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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Postgraduate Course: dLab(3): Design for Environmental Change (DESI11107)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis is a course about how to understand and respond to environmental change, as well as how to forge more environmentally friendly futures through design. It is a course that pivots on and encourages attention to methods (i.e. it is methodological) as well as to the aesthetic and political. Structured in such a way that it blends theory and practice, this DesignLab (dLab) also draws together insights from Design with those from across the Environmental Arts and Humanities. Acknowledging both the immense accumulative impact humans have on the planet and our entanglement within it and its systems, dLab(3) interrogates some of the complex challenges we face as co-inhabitants of this very same, shared planet. Interrogation is by way of a variety of research strategies and design-led interventions, leading to propositions and prototyping of alternative futures. These are futures that aim to facilitate new materialisms, new behaviours and new systems which are ecologically-sound, socio-environmentally just, and might enable people in their locales to have global impact in shifting attitudes and approaches to contemporary life on our planet.
Course description As we acknowledge that we are now living within the Anthropocene, an era defined by humanity's capability to shape the planet we live on, people around the world are increasingly aware of a need to change their ways of life. We are asking how we can better care for the one planet we've got? Some have been asking and presenting answers to this question for a long time, and are sharing their ways once again, others are newer to the debate, if still valued voices. Many, however, and certainly those of us living in Western and neoliberal capitalist societies, are tied-up in precisely those complex cycles of production and consumption that put significant strain on the planet and thus necessitate considerable change. Methods and approaches for developing alternative resources, different ways of making and changed supply chains and systems of exchange are arguably needed. More circular economies, healthier ways of consuming, and considerable changes in attitudes about our relationship with, and responsibility to, other living things and our planet are urgently required.

dLab(3): Design for Environmental Change, begins by challenging anthropocentric approaches to the environment, considering human behaviour as it relates to environmental care and/or destruction, and by examining existing ecological designs. It moves, through thinking about systems, time and scale to interventions and design in action. We'll ask in what ways the low-environmental-impact approaches of ecological designs for living can be made more common, leading to alternative behaviours and to the enrichment of our planetary ecosystem, ensuring a high quality of life for future generations to come.

In dLab(3), we place equal emphasis on critical thinking and critical making. We encourage the growth of an ecological (design) consciousness and place the examination of both the idea of environmental relations and the environmental impact of (material) cultures at the heart of understanding the relationship between people, design and the planet. Thus, the course offers opportunity for critical as well as constructive design practices, for the interrogating of readings as well as of physical materials, and for visualisation and other communication strategies communicating the philosophical to the practical. It does so by considering other-than-human perspectives on life on this planet (such as those of animals and plants) and careful, often collaborative, thinking about what designerly action to take in a world increasingly coming to see change as synonymous with climate change and other environmental losses and destructions.

Coursework on this course teaches design-centred practices for working-through environmental issues in a contextually informed and aesthetically aware way. Students will learn multiple ways of researching, many of which are experiential. They will be supported to analyse the circumstances, histories and perceived natures of things, to synthesize their thoughts and findings in a critical, designerly and/or artistic way, and evaluate, with others, successful pathways leading to preferential change. Communication, representation and reflection are key components of design practice we foster throughout coursework over the semester.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs The nature of studio courses is such that there is reasonable expectation of materials being consumed and deployed in the development of prototypes, models, and visualisations (including printing). For this course, a reasonable expectation is that students may spend an average of £50, but these costs fluctuate significantly depending upon individual projects and student choices of materials involved with project execution.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  24
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 33, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 163 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) This course has 2 components of assessment.

Component 1: Illustrated Creative Essay (40%) is a textual submission with integrated visuals (2000 words), communicating the examination and creative synthesis of findings on the relevant theme of inquiry that is casting light on the nexus of design-environment-society. To be submitted mid-course (at a point within weeks 5-7).
In marking, there is to be equal weighting across all the Learning Outcomes.

Component 2: Portfolio (60%) is a series of visualisations, prototypes, models, or other related work which concretises the student's proposition for change through design and evidences its development. The portfolio should also include a written text (2000 words) contextualising the wider work and supporting the students' evaluation of and reflection upon their intended design-led change. To be submitted at the end of the course (at a point within week 11 and the subsequent two weeks).
In marking, there is to be equal weighting across all the Learning Outcomes.

Feedback Formative Feedback
Ahead of the submission of both Summative components, a formative feedback event is held. This may take the form of each student/group of students delivering a visual presentation to their fellow students and teaching/research staff, summarising their work to date. Verbal formative feedback from staff at this stage, regarding project scope, direction and future engagement, leads to a deeper understanding of the requirements of assessment.
Further formative feedback is regularly provided through the course. This takes a variety of forms, including verbally through group and individual meetings where work and ideas are discussed with both peers and tutor.

Summative Feedback
In response to their Summative Assessments, and as per University regulations, students will be given thorough written feedback, via LEARN, as well as their grade. This is communicated to students as per University regulations.

No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an ability to examine and research complex environmental design issues in a design-driven manner, showing an awareness of the importance of environmental relations and systems.
  2. Synthesise and consolidate designs as they move towards action via iteration, by applying relevant critical and practical skills, and through use of appropriate methods.
  3. Communicate proposals for designs for environmental change effectively and fluently, displaying care and a high standard of finish. Be able to do so through appropriate design platforms and media.
  4. Review and reflect thoughtfully upon their efforts to research, develop and enact projects for environmental change. Display an ability to evaluate them using critical and creative approaches, cognisant of the potential complexity of their settings.
Reading List
Bateson, N. (2011) An Ecology of Mind. Pennsylvania: Bullfrog Films.

Escobar, A. (2018) Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Durham, USA: Duke University Press.

Gibson-Graham, J.K. (2013) Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Margolin, V. (2015) World history of design. London, Bloomsbury Academic.

McDonough, W. and M. Braungart (2009) Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things. London: Vintage.

Thackara, J. (2015) How to Thrive in the Next Economy : Designing Tomorrow's World Today. London ; New York: Thames & Hudson.

Thorpe, A. (2007) The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability. Washington; London: Island Press.

Tsing, A.L. (2015) The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Be open to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking
Be able to identify processes and strategies for learning
Be ready to ask key questions and exercise rational enquiry
Search for, evaluate and use information to develop their knowledge and understanding
Be able to respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts
Be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues
Special Arrangements Course only available to students on MA Design For Change programme
Keywordsdesign,issue-based design,strategic change,critical futures,environmentalism,Anthropocene
Course organiserDr Rachel Harkness
Tel: (0131 6)51 5753
Course secretaryMiss Emili Astrom
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