DE5007 - Contemporary Design Contexts

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What will I learn on this module?

This module introduces you to the culture of design, examining historical contexts and theory of design in order to better understand current design practice and situate your own activity. You will explore how design is shaped by the cultural contexts within which it is produced and consumed. The lecture programme is organised in to four distinct blocks that examine the dynamic relationship between design production and consumption.

This module examines historical and contemporary influences on design within a global context. You will explore the history of design through a chronological survey of key styles, movements and practitioners. We will also address the underlying historical and cultural factors that shape design history. Lessons will examine themes such as Modernism, Art Deco, Streamlining and Postmodernism. The module will develop your knowledge of design history, expanding your visual vocabulary as a designer and enabling you to take inspiration from the design of the past. We will also consider the wider social and cultural significance of design practice, reflecting on issues such as the meanings of design, the role of the designer and the position of design within society. Through lecturers, seminars and workshops, you will develop study skills vital for academic success and for your future career as design professionals.

You will also be introduced to the considerations designers must make in relation to human factors/ergonomics, with particular focus on how we experience physical products, digital interfaces and services. You will also be encouraged to consider usability more generally within each of these focuses.

You will also produce a Contextual assignment for each main area of practice (product, service and/or interaction) – related to your design practice projects and supported by a series of lectures and seminars that will further develop your understanding and appreciation of the context of design practice. This will comprise of three separate pieces of work.

How will I learn on this module?

The module is taught through illustrated weekly lectures supported by seminars. Your participation in seminars is strongly encouraged and will help you to develop and communicate your ideas. Each session will involve presentations by the tutor to establish key terms of reference, followed by group discussion of the issues raised. Directed learning and reading will encourage independent research, visual analysis of design objects and critical reflection on design theory and practice. You will be supported in the skills of academic essay writing though the use of formative and summative learning and through the use of Turnitin.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Support will include feedback from tutors and peers during participatory lectures, seminars and studios. Supporting materials will be provided through the eLearning portal, including electronic reading lists – pointing you towards relevant literature in Northumbria University’s library.
Academic support will be provided through seminars, individual tutorials and use of the eLearning Portal. Seminars and tutorials will give you the opportunity to identify and discuss assessment criteria, both at the planning stage and as you engage with tasks. Tutorials will offer you support with any specific issues or concerns. Sample student work will be provided via the eLearning Portal to guide you in your preparation. Study skills sessions will ensure good practice for everyone following the module. Formative feedback will be ongoing in group learning sessions. Written feedback will be provided within 20 working days of assignment submission.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

MK5.1 – Source, review and critically discuss industrial design related historical, cultural and contemporary issues in a scholarly manner as evidenced through your ability to present a critical argument. (PK5.1)

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

MI5.3 – Demonstrate your understanding of the social, technical, cultural and economic context of contemporary design practice. (PI5.3)

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

MP5.1 - Demonstrate your ability to take greater responsibility for your own learning, evidencing a decreasing reliance on supervision to achieve outcomes, evaluate your own progress, exercise an improving level of reflection and analysis in respect of your own work. (PP5.1)

How will I be assessed?

Formative Assessment

Development of critical piece will be supported by seminar sessions to provide structured feedback.

Contextual assignments – Lecture and seminar series will support production of the assignments.

Formative feedback will be provided during participatory lectures where you will have the opportunity to discuss your ideas.

Summative Assessment

The assessment is based on a series of set assignments that test your ability to reflect on and critique the work of others in the construction and communication of your own viewpoint.

Critical Piece (Mixed format written/visual) – 50%

Contextual Assignment x 3, related to different areas of design practice – 50%


Level 4 Modules


DE5006 – Industrial Design Practice

Module abstract

You will develop your awareness of contemporary issues relating to design practice and theory, through a series of lectures and supporting seminars. The topics covered will include areas of design culture, social issues, technology, commercial design practice and realising design outputs (e.g. manufacturing and/or rolling out a service). You will produce and present a critical argument based upon a topic of your choosing,

You will also produce a Contextual assignment for each main area of practice (product, service and/or interaction) – related to your design practice projects and supported by a series of lectures and seminars that will further develop your understanding and appreciation of the context of design practice. This will comprise of three separate pieces of work.

Course info

UCAS Code W240

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Northumbria School of Design

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020

Fee Information

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