DE5007 - Contemporary Design Contexts

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.

The historical and critical studies component of this module aims to develop your understanding of social, cultural and economic issues in contemporary design. Building upon your study of design history at Level 4, you will explore critical debates around design practice within a broader theoretical framework. The lecture programme will examine the dynamic relationship between design production and consumption, asking how design informs social structures, cultural values and identities. Utilising a range of analytical perspectives, including Marxism, feminism and semiotics, you will develop your skills in critical thinking, as well as the cultural and ethical awareness vital for a successful career in design.

You will also be introduced to contemporary issues relating to design practice through a series of lectures, seminars and workshops. The topics covered will include areas of design culture, social issues and trends, technology, commercial design practice and realising design outputs. These topics will help you to consider the wider social and cultural implications of design practice and how the discipline might evolve in the future.

How will I learn on this module?

The module will be delivered through the School of Design’s extended studio approach (X-Studio) that embraces our physical studios as well as our virtual spaces to create a flexible and rich environment that is responsive to our learners’ needs.

The module is taught through a mixture of: illustrated weekly lectures; seminars; tutorials; and creative individual or group tasks. Your participation in all aspects of the module 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 individual or group tasks to interrogate the material presented. Directed learning and reading will encourage independent research, visual analysis of design objects and critical reflection on design theory and practice.

You will demonstrate your learning on each aspect of this module through a set of assignments, showcasing your informed opinions on contemporary design 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?

Academic support will be provided through lectures, seminars, individual tutorials and use of the eLearning Portal. Seminars and tutorials via the Blackboard Journal will give you the opportunity to identify and discuss assessment criteria, both at the planning stage and as you engage with tasks alongside 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:

MK5.3 – Demonstrate an awareness of the issues and debates that relate to industrial design in the context of historical, social, economic, environmental, technological and political change.

MK5.4 – Understand the methods and practices that support an evidence-based argument.

Intellectual / Professional Skills & Abilities:

MI5.3 – Produce arguments using evidence developed through literature and contextual reviews.

MI5.4 - Develop insights and communicate them effectively to support a critical discussion about industrial design’s relationship with and to a historical and/or contemporary issue.

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

MP5.2 - Manage your own learning independently conducting a critical inquiry into a design issues topic.

MP5.3 – Position you own thinking about design practice in the context of an unfolding and ongoing design issues debate.

How will I be assessed?

Formative Assessment:
Lecture and seminar series will support production of the assignments.

Development of each assignment will be supported by seminar sessions and/or tutorials to provide structured feedback.

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.

For Historical and Critical Design Studies you will be asked to write an illustrated essay. This will contribute 50% to the overall module grade. The essay will be of 1500 words maximum.

For Contemporary Issues on Design, you will be asked to create an illustrated critique of an aspect of modern design practice. This will contribute 50% to the overall module grade. The critique will be of 1500 words maximum.


Level 4 Modules


DE5006 – Industrial Design Practice

Module abstract

Through this module you will develop your awareness of the culture of industrial design practice and theory by exploring both Historical and Critical Design Studies and Contemporary Issues on Design.

Employing Northumbria’s Extended Studio approach, you will learn through a combination of online lectures and face-to-face seminars, and by engaging in independent enquiry into areas of interest to you. The module will cover a range of topics that will help you to consider the many facets of historical and contemporary design, and how these developments influence current and future design practice. It will open your eyes to the myriad of ways in which you can apply design and help you to consider your future career trajectory.

The module takes advantage of the latest research in historical and contemporary design contexts and employs this knowledge in ways that brings it to life, so that you can understand its importance to your development as budding design professionals.

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

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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