CD7001 - Situating Practice

What will I learn on this module?

This module is designed to help you develop a critical understanding of communication design in the context of contemporary studio practice. You will learn how to situate your practice in current theoretical, critical and working practices of communication design and consider new direction for your practice. The module is exploratory. Emphasis, therefore, is placed on transforming your view of practice with knowledge and insights drawn from the acquisition of new critical/reflective skills, professional practices and methods of inquiry. It will help you position your approach to the subject relative to the current theoretical ideas and working practices of contemporary communication design practice.

The module consists of three strands which underpins the activities across your masters journey: Context, Methods and Practice. In the Methods strand, you will learn how design thinking and skills can be combined with traditional and emerging methods of inquiry to conduct design research, studies and experiments. By way of informing and advancing your professional practice or academic pursuits, here too, you will learn about some of the latest approaches and techniques that are forging new ground in communication design. In the Context strand, you will learn how to think critically about your chosen project by viewing it in the context of historical, contemporary and emerging issues and debates in the broad field of disciplines that constitute communication design. In the Practice strand, you will explore your practice through a series of design briefs located in real-world context and informed by research themes. You will learn to work productively with your tutors and peers, respond creatively to difficult challenges, and start defining an area of interest that will inform your self-initiated project.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a series of set briefs underpin by 3 curriculum strands.

This strand helps situate your practice in two ways: contextualising your practice through contemporary issues, and contextualising your practice in relation to other forms of design practices. You are given the opportunity to articulate, question and expand your current subject thinking. You will be exposed to a series of thought-provocative lectures and seminars that address advances in emerging communication design practices and at the same time touch on contentious issues and debates that raise important questions, some of which may act as frames-of-reference, exemplars or ‘springboards’ for any claims you may make about the originality, contribution or impact of your work. Examples of content could include: storytelling and narrative, brand strategy, design for change and design ethics. You will also be introduced to methods and approaches used in other areas of design such as co-design, participation methods, design fictions and critical design that overlaps and is complimentary to Communication Design practices.

There will be a series of lectures, seminars and workshops which will equip you to conduct design research through the use of interviews, observations and visual research. It will introduce different qualitative and quantitative research methods to help you develop an analytical framework for every stage of your design process: scoping, exploration, concept generation, evaluation and user testing.

You will learn how to respond in an agile and creative way to a number of set challenges, where emphasis will be placed on collaboration with peers, innovation (thinking ‘outside the box’), experimentation (trying things out) and resourcefulness (making use of what’s at hand). Learning will centre around development of a portfolio of creative work in response to project-specific briefs that will be supported by Component 1 and 2. You will use these briefs to support your exploration of contemporary themes relevant to communication design informed by cutting-edge research by staff. Briefs will explore how contemporary communication design practice can be used for self-expression, persuasion and speculation. Some examples of possible themes include heritage and place, ageing, social inequality or access to education. These themes will subsequently inform the identification of your subject focus for your self-directed final project. You will be working in a mixture of team and individual projects you embed an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to your practice.

You can expect to be taught through blended online and live lectures, workshops, individual tutorial, critique, and presentations designed to provide you with new skills required for advance practice.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The programme leader, the module tutors and your project advisor all play a role in guiding you throughout the programme.

You will be supported through online and live in-class support-sessions by tutors with relevant expertise in communication design or related subject and are either experienced practitioners, researchers or practitioner-researchers. Further academic support is provided via e-Learning tools, such as discussion groups, blogs and wikis. Additional contact with tutors may be available during office hours by arrangement.

Additional support is provided through the English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) module where English is not your first language.

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:

• LO1) Demonstrate a coherent and well-articulated approach to your own design process, show an understanding of where you are positioned as a design practitioner in the field of communication design.
• LO2) Select and draw on a range of design research methods and principles appropriate to subject specialism and advanced scholarship.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

• LO3) Demonstrate originality in the generation of ideas, concepts, design proposals and solutions for set briefs.
• LO4) Clearly communicate and present concepts, ideas or conclusions to specialist and non-specialist audiences using appropriate media.

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

• LO5) Provide appropriate and critical peer feedback and/or self-reflection in the pursuit of independent, co-operative or collaborative design practice.

How will I be assessed?

This module will be 100% summatively assessed at the end of the module through a single portfolio submission. Where possible, it will be digital submission through the Elearning Portal.

You are required to submit a range of outputs that will evidence your learning against the learning outcomes. These outputs may include:
1. A 1500 words critical reflection on what you have learnt from semester one and propose how this might inform your future situated practice.
2. An annotated portfolio and press kit of visual evidence documenting the process and outcomes of the practical briefs. Approximately 90 pages or equivalent subject to negotiation with the module tutor.

You will receive feedback in one to one and/or group sessions, and at interim and final presentations. Formative assessment will be provided through tutor guided independent learning or formal presentations. Summative assessment will be written, giving a marks breakdown of how the submission met the five individual learning outcomes.





Module abstract

This module is designed to help you develop a critical understanding of communication design in the context of contemporary studio practice. It enables you to situate your practice in current theoretical, critical and working practices of communication design and consider new direction for your future practice. It will introduce new theories, ideas and approaches to help you expand your practice in a meaningful, critical and socially relevant manner. You will apply your learning through a series of set briefs that will introduce you to different research themes such as health and well-being, new technologies and heritage and place. You will be supported by a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops, with an emphasis on peer and self-directed learning. The module will provide you with the foundation blocks to define your Final Major Project in the final semester.

Course info

Credits 60

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year Full Time

Department Northumbria School of Design

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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