DE6014 - Critical and Contextual Design Report

What will I learn on this module?

The Critical and Contextual Design Report is the means by which you will articulate a critical, informed position in relation to theoretical and contextual issues surrounding your Final Major Project.

You will develop, in consultation with your tutors, a Report Proposal submitted in level 5 and create a precise title/question to work on during Semester 1 of your final year. The topic of your work will be related to the design direction for your Final Major Project. It should address theories and trends that provide a contextual understanding to help shape, and give intellectual depth, to your design practice.

In producing the report, you can demonstrate your skills in researching and organising material and then communicating a critically and cogently argued response to the reader. You will learn to research with integrity and in line with the ethical expectations of the Department and University. You will discuss your work with, and be guided by, a tutor but the work will be yours alone.

You can elect to submit the Report as one of either;

- A 5,000 word extended essay with supporting images/illustrations as required;
- An illustrated report (5000 Words) produced using a range of media – video, images, graphics and text.

The report is both an opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge of a particular subject in which you are interested, but also evidences that you are able to work independently, think analytically and present a well-researched argument; skills and abilities which potential employers may seek and which will benefit you in your professional life.

How will I learn on this module?

Through lectures, 1:1 tutorials offering you critical, advice and guidance but primarily your own independent study you will learn to identify and develop through research a topic relating to the academic concerns of design in context. (QAA (2008), Subject benchmark statement for Art and Design, Paragraph 3.5). Tutorials and lectures may take place on campus of via online platforms.

You are encouraged and guided:
1. to use an appropriate methodology to interpret, analyse and elucidate information gathered through research;
2. to select and organise appropriate material, ideas, analysis and interpretations into a coherent piece of work with a set of research conclusions and/or design recommendations;
3. to work in an ethical way and with integrity;
4. to demonstrate your ability for personal critical reflection, understanding and engagement with design in context; and
5. to communicate a cogent and engaging narrative;

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Semester 1 commences with preparatory lectures to equip you to confidently and independently undertake your design project research. These will cover topics such as:

• Developing a research question related to your theme for Final Major Project
• Research methods in design and, more generally, visual and material culture
• Research methodology
• Using primary and secondary material and the ethical implications associated with the different sources
• Structure, Format and Referencing
• Planning and time management

Following this generic guidance, you will proceed with individual learning with focused and specialised guidance through a series of tutorials with your appointed tutor. The detail of the syllabus and research methodology will be negotiated between student and their tutor bearing in mind the aims, indented outcomes and timescale of the module. Tutorials and lectures may take place on campus or via online platforms.

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:

MK6.6 - Develop a knowledge base and establish an informed position about theoretical and contextual issues relating to and informing your Final Major Project.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

MI6.7 - Evidence an assured approach to written project work through use of appropriate structure, style and content in a written assignment.

MI6.8 - Identify, review and critically discuss industrial design related topics in a scholarly manner.

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

MP6.7 - Show understanding and awareness of professional and responsible design contexts and be able to articulate your opinions in the context of your own practice.

MP6.8 – Take ownership and responsibility for your own learning, showing initiative and managing an independent critical investigation.

How will I be assessed?

A Critical or Contextual Report that reports on research into an appropriate subject related to historical or contemporary design practice, or visual or material culture more broadly, and that links to your chosen area for your Final Major Project.

You should complete this assessment by submitting one of either;
- A 5000 word extended essay with supporting images/illustrations as required
- An illustrated report which uses a range of media (including images, video, graphics and text) comprising upto 5000 words

Written feedback on your summative assessment will be provided within the time specified by the university


Level 5 Modules



Module abstract

The Critical and Contextual Design Report is the culmination of your development as an independent critical thinker. The module allows you to critically explore a theme related to your chosen direction for your Final Major Project. You will undertake the report alongside your design practice in Final Major Project Part 1 (DE6012) and it will provide a theoretical backdrop to support and inform your final year design work.

The Report will address a topic linked to your chosen theme for your Final Major Project. The process of topic selection starts in level 5 and draws upon the critical and historical studies you have undertaken throughout your studies. The Report will provide intellectual depth and rigour to your associated design work. It will demonstrate your ability to critically interrogate the complex contextual issues surrounding your project direction. You will articulate a reasoned position in relation to the social, economic, environmental, aesthetic and ethical dimensions to your design 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 2023

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.


Current, Relevant and Inspiring

We continuously review and improve course content in consultation with our students and employers. To make sure we can inform you of any changes to your course register for updates on the course page.

Your Learning Experience

Find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy