DE5016 - Contemporary Design and Critical Issues

What will I learn on this module?

The module debates and reflects on key emerging trends and sector challenges situated within your design discipline, and functions as an important precursor to your final year study.

This explorative module builds on your insights from the first year and continues the discussion of design’s sociocultural impact on the world. In the first half of the module, your tutors will present for debate examples of advanced practice and research that will showcase these impacts. In the second half of the module, you will be introduced to a range of social science methods that are currently being used in human-centred design practices. This will help you to understand better the dynamics of human behaviour and how it may be applied in your future design practice. By the end of the module, you will have begun explorative research into a design problem, setting or theme of your own choosing that can be further developed during your final year modules.

How will I learn on this module?

Your tutor/s will curate a set of design research-informed online and live lectures that will be co-delivered by design researchers from across the School of Design. These will be complemented by seminars and workshops to foster discussion and debate around key contemporary critical issues and will provide a space to test and practice your growing toolkit of design research methods which may include Design Probes, User-Experience, Design Ethnology, Data Visualisation, Narrative and or Speculative Design methods.

As the module progresses, you will be asked to reflect and articulate your position in a professional or research context and explore
a design problem/setting that you imagine working within your final year. You will be supported in this work through seminar groups and workshops aimed at helping you ideate and guide you towards producing either a Research Report or an Essay/Article that could, for example, address either a design-led behavioural change/modification, a critical discussion on a topic that merits further debate, or a public engagement proposal relating to a design issue or topic of your choosing.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your tutor/s will give online and live design research-informed lectures and presentations and run seminar sessions and workshops to support your learning. As the module progresses you will be supported in undertaking explorative research into a personally relevant design setting through critiques by your tutors and peers. Formative feedback will take place throughout the module.

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:
Distinguish between a range of research methods and methodology to plan and investigate a chosen research topic.(KU01)

Independently source and engage with a broad range of research material, and demonstrate your ability to review, reflect on and evaluate the findings. (KU02)

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
Show a developed and enhanced skill/ability to analyse information and experiences, formulate independent judgements, and articulate reasoned arguments through reflection, review and evaluation of source materials. (IPSA01)

Write, visualise and professionally present a Research Report or complete a piece of Design Writing with a clear audience in mind. (IPSA02)

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

Possess the capacity to work independently; reflect on your own learning and development; and determine your own future learning needs. (PVA01)

How will I be assessed?

This module will be summatively assessed at the end of the module one of the below:

Essay/Article (2000-words): This is an opportunity to develop your writing practice in a longer form to establish your design problem/setting, this option has less emphasis on the interplay of text and media. (KU01) (KU02) (IPSA01) (IPSA02)

As an appendix the Essay/Article should include a 500-word personal reflection that outlines your learning journey and positionality as a designer. (PVA01)

Research Report: this report should evidence an equivalence in effort, time and the level of research and understating achieved.

You will produce a research report (also known as a research deck), that through the professional use of storytelling, image, moving image, audio and text establishes your design problem/setting.
(KU01) (KU02) (IPSA01) (IPSA02)

As an appendix the report will be complimented by a 500-word personal reflection that outlines your learning journey and positionality as a designer

Formative feedback will be given throughout the module culminating in a final portfolio submission. Formative feedback will be given verbally, whereas summative assessment will be written, giving a marks breakdown of how the submission met the five individual learning outcomes.





Module abstract

Unlike traditional theory-based modules that often expect students to evidence their understanding through academic writing primarily for an academic audience, this module encourages you to reflect, debate and communicate critical issues at play in professional practice and design research through a variety of media and writing styles.
The module will also expose you to emerging and new design-related research and advanced practice with a focus on social science and design methods - helping you to better understand and design alongside the dynamics of human behaviour in a contemporary context. This will help you situate yourself and your interests in advance of your final year.

Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years and 4 months

Location Various Locations

City Newcastle

Start January 2022

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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