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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Postgraduate Course: Design and Material Culture (level 11) (DESI11089)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the design of everyday things and spaces, unpacking the ways in the designed environment can both reveal and construct powerful social and cultural meanings and practices. Drawing on thematic case studies that relate to sites such as the home the course introduces key concepts, theories and methods used in the study of design and material culture. The course will be of relevance to students working across a range of disciplines, including sociology, geography and anthropology but will be of particular importance to those studying design and visual culture.
Course description Our relationship with things is central to our lived experience: things both define us and shape our lives and likewise the things we make express our own beliefs about the world and have the potential to shape those of others.

This course explores the design of everyday things and spaces and is intended to equip you with an understanding of the ways in which objects and spaces are produced, used, consumed and mediated within social and cultural structures. This will be explored through a variety of thematic case studies based around sites such as the home and encompassing topics such as: gender and craft practice, class and concepts of taste, memory and home(land), and hygiene and architecture. The course focuses on methodological approaches that intersect material culture studies, design history and sociology as well as drawing on key theories and literature drawn from those disciplines which will enable you to apply relevant theoretical approaches to the study of everyday things and to develop a critical engagement with contemporary design practices.

Within this you will be encouraged to: analyse the ways in which objects are produced, used, consumed and mediated within social and cultural structures; reflect on how contemporary design practice might engage with the ideas and themes explored in the course; apply some of the methods of enquiry employed in the study of design and material culture to the study of a topic of your own choosing; and extend your research skills and translate your research findings into coherent written outputs.

The course is delivered through weekly lectures and seminars as well as some visits. You will be required to prepare work each week for presentation or discussion and in preparation for the final written submission.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Appropriate SCQF Level 10 Qualification or equivalent.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesAppropriate SCQF Level 10 Qualification or equivalent
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Select and develop an appropriate research topic that engages with at least one of the themes introduced in the course and identify potential research strategies including a review of relevant scholarly literature.
  2. Apply and employ rigorous research methods and scholarly sources to an in-depth investigation of a topic appropriate to the themes of the course.
  3. Analyse a topic appropriate to one of the themes of the course that demonstrates an applied knowledge and in-depth critical understanding of at least one of the key theories relating to the study of design and material culture.
  4. Communicate the written analysis in a synthesized, structured and coherent way, using images to illustrate and develop the argument to a professional standard.
Reading List
Appadurai, A. ed. (1986) The Social Life of Things. Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Cohen, D. (2006) Household Gods: The British and their Possessions. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press
Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Halton, E. (2003) Home interview questionnaire, with coding categories and definitions. In: Pearce, S. ed. Interpreting Objects and Collections. London: Routledge available online @
Crouch, C. and Pearce. J. (2012) Doing Research in Design. London: Berg
Dunne, A. & Raby, F. (2013) Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. Cambridge Mass.: The MIT Press
Miller, D. (2001) Home Possessions. Material Culture Behind Closer Doors. Oxford, Berg
Miller, D. (2008) The Comfort of Things. London: Routledge
Miller, D. (2011) Design Anthropology. New York: Springer
Turkle, S. ed. (2007) Evocative Things: Things We Think With. Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press
Woodward, I. (2007) Understanding Material Culture. London: Sage [electronic book available through the library catalogue)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills To exercise autonomy and initiative in the development of research projects.
To be able to be able to identify and apply processes and strategies for learning.
To be able to search for, evaluate and use information to develop knowledge and understanding.
To be intellectually curious and able to sustain intellectual interest.
To communicate ideas effectively and in ways that respond to specific briefs.
Keywordsdesign,theory,culture,identity,material culture,design history,gender
Course organiserMs Emma Gieben-Gamal
Tel: (0131 6)51 5721
Course secretaryMs Rachael Quirk
Tel: (0131 6)51 4309
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