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DI101-15 Introduction to Design

Design Studies
Undergraduate Level 1
Module leader
Jane Webb
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

In this introductory module we explore the diverse theories and practices of designing, the designed world, the impact of design on people, and the challenges and ambitions that motivate designing. Students will examine the contextual backdrop to the formation of design as discourse, practice and profession, question the globalization of design, the similarities and differences between different forms of designing, design professions, and everyday designing. Students will develop critical and creative capabilities for responding to the designed world. They will learn from experience and practice, from visiting diverse locations, and encountering innovative designs and designers who have worked on national and international projects.

Module aims

To introduce students to the theoretical and practical foundations of design.
To evolve skills in diverse research methods that range from more academic practice to practice-based research methodologies.
To establish ethical practices and student sensitivities to ethical issues.
To introduce students to the potentialities of design and design practice, as well as the potential professional roles a designer may have.
To develop skills in analysis of design in all its breadth.
To establish relationships and habits for working collaboratively.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

What is design? The historical, social and political contexts.
A universal concept? (Exploring how useful the term is and its inherent inequalities).
Design as power (Examining designed inequalities)
Design as differentiation (Examining intentionality and the consequences of design)
Design as empowerment (Examining designed empowerment)
Design as collaborative (Examining processes of designing that are collaborative)
Many designers (Considering the many roles of designer)
Talking design 1 (Hearing from contemporary designers)
Talking design 2 (Hearing from contemporary designers)
Mapping design for now (Establishing a working definition of design that is collective and useable for the year group)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • To develop an understanding of definitions, principles, theories and practices of design and designing.
  • To establish effective methods of research using a diverse range of methodologies.
  • To describe and critically evaluate designs-as-implemented, as-evolved, and as-experienced, from the perspectives of diverse stakeholders.
  • Draw upon knowledge, theories and practices from other disciplines (including creative) with which the students have familiarity, to contextualise and deepen descriptions and critical evaluations of designs.
  • To develop an understanding of ethical considerations when researching.
  • Develop a sensitivity and knowledge of group and collaborative working with peers.
Indicative reading list

Bonsiepe, Gui, et al. Flow of Forms / Forms of Flow: Design Histories between Africa and Europe. Vol. 37, Transcript Verlag, 2018.
Bottazzi, Roberto. Digital Architecture beyond Computers: Fragments of a Cultural History of Computational Design. Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018.
Bürdek, Bernhard E. Design: History, Theory and Practice of Product Design. Birkhäuser, 2015.
Conway, Hazel. Design History: a Students' Handbook. Allen & Unwin, 1987,, Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.
Dilnot, Clive. “Some Futures for Design History?” Journal of Design History, vol. 22, no. 4, 2009, pp. 377–394., Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.
Manzini, Ezio. Design, When Everybody Designs: an Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. The MIT Press, 2015.
Persson, Hans, et al. “Universal Design, Inclusive Design, Accessible Design, Design for All: Different Concepts—One Goal? On the Concept of Accessibility—Historical, Methodological and Philosophical Aspects.” Universal Access in the Information Society, vol. 14, no. 4, 2015, pp. 505–526., Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.
Walker, John A., and Judy Attfield. Design History and the History of Design. Pluto, 1989.
Walker, Stuart. Design Roots: Culturally Significant Designs, Products and Practices. Bloomsbury Academic, an Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2018.
Williams, Wayne A., et al. “A Design History of Design: Complexity, Criticality, and Cultural Competence.” Racar, vol. 40, no. 2, 2015, pp. 15–21., Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.

View reading list on Talis Aspire

Research element

Foundational academic and design research skills.


Design impacts on every aspect of our lives and is therefore transdisiciplinary in nature. Approaches to design call on anthropology, art history, sociology, psychology, design practice and literary studies amongst others.


Design will be examined from across the world and designers who will be speaking will be from across the world (via online platforms).

Subject specific skills

Accessing, evaluating, synthesising and applying knowledge about specific design challenges.
Communicating design studies in a range of formats, synchronously and asynchronously, to a wide range of audiences.
Creating and using a personal portfolio of studies, notes and reflections.

Transferable skills

Participating in group discussions, design activities, reflections.
Facilitating and leading group group discussions, design activities, reflections.
Doing design studies (descriptive, analytical, creative).

advanced digital skills including collaborative whiteboards, setting up and running online collaborations, visualisation and planning tools, project management tools.

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 1 session of 45 minutes (0%)
Practical classes 10 sessions of 2 hours (13%)
Fieldwork 10 sessions of 30 minutes (3%)
Private study 27 hours 15 minutes (18%)
Assessment 97 hours (65%)
Total 150 hours
Private study description

Workshop preparation: reading, engaging with online material, and activities.


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A
Weighting Study time
Design evaluation 40% 30 hours

A critical evaluation of a designed object, space, service or system examining the role of the designer, the consumer and the interaction between the two during the production process, as well as the experience of the design since its production. This will evaluate the success or otherwise of the design and ask of students what they understand to be 'success' in design.

Design as... 40% 30 hours

Students will be allocated groups and will present to the broader group following the themes of the week.

Self-Assessment 20% 37 hours

Students will be asked to individually reflect on their understanding of design and the area of design that they are particularly interested in.

Feedback on assessment

Portfolio tasks and the blog entry will be created in electronic notebooks, and feedback provided in context in the notebooks. Audio and video feedback will be used where appropriate.

Feedback on oral discussions will be provided by the panel as a written statement. We will also record the discussions so that we can refer to them in individual tutorials.

There is currently no information about the courses for which this module is core or optional.