CD7002 - Challenging Boundaries

What will I learn on this module?

This module gives you the opportunity to continue your development and advancement of your practice through a combination of collaborative and self-directed briefs. You will learn how to challenge existing practices and explores ways to push the boundaries of the discipline.

The module is underpinned by the same three strands of Context, Methods and Practice which is a continuation from Semester 1. Each strand builds on the topics introduced in Semester 1 with an emphasis on enabling you to challenge your chosen subject area by exploring innovative, critical and ethical responses. You will learn how to build and evidence a critical understanding of your chosen subject area through advanced research design. You will learn how to use this critical understanding to explore and defend conceptual, innovative and ethical responses to your identified topic of inquiry. And you will learn how to use this deepen understanding to develop more advanced professional practices and expand your work into new areas such as design strategy, product innovation and new technologies.

You will work on 3 set briefs. The first two will be collaborative briefs involving external partners to provide you with opportunities to pursue more in-depth design projects related to particular human needs and contexts. You will work in teams and support each other in your learning. For the final brief you will define and develop your Final Major Project proposal, informed by the writing of a literature review on your chosen subject. Your proposal should be informed and inspired by your critical reflection presented at the end of Semester 1 and your more learning from the first two ‘challenge’ briefs in this module.

How will I learn on this module?

This module will support the research and development of your chosen area of enquiry through 3 parallel stands that builds on what you have learnt in Semester 1.

This component continues to support the development of your critical and cultural context. Following a similar format to Semester 1, you will be exposed to a series of thought-provocative lectures and seminars that address advances in emerging communication design practices. Examples of content may include: sustainability, artificial intelligence, user-experience design and service design.

You will be introduced to a series of relevant and current research topics in Communication Design through a series of lectures and seminars. You will be asked to expand on and build on your chosen subject focus through a critical contextual review of literature. This strand enables you to develop critical ways and processes of thinking by encouraging you to employ appropriate inquiry methods to collect, analyse and synthesise data in order to generate new understanding. We will support your development in workshops on how to search, analyse and synthesis information to help you derive insights from primary data.

You will continue to expand and advance your practice by undertaking a number of collaborative, live or competition briefs, allowing you to creatively engage with issues relating to the designer’s widening role in society, culture and technology. Importantly, on these projects your work as a designer will not end with a proposed solutions but will take a step further to include their evaluation.

In parallel, you will continue developing and refining your personal project proposal supported by peer group seminars and one-to-one tutorials with tutors. Your self-initiated project must be framed in a specific context through a research question, supported by advanced research and demonstrates an explicit engagement with the community that it is aimed at. You will be working on exploring, expanding and defining your issue-based project brief, and developing a project to prototype stage as proof of concept.

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 online 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) Identify and pursue a personal design research interest, express it in various forms and communicate it to others.
• LO2) Contextualise a chosen topic of enquiry by undertaking an in-depth, wide-ranging and relevant literature review.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• LO3) Analyse and evaluate design concepts or solutions using contemporary design research methods.
• LO4) Create original or well-conceived ideas, concepts, design proposals in response to set problems or issues
• LO5) Demonstrate new or enhanced design skills when realising innovative design propositions.
• LO6) Demonstrate both independent and collaborative working practices required for personal and professional development through planning, communication, negotiation and project management skills.

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

• LO7) Synthesise the learning gained from collaboration through a high level of critical self-reflection that contributes to personal and professional development.
• LO8) Communicate an awareness, understanding and engagement with ethical, responsible and social design issues.

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-word literature review of your chosen subject area.
2. A Final Major Project proposal plan and presentation.
3. Research Ethics submission and approval
4. An annotated portfolio and press kit of visual evidence documenting the process and outcomes of the practical briefs. Approximately 60 pages or equivalent subject to negotiation with the module tutor.
5. A 1500 words critical evaluation of portfolio and reflection on learning.

You will receive feedback in one to one and/or group tutorial sessions, and at interim and final presentations. Formative assessment will be provided through tutorials 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 gives you the opportunity to continue your development and advancement of your practice through a combination of live collaborative briefs and a personal self-initiated brief. You are expected to challenge existing practices and the ‘status quo’ and develop a unique approach to your chosen subject area. The team-based collaborative briefs will develop key competencies such as collaboration, communication and the core critical skills that are fundamental and increasingly sought after within the creative marketplace. Building on your work in Semester 1, you will explore and develop challenging responses to your identified subject of study that demonstrates a critical but creative response to your specified area of inquiry You will research your chosen area of study, resulting in a Contextual Review and a Final Major Project proposal at the end of Semester 2.

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 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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