DE4016 - Design Culture

What will I learn on this module?

Design Cultures provides the tools to help you situate your studio practice in its social, cultural and economic context. It will develop your knowledge of design history in order to expand your visual vocabulary and help you understand how design developed into the global phenomenon it is today. The lecture programme will examine the history of design through a chronological survey of key styles and movements from c.1800 to the present. This will include subjects such as the Arts and Crafts movement, art deco, Egyptomania, modernism, Scandinavian design and postmodernism. Crucially, the module will also encourage you to reflect on the wider social, cultural and economic significance of design. Underpinning the historical survey, sessions will examine critical issues in contemporary life such as consumerism, globalisation, sustainability and gender relations. What, for example, do historical figures such as William Morris contribute to debates about designers’ social and environmental responsibilities in the 21st century? Additionally, the module will help you develop your skills in research, visual and textual analysis, critical thinking, and written and verbal communication, all of which are crucial for academic and professional success.

How will I learn on this module?

The module is taught through illustrated lectures, seminars, workshops and fieldtrips. Your participation in all aspects of the module is expected 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. Interactive workshops will help you to develop study skills relevant to design practice, including research, visual analysis, presentation and teamwork. Study skills seminars will help you develop your skills in academic research and writing, critical thinking and textual analysis.
In addition to learning during contact hours with module tutors, students will be expected to undertake both directed and independent learning. Directed learning generally will take the form of preparation for seminars (including reading), either individually or in small groups. The preparatory work you will do for the seminars will help you to complete your assignments successfully. Independent learning will take the form of further reading and investigation of sources and the consolidation of lecture and seminar materials. You will be supported in the skills of academic essay writing through 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, group and individual tutorials, and use of the eLearning Portal (Blackboard). Seminars and tutorials will give you the opportunity to discuss the 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 the preparation of your assignments. Study skills sessions will ensure good practice for everyone following the module. Formative feedback will be ongoing within group learning sessions. Written feedback will be provided after you have submitted your assignments.

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:
• Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of historical and contemporary design issues and contexts through enquiry and presentation.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• Source, review and discuss design related issues or topics in a scholarly manner as evidenced through the presentation of critical argument.

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

• Show a fundamental awareness of global, cultural and ethical issues and responsible design practice through design context studies.

How will I be assessed?

Semester One

Design case study (50%)

For this assignment you will produce a 1,000-word essay that analyses one of the design examples examined in Semester 1. This assignment encourages you to think critically about design in a historical context and to develop your skills in research, visual analysis and academic writing.

Semester Two
1000-word Essay (50%)

For this assignment you will produce 1,000-word essay that answers one of the set questions relating to the main themes of the module. assignment enables you to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and your acquisition of key skills.
Before submitting your essays for summative assessment, you have the opportunity to submit drafts to Turnitin and make any revisions necessary to ensure that all source material has been referenced correctly.





Module abstract

Few forms of creative, intellectual and commercial activity reach into so many areas of public and private life as design. This module introduces students to the broad field of design culture. Exploring the history and theory of design, we will consider how design disciplines act and interact in the world and how design is shaped by the cultural contexts in which it is produced and consumed. The taught sessions will examine the history of design through a chronological survey of key styles, movements and practitioners from c.1800 to the present. We will consider the underlying social and cultural factors that have shaped the history of design, alongside critical issues in contemporary design such as consumerism, globalisation, transculturation and post-colonialism. By familiarising yourself with these issues, you will develop your skills in critical thinking and the cultural and ethical awareness needed for a successful career in design. Through lectures, seminars, workshops and fieldtrips you will develop study skills vital for academic success and for your future career as design professionals. You will develop your ability to conduct and apply detailed analytical research and visual analysis to design practice and the confidence to articulate your viewpoints clearly in speech and writing.

Course info

UCAS Code W265

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Northumbria School of Design

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

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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