our comprehensive range of workshops.

As part of the School of Art and Design, IMO students have access to all School workshops [see resources section for more details]. Projects in the first year inspire students to ‘break the rules’ and go wild in the workshops, familiarising themselves with as many techniques as possible and deciding where they would like to gain a deeper understanding. Students are encouraged to use their natural curiosity and define their own relationships with materials.

Course structure

IMO NewspaperYear 1 is a broad experimental year, you will be introduced to the schools workshops and encouraged to develop your making skills. We cover drawing techniques and model making, as well as an introduction to digital programmes such as Illustrator and Photoshop. During the first year you will also be introduced to design thinking, concept generation and how to translate your abstract thoughts into physical outputs.

Year 2 builds upon your making skills as you begin to focus more deeply on the areas that naturally appeal to your design approach. This year further defines your interests and identifies potential career paths while you gain an understanding of where you sit in this enormous world of creative industries. You will work with live clients and undertake a work experience relevant to your ambitions. The year ends with a personal project that prepares you for your final year.

2nd Year Live Project

Conversation PlaygroundYear 3 is focused on your professional future. You will learn to write project briefs that allow you to explore ideas in a way that strengthens your own interests. The year develops your professional profile through an external exhibition, preparing you for the degree show and graduation. You will have portfolio sessions as well as talks about life after University; covering subjects such as how to write press releases, approach companies, present concepts and research opportunities that fit your particular design approach.

Bittersweet SoundsJoe Bradford

Course assessment

The module assessments demonstrate how well students have performed in tackling the intended learning outcomes, and is measured against grade criteria.

Throughout the module students will receive formative feedback through individual and/or group tutorials, peer seminar sessions and group critiques.  In many cases this feedback is received both verbally and in a written format.

Students are informed about the ways that marks/grades and feedback are provided by the marking tutor(s), and they receive written feedback on learning achievements against the assessment criteria for a module assignment.

The feedback aims to enable students to see how to improve or develop particular aspects of their work, and students receive the summative feedback along with the marks within three weeks of the completed module submission date.

Facilities to learn, play and explore.


At the core of IMO studio practice is making. All students are encouraged to use the full range of workshops and develop their own relationship with the processes and techniques they discover. Experimentation and exploration are key tools in the development of original work and this approach is celebrated on the course.

The course will take you on a journey where the goal is to develop your own individual area of practice – you may ultimately choose to focus on a specific material, explore processes or you may continue with a variety of approaches combining multiple materials and techniques. The focus throughout your journey will be to evolve existing processes and develop an original and personal approach that will cement your direction as an independent thinker in design.

Outcomes will encompass one-off craft artefacts and bespoke solutions through to batch produced objects, across areas such as lighting, tableware, furniture and product; domestic and commercial, interior and exterior. The approach of the course is broad and takes into account the innumerable professional outputs where creative thinking will give you a competitive edge in today’s market.

Teaching methods


Sion Hill Campus

Sion Hill campus is the main base for Bath School of Art and Design. There are extensive facilities on site including studios, workshops, café, library and a campus shop which stocks a range of studio materials.

IMO shares the school with other art and design courses including textiles, photography, sculpture and graphics. There are regular exhibitions in the gallery space where students can meet and share ideas.

Collaboration across the courses is strongly encouraged, along with sharing of skills, workshops and ideas. There are many competitions and other chances to work with students on other courses which are posted on the School of Art and Design website.

We are only an hour and half by train from the galleries and design events of London, and just 15 minutes by train from the vibrant city of Bristol, famed for its graffiti and music scene.

Studio space

Each student is assigned a dedicated desk in the studio. Your studio space will become ‘your world’. In our experience no two desks are ever the same and this creates a dynamic and exciting studio environment.

The shelves and walls become full of the things that catch your eyes alongside the results of your experiments and creations. We believe strongly in the value of the dedicated space for collecting fuel for your ideas, inspiration to draw on as your projects progress.

You are encouraged to work from the studios, dipping into the workshops and other facilities as necessary. The studios stay open until 10pm during the Spring and Summer term, and are heavily used. This creates an atmosphere that is perfect for long lasting friendship, exchanges of ideas, free debate and collaboration.

Students are grouped together in their first year and move on to be mixed in years 2 and 3 as these larger studios are home to combined year groups.

Studio Space


Students on IMO are free to choose the most appropriate material to execute their ideas, they have full access to the range if School workshops. There are numerous workshop facilities, supported by experienced technical staff, including [but not limited to]:

Plastics workshop

  • Wood
  • Ceramics (hand build, throwing and slip cast)
  • Glaze Lab
  • Metal
  • Plastics
  • Textiles
  • Screen Printing
  • Sion Hill Forge
  • Paint and Pigment
  • Casting (resins, plasters etc)
  • Heat press
  • Sand Blasting
  • Dye lab


In addition to our materials workshops, you will also have access to comprehensive digital workshops and facilities.

You will be given short courses to familiarise your self with the necessary programmes and encouraged to experiment between the physical and digital practices. We are constantly adding to our digital technology, current facilities include:

Digi make

  • Digital Suites for Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Suite for Rhino and rendering
  • Laser cutting (plastics, paper, wood)
  • CNC routing
  • 3D printing (Zcorp)
  • 3D Engraver / Miller
  • Vinyl plotter cutter
  • Ceramic transfer printer
  • ZSK embroidery machine
  • Makerbot
  • Arduino


We encourage students to build and maintain a professional profile from the outset of the course. In the first year, each student builds a blog and uses it as an online tool to record research, share practise and create a digital sketchbook.

These blogs are invaluable when seeking work as it effortlessly gives potential clients and employers an insight into your personal work methodology.

To this end we support high quality visuals and film, in order to communicate the thinking behind your projects.

Study space

Your resources include:

  • Photographic studio
  • Equipment store (photographic and AV)
  • Wet Darkroom
  • Digital Photography Print Suite
  • Green Screen Suite
  • Sound recording studios
  • Drawing sessions
  • Portfolio Drop-in Surgeries


Understanding the contemporary design ‘landscape’ is vital to producing relevant, ground-breaking work.

Time spent in the workshops addresses HOW to produce work, but in order to have a secure creative future, it is important to understand the WHY and WHAT of your work.

This grounding allows our students to confidently speak about their work, and have as strong understanding of what else currently exists.

We encourage research into as many different areas that may be relevant to the students from fractal theory to food science, from the history of tools to the social impact of mining.

In order to create meaningful, critical and original work, it is important to understand what has gone before - the ‘cause and effect’ of cultural climate on the visual world.

Our well stocked art and design library, links with other Universities, film club and design contexts lecture programme alongside subscriptions to online resources such as the Future Laboratory, creates culturally aware students with a strong theoretical back ground.

Application method

Thinking about IMO?

IMO interest

We look for motivated students who want to draw on their current interests and pursue a creative career. At this stage, you do not need to know exactly what you would like to do or how you fit into the ever-changing world of design; the 3 year programme is designed to find those answers.

As well as looking at your current work, we will be interested in your future ambitions, what you are currently fascinated by and what you do in your spare time to feed your fascinations.

Blogs such as Dezeen and Designboom are good places to look for experimental and emerging design – use them as starting points to explore contemporary areas of interest that you can bring to the conversation at interview.

Although many students are aged 19-24 and come from a foundation programme, we value the life experience and diversity of applicants from other age groups and backgrounds.

If you are driven to learn, fascinated by the visual and material world, keen to work hard and be challenged, then we welcome your application. 

Academic years start in Autumn each year and application enquiries and further information below.

Open Days

Come along to one of our Sion Hill Open Days, you will have a chance to speak to the staff and students as well as see the workshops and studios. Visit our Open Days webpage for upcoming dates and to book your place. 

How to apply

International students should visit our international pages for more information about our entry requirements, fees and scholarships, and student support.

Course enquiries

For further information please contact Course Leader Shai Akram on

Typical offer range for UK / EU applicants

We recommend that applicants undertake a pre-degree foundation diploma in Art and Design.  However if applying with A-Levels only, a total of 260 points (with a grade B in an Art and Design related subject) is expected, supported by a high quality portfolio. Applicants applying with a BTEC Extended Diploma are expected to achieve an overall Merit grade (Merit, Merit, Merit).

For all applicants an offer of a place will be made following a successful portfolio review and interview.

Career opportunities

We expect our graduates to shape their individual career paths as they enter the ever changing future of interdisciplinary design, with some graduates becoming designer-makers, artists, in-house designers, gallery owners, curators, entrepreneurs, critics and equipped to create new and as yet undefined possibilities. We have strong contacts with both the Crafts Council, Design Council and design professionals working in fields as broad as food design, art direction, product development and small batch production.

As well as continuing to exhibit work throughout their studies, our students have also been very successful at the graduate design show, New Designers.

Staff/students/alumni exhibit at contemporary galleries such as The Aram Gallery for Emerging and Experimental Design, alongside having a presence at the best international design and craft shows including 100% Design, Origin, Tent, Dutch Design Week. 

What students say...

Student Quotes:

“I have really been encouraged to discover my own style and develop my presence in the design world. With its great facilities and tuition this course is perfect for a self motivated creative student who enjoys studio work.”
 “I've really enjoyed getting to know new materials and processes, as well as being astonished by the amount of amazing developments going on within industries. The course has really made me feel a part of this exciting, ever changing world of art and design.”
 "For me the best thing about the course is its multidisciplinary nature. There are few limits to medium, scale and purpose of your work, which makes it possible to realise really ambitious projects".

All Over The Shop

All Over The Shop is a collection of creative responses to the traditional hardware store. The exhibition form parts of a 3rd year "Professional Context" module. The project gave students professional experience of all aspects of running an independent exhibition, they covered everything from visitor experience, sponsorship, and press to building a website, planning the opening night and working as a team. Find out more

Some words from IMO3...

"To us the Hardware store is an Aladdin’s cave of curious products, densely displayed with the brash and beautiful side by side. It is a place that inspires our hands-on, DIY mentality. We selected three items each to work from which informed our experiments, mistakes, speculations and prototypes. Together our work forms a collection of new tools, materials and objects."

"Our exhibition brings all of our work together in a new context by celebrating collaborative collections which display harmonious visual connections, and showcases our passion for making." 

Alphabet by Emily Cropton

A personal narrative based on the framework of the alphabet. I was interested in making something that could only be my own; something that is evocative of me. Deciding to feature all the things I wouldn’t want to live without, rather than the things I couldn’t live without, made sense as it would provide me with a alphabet that was the opposite of generic. Through the work it becomes apparent to the viewer that many of the letters have an experiential or sensory quality and sometimes I have had to try to capture moments that cannot be seen.

This work formed part of a group show with Studio IMO in November 2011. For the exhibition I wanted the experience of watching the film to be a very personal one, in a space where there is room for contemplation and speculation.