module specification

DN4002 - Design Principles (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Design Principles
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
138 hours Guided independent study
162 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 80%   Portfolio (development and final work)
Coursework 20%   Critical evaluation
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year (Spring and Summer) City Monday Morning
Year City Monday Afternoon
Year City Monday Morning
Year (Spring and Summer) City Monday Afternoon

Module summary

This module is intended to enable graphic designers, publishers, illustrators and animators to explore the principles of their subject through intensive introductions to craft and digital based workshops and processes of making, combined with theoretical, historical and contemporary explorations within their subject areas.

Successful design outcomes are reliant on sound design principles. These design principles inform and create opportunities for designers to apply creativity to the conception, development and eventual realisation of effective design solutions in relation to the subject area. Testing, experimentation and iteration are key to making new discoveries and developing as a visual communicator.

This module introduces to a range of contemporary and traditional discipline-related design approaches and processes, some of which will be tested in design exercises. Processes experienced will involve research, documentation and analysis, as well as play, accident and chance. 

Design concepts will be tested through the application of workshop and studio methods.  Materials, processes and technologies will be discipline-specific, developing creative outcomes relevant to the possibilities and constraints of the context, the needs of the client and users, and industry conventions.

Students will be encouraged to develop a critically informed and personal approach to the process of 'making' and to extensively test new skills and processes learnt. Studios and projects will encourage understanding of practice in the context of a rapidly changing contemporary culture with ever-developing needs and problems; engaging with materials, media and processes to find an individual voice as a visual communicator.

This module seeks to enable students to:

• utilise different methods and techniques, recording and presentation of findings for graphic design, design for publishing, illustration and animation as appropriate discipline-specific skills in studio practice;

• develop strategies for idea generation, problem solving and concept testing, and to design with reflection, rigour, innovation and personality;

• learn and apply key knowledge (for example, material and process selection, historical exemplars) necessary to the exercise of design, including consideration of ethical issues;

• demonstrate that consideration of the effects on users of design decisions is fundamental to the principles and practice of design work;

• build a clear understanding of contemporary practice in the subject area.

Projects will seek to enable a range of learning opportunities such as:

• acquisition of workshop and studio skills for concept generation, design development, both traditional and contemporary, in discipline specific environments and contexts;

• research and analysis through case study of object, context and process;

• discussion of ideas, processes and approaches, developing confidence through shared experience;

• peer and self-assessment opportunities fostering reflection and independent development;

• set tasks and site visits that encourage teamwork, community networking and peer communication;

• face to face and online study groups through the University E-learning environment.


The content is indicative and will necessarily reflect current debates and thinking. Topics covered will normally include:

• looking at discipline/ course specific design studios/ freelance practitioners/ agencies / publishers / animation studios;  LO1

• a series of project briefs which offer a range of subject specific contexts and problems for creative response;  LO2

• methods of research, idea generation, problem solving, analysis, critique and reflection;  LO2

• idea generation and exploration through discipline-specific design processes;  LO2,3

• introduction and development of discipline-specific practical studio and design workshop skills.  LO3

The studio will support course identity and subject knowledge. Open, exploratory projects will be supported by exercises, visits and group critiques together with lectures, highlighting contemporary and historical examples relevant to each subject area.  LO4

Studios will be designed to allow students to work with a range of content and formats to gain understanding of how different contexts require differing approaches, processes and research methods. Projects will be selected or designed to ensure growing competence and understanding of essential skills, strategies, techniques and technologies used in visual communication.  LO4

Seminars, case studies and critique sessions will foster debate in the ethical and impact issues involved in the discipline and projects.  LO2

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 is delivered through lectures, practical workshops, demonstrations, inductions and studio-based activities supported by external visits where necessary. Group seminars, tutorials and informal feedback during workshop sessions offer the opportunity to reflect upon learning-in-progress, and to discuss and progress strategies for developing skills and practice. Blended learning will support students in individual and group assignments. 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.

Successful learning in this module is dependent upon regular attendance and engagement in the scheduled teaching and the level of self-managed study undertaken. In order to make the most of all the opportunities available, students will be encouraged and supported to organise and plan their learning activities effectively. The level of self-managed learning will be monitored. Self-directed study may include individual and/or group tasks, for example, research, site visits, drawing tasks, digital skills, or collecting and collating materials in preparation for the following week's session. The construction of a portfolio of personally produced and assembled work is vital to success in the module and the progress of this will be monitored in tutorials and seminars.

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

At the end of this module, students will be able to:

Knowledge and Understanding
LO1 recognise key principles and practices necessary for design, including ethical impact on users and environment;

Cognitive Intellectual Skills
LO2 solve design problems and generate ideas, criticising, reflecting and developing practice principles throughout;

Transferable Skills
LO3 test conceptual ideas through workshop and studio practice and research and reflect upon them;

Subject Specific Practical Skills
LO4 select and apply discipline-specific methods of research, making, recording and presentation demonstrated through sketch books, blogs and professional presentation.

Assessment strategy

In end of project critiques, students are expected to produce a coherent presentation of the development of their visual research, together with a critical evaluation of relative successes and failures, communicating and debating this with others. Formative feedback will be provided throughout in tutorials, group discussions and during workshop sessions. Formative feedback encourages students to reflect on progress and discuss strategies for further development of skills and practice.

Structured activities and independent learning within the portfolio will be formatively assessed.  The satisfactory completion of relevant technical/ workshop activities and continuing independent practice (and associated health and safety procedures) will be monitored.

The final mark will be awarded in relation to a portfolio of a carefully presented work at the end the module, including all projects undertaken, evidencing engagement and development of work and visual research, produced both under guidance and independently. Summative assessment will reflect on the whole body of work and qualities demonstrated throughout. Work must be carefully organised, presented to a professional standard and should communicate the development of ideas. The content must be clearly labelled with name, student number, module code and date. Students are required to attend timetabled sessions.

Written feedback will be provided corresponding to published assessment criteria and guidance given towards future development. Precise requirements for submission will be given in project briefs.


Core Texts:
Barthes, R. (1980) Camera Lucida, Vintage Classics
Benjamin, W. (2008) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,
Bierut, M., (2004) Looking Closer: 4, Critical Writings on Graphic Design, Allworth Press
Fletcher, A. (2001)The art of looking sideways, Phaidon Press

Other Texts:
Busch, D. (2013) The Age of Collage, Contemporary Collage in Modern Art, Gestalten
Collington, M. (2016) Animation in Context: A Practical Guide to Theory and Making, Bloomsbury
Herbert, S. (1987) The Liberated Page: A Typographica Anthology, Bedford Arts
McClean, S. (2007) Digital Storytelling: The Narrative Power of Visual Effects in Film, MIT Press
Mülller-Brockmann, J. (1981) Grid Systems in Graphic Design, Niggli
Michael, P. (2007), Hand Job: A Catalog of Type, Bedford Arts

Baseline Magazine
Creative Review
The Illustrated Ape


Electronic Databases:
E-Flux Journal
The Serving Library

Design Resources: