module specification

CP4019 - Critical and Contextual Studies 1: Theatre and Film Production Design (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Critical and Contextual Studies 1: Theatre and Film Production Design
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
219 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 33%   Patchwork and Reflection
Coursework 33%   Case Study
Coursework 34%   Essay
Running in 2019/20

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year City Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

Critical and Contextual Studies (CCS) Level 4 aims to orient and critically engage students in the history and theory of their discipline, its extent and conventions, and its broader social and material context in culture and contemporary practice.

The module helps students to reflect on what they see, and to read connections between different ideas that have shaped their discipline. In particular the module investigates how thinking and articulating ideas about practice in their field might be framed – for example in relation to history, the economy, society and the environment, or through theory and practice.

The module introduces students to a range of academic skills needed to produce a graduate-level study in their final year. It helps students to develop their own interests, and to reflect on and take responsibility for the development of their own learning. This includes surveys in the history of their discipline, research and writing workshops, seminars, library sessions, visits and tours in addition to guided independent learning.


Critical and Contextual Studies Level 4 is structured in the form of three equally-weighted, intensive teaching blocks. Each of these blocks culminates in a summative assessment. Assessments include a range of different modes of written assignments such as patchwork-writing, a case study, or an essay. The first assessment includes a 500–700 word learning reflection element. The syllabus and assessments are designed to support the development of academic skills, including inductions to using libraries and archives, critical reading skills, presentation skills, writing skills, working with feedback, avoiding plagiarism, referencing, as well as note taking, planning and time management skills. The following themes and activities are indicative.

The History of Interior Architecture, Interior Design and Decoration for Production Design LO1–6

The first block provides a survey course that introduces the history of interior design and production design in the context of architecture and society. This knowledge is essential for production designers who will be asked to represent built environments for performance and film. It charts the professionalisation of interior design and architecture from the eighteenth century to the present, in parallel to the gathering pace of modernity. As far as possible, teaching is conducted in the form of visits, using London as an extended classroom, and screenings. Visits are supported by readings and lectures which take a broad view, concentrating on well-known examples and and setting them broadly in their artistic, social and political context. In addition to encouraging growing confidence with exploring and interpreting different text-based sources, students are introduced to using visual material for research through classroom and self-guided work. A number of research and writing exercises help students to become familiar with the common stock of examples drawn upon in theoretical and critical writings, to develop critical thinking skills, and to learn how to express ideas clearly. Students will be introduced to political, social, architectural and interior design and film and television histories from which to draw as repository for understanding and information for their studio practice.

Context and Practice LO1–6

During the second teaching block students work on a project designed in tandem with studio teaching to underpin the relationship between practice and academic study. This block introduces students to the subject and practice of interior architecture, interior design and interior decoration and the professional context within which they sit in society and the constructed environment and how they have been represented in production design. Lectures, seminars, workshops and visits will enable students to explore issues of professionalism and to study current and past forms of architectural and design practice. Working in groups and individually students investigate a range of study and management skills and methods used to communicate within the industry and to its range of users and intended audiences.

Histories and Theories LO1–6

The course continues the historical survey of architecture, interior design and urban forms begun in ‘The History of Interior Architecture, Interior Design and Decoration’, bringing the story up to the present day and introducing non- western examples of interior and production design. The concept and necessity of thinking in terms of histories (plural) is introduced. These may variously include gendered, sexual, ethnic and religious histories. Issues such as ‘public and private’ and concepts such as ‘thresholds’ are introduced by way of broadening critical thinking and approach and in Block 3 new design types are examined (through visits and classroom teaching) as a means of broadening horizons and offering creative scope for thinking through their subject area. Seminars constitute a thematic course in basic theory, introducing important ideas such as modernity, representation, language, in plain English. Students write short theoretical texts of their own and are encouraged to express their ideas clearly and simply.

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students are expected to, and have the opportunity to, continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress from year to year, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will be able:

1. to use information retrieval systems effectively and develop appropriate methods for collecting, organising and deploying knowledge;
2. to read, analyse and interpret different kinds of written texts and other key sources of documented knowledge, such as recorded sound or images, objects and artefacts;
3. to demonstrate familiarity with the scope of their discipline and its and broader ethical, historical, social, cultural, economic and practice-based contexts;
4. to articulate a critical understanding of the objects of their study, using a range of written forms of presentation, noting specific terms, languages, references, genres and audiences;
5. to become aware of the relationship between the theories and practices of their discipline in its creative application;
6. to effectively respond to and reflect upon feedback on their own work in order to develop and improve their learning.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed in a developmental way and structured as a sequence of summative assessments submitted at the end of each teaching block. Students receive formative tutorials before each submission, and feedback during the first session of the following block. This helps students to build and improve skills as the syllabus progresses and distributes time spent preparing for assessments evenly throughout the year. Assessments comprise different types of written texts that enable students to use different modes of presentation, for example:

1. patchwork assessment and short written exercises (900–1,200 words) and learning reflection submission (500–700 words);
2. case study or studies (900–1,200 words);
3. essay (1,700–2,200 words).

The word count for the whole module is between 4,000–5,300 words.  

Module assessment criteria:
1. application and engagement;
2. quality of content (research, accuracy, relevance, scope);
3. quality of presentation (English, references, terminology, literacy, protocols);
4. effective structure (clarity, links, synthesis);
5. deployment of critical and analytical skills (argument, interpretation, discussion).


The Critical and Contextual Studies reading list is responsive to emergent ideas, and designed to introduce students to current debates in their discipline and a broad range of different resources. The critical analysis of recent publications and materials is supported by a set of core readings. The following list is indicative.

Core Readings
• Massey, A., Sparke, P., (2009), Designing the Modern Interior. From the Victorians to Today, Berg
• Aynsley, J., Grant, C., McKay, H., (2006), Imagined Interiors, Representing the Domestic Interior Since the Renaissance, V&A Publications
• Massey, A., (2008), Interior Design Since 1900, Thames and Hudson

Further Readings
• Berger, J., (2008), Ways of Seeing, Penguin Classics
• Breward, C., Fisher, F., Wood, G., (2015), British Design. Tradition and Modernity after 1948, Bloomsbury
• Cornforth, J., (1978), The Quest for Comfort, English Interiors, 1790-1848, Barrie and Jenkins
• Fisher, F., Sparke, P., (2016), The Routledge Companion to Design Studies, Routledge
• Fisher, F., Keeble, T., Lara-Betancourt, P., (2011), Performance, Fashion and the Modern Interior: From the Victorians to Today, Berg
• Forty A. (2002) Objects of Desire; design and society since 1750, Thames and Hudson
• Fowler, J.(1974), English Decoration in the Eighteenth Century, Barrie and Jenkins
• Gere, C., (1989), Nineteenth Century Decoration. The Art of the Interior, Weidenfeld and Nicholson
• Maffei, G., L., (2013) Design at Home: Design Advice Books in Britain and the USA since 1945
• McKay, H., (2016) in Keeble, T., Martin., B., Sparke, P., (2006), The Modern Period Room, Routledge
• Millon, H. A. (1963), Key monuments of the history of architecture, Prentice-Hall
• Muthesius. S., The Poetic Home. Designing the Ninetheenth Domestic Interior, Thames and Hudson
• Pevsner, N., (2009) An outline of European architecture, Thames & Hudson
• Saumarez-Smith, C., (2000) The Rise of Design, Design and the Domestic Interior in the Eighteenth Century
• Sparke, P., (2008), The Modern Interior, Reaktion
• Sparke, P., (2005), Elsie de Woolf, Acanthus
• Walker, J., A., (1990), Design History and the History of Design, Pluto Press

Subject specific texts

• Ackland-Snow, T., and Laybourne, W., (2017), The Art of Illusion: Production Design for Film and Television, The Crowood Press KEY TEXT
• Barnwell, J., (2004), Production Design, Architects of the Screen, Wallflower Press
• Barnwell, J.,  (2017), Production Design for Screen, Bloomsbury Visual Arts  KEY TEXT
• Byrne, T., (1993), Production Design for Television, Focal Press
• Ettedgui, P., (1999), Production Design and Art Direction,  Rotovision
• Shorter., G., (2012),  Designing for Screen: Production design and art direction,  The Crowood Press Ltd
Shorter, G 2012, Designing for Screen : Production and Art Direction Explained, Crowood, Ramsbury. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [5 April 2018].

Journals, Websites and Databases
• Design Indaba (web)
• Deezeen (web)
• (web)
• (Domestic Interiors Database)
• Design History Society Journal