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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Undergraduate Course: Design in Action (DESI10064)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course outlines the shift in design to pursue more socially engaged forms of practice as a reaction to the criticisms of the social and ecological ethics of design's role in the making of commodities. It will also introduce some of the key design strategies employed in social design practice, which places an emphasis on more collaborative and inclusive ways of working. You will then have an opportunity to put this form of design practice into action, engaging in live projects (based in Edinburgh) employing the principles of participatory and co-design.
Course description Design in Action takes as its starting point the 'social' or 'ethical turn' in Design, which has seen a critique of Design's role in the making of commodities and its social and environmental impact, as well as a shift in focus to more socially and ethically engaged forms of practice. This can in part be set within the context of a resurgence of social and political activism in recent years and has also resulted in designers seeking to enact social transformation through their practices. As well as examining examples of socially engaged design, and its origins, the course will also study the shift to more collaborative and inclusive ways of working that have underpinned these social design practices. The course will introduce a range of design strategies that have arisen as a response to some of the key social issues facing contemporary society as well as focusing in particular on the principles of co-design / participatory design and community engagement. A key aspect of the course is the development of live design projects (based in Edinburgh) in which these methods and strategies can be put into practice.
Each year the project theme changes but might include sustainable development, design for disability, design for communities or design and education. Projects may also involve collaboration with external organisations such as charities, schools and community groups (but will be developed so as to be accessible to all students on the course).

Having been introduced to the themes of the course you will work in groups on the live projects employing and developing the methods outlined. You will be expected to demonstrate an ability to work independently in your groups and to develop and present your research findings and project proposals as part of the course assessment.

Throughout the course you will be encouraged to gain an understanding of the contexts in which socially engaged design is employed as well as the practices and principles of social design. This will be further developed through your application of appropriate design research methods and strategies in the live project.
The course is delivered through a mixture of lectures, discussions, workshops and fieldwork with external partners. Each week students will be required to undertake research activities and prepare work, as part of their directed learning hours, for presentation or discussion in seminar and in preparation for the final submission.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of key theories and issues in relation to the course theme and as they relate to the live project through a review of relevant scholarly literature.
  2. Employ appropriate social design research methods to investigate the course theme and live project in an informed and critically minded way.
  3. Evaluate how effective social design research methods are in generating an in-depth understanding of the social and cultural context of the live project and design proposals that arise out of it.
  4. Communicate your analysis in a professional, structured and coherent way for a specified audience.
Reading List
Ehn, P., Nilsson, E. M. and Topgaard, R. (2014) Making Futures: Marginal Notes on Innovation, Design, and Democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Fuad-Luke, A. (2009). Design activism: Beautiful strangeness for a sustainable world. London: Earthscan.
Manzini, E. and Coad, R. (2015) Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
McIntyre, A. (2008) Participatory action research. Los Angeles; London: SAGE.
Papanek, V. (1985) Designing for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. Thames & Hudson.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills To exercise autonomy and initiative in the development of projects;
To be able to employ appropriate research strategies to self initiated projects;
To be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues;
To be able to identify, define and analyse problems and identify or create processes to solve them;
To be able to flexibly transfer knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another;
To communicate ideas effectively and in ways that respond to specific briefs and audiences.
Course organiserMs Emma Gieben-Gamal
Tel: (0131 6)51 5721
Course secretaryMs Jane Thomson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5713
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