DN7012 - Democratising Luxury (2022/23)
|Module approved to run in 2022/23
|Credit rating for module
|School of Art, Architecture and Design
|Total study hours
|Running in 2022/23(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
This module engages students with fundamental and seemingly contradictory human impulses towards ‘luxury’ and ‘democracy’, as these are expressed in designed artefacts and environments. Hardly any products are marketed or understood as having the characteristics of neither of these properties; their apparent incompatibility is often understood as problematic in the design and production of goods. The concepts have different meanings for varied people and communities; these will be explored as students develop a personal position in relation to the concepts of luxury and democracy.
Progress in knowledge and technology has the capacity to advance and improve the human condition, including health and wellbeing, happiness and equality. Students will investigate how designers can harness knowledge and technology to make artefacts and products that enrich peoples’ lives by making those products more widely accessible, and in doing so, discover if they can provide themselves with opportunities as designers. Market relevance is crucial: no benefit to designer, consumer or society can come from a design that nobody wants.
There are rich opportunities for designers in this field - the demographic of the luxury consumer is broadening. In developing economies, young consumers demand ‘luxury’ products (often not the same products sold to the traditional luxury goods buyer); in some cases, factors such as superior ethical and environmental values have become luxury signifiers. Corporate ethical policies and environmental targets have begun to address this; however, more democratic access to luxury products would deny the fundamentally aspirational nature and image of luxury brands. Luxury brands cannot be ‘democratic’, but perhaps luxury itself can be.
This module aims to:
• examine historic and emergent notions of ‘luxury’ and the design of artefacts in relation to these factors;
• formulate the student’s personal position on definitions, relevance and concepts of ‘luxury’ and ‘democracy’ as applied to designed artefacts;
• scope and analyse current and emerging technology and products, market conditions and drivers; and the ethical, social and economic factors informing them;
• enable students to design and fabricate proposals and/or otherwise present ideas that represent, challenge or synthesise these issues.
The syllabus would typically include initial lecture/seminar discussion of the concepts of luxury and democracy, with the presentation of brief discussion papers representing differing positions. LO1
There will be survey case study analyses of a wide range of ‘luxury’ products and an in-depth study of a selected product, service or brand, with seminar presentation of the completed case studies. There will be close market analysis with a specific requirement to make predictions about emerging market conditions based on findings. LO1,LO2
This knowledge will allow the design of viable products and the accurate positioning of them in the commercial environment and consumer demographic. Students will research and build a database of relevant, especially new and forthcoming, materials, technology and processes that will now or in the future be deployed in the design and manufacture of products intended to ‘democratise luxury’, whatever students come to determine this means for them personally as designers. LO3
Students will develop a design proposal in response to the theme of ‘democratising luxury’, with a statement of the critical and intellectual position taken, and contextualisation of market opportunities for the design and branding or promotional material. Normally, the design proposal would seek to take advantage of emerging technologies to achieve the targets set, or the reinvention or alternative application of existing ones. LO2,LO4
Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity
As a taught postgraduate module, all of the teaching and learning strategies promote reflective learning, enquiry, and independence of thought, rigour of research and testing, and professionalism in presentation.
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.
On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1. demonstrate a critical understanding of the terms ‘luxury’ and ‘democracy’ as applied to designed artefacts, and of how the concepts have been used by various actors in market economies;
2. clearly articulate a personal position on definitions, relevance and theories that relate to luxury and democracy in design, including an ethical stance;
3. employ effective methods in the research and recording of current and emerging materials, technology, social and market conditions, and analysis of their probable implications for the future;
4. produce and present viable, creative and innovative design proposals through the application of a well-founded design research and development process, illustrating a critical approach to luxury and/ or democracy in design.
Illustrated Research Report (1500 – 2500 words).
The Research Report will examine historic and emergent notions of luxury and the design of artefacts in relation to these factors, and demonstrate a critical understanding of the terms ‘luxury’ and ‘democracy’ as applied to designed artefacts, and of how the concepts have been used by various actors in market economies. The field is wide, and you may define a particular aspect of the subject for detailed analysis. This is a standard piece of academic work and it is essential that full correct referencing of all material (visual and written) taken from any source is given.
Annotated Illustrated Portfolio of Research (approx. 30 sides well-filled and annotated sides of A3 paper)
The annotated body of research will scope and analyse current and emerging:
• attitudes to ‘luxury’ and ‘democratic design’;
• technology and products;
• commercial market conditions and drivers;
• the ethical, social and economic factors affecting products and markets.
It will employ effective methods in the research and recording of current and emerging materials, technology, social and market conditions, and analysis of their probable implications for the future. It should be presented for a non-expert audience and should make use of clear and attractive visuals and information graphics, as well as photographs and text.
Although this is a portfolio submission, it is essential that full referencing of all material (visual and written) taken from any source is given. The Research Portfolio will use a great deal of information that is taken from sources, and that material in many cases should not be reinterpreted, this is quite allowed, but all such material must be referenced. The key to success in the portfolio is extensive research and careful selection and editing of chosen material into a coherent summary of current market conditions.
The point of both of these submissions is to enable you to make informed and intelligent predictions about the future in respect of materials, products and markets.
The following are indicative only. Refereed journals/ articles and electronic resources: issued according to seminar topics.
Bayley, S. (1991)Taste: the Secret Meaning of Things, London: Faber and Faber
Bourdieu, P. (1984) ‘The Aristocracy of Culture’ in Distinction: a social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press
Chevalier, M. and Mazzalovo, G. (2012) Luxury Brand Management: a World of Privilege, Singapore: Wiley
Hamilton, C. (2005) Afluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough, London: Allen and Unwin
Highmore, B. (ed.) (2009) The Design Culture Reader, London: Routledge
Sennett, R. (2012) Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation, London: Yale University Press
Thomas, D. (2008) Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre, London: Penguin
Thompson, R. (2007) Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals, London: Thames and Hudson
Thompson, R. (2014) Manufacturing Processes for Textile and Fashion Design Professionals, London: Thames and Hudson
Thompson, R. (2017) The Materials Sourcebook for Design Professionals, London: Thames and Hudson
Walker, J.A. (1989) ‘Consumption, Deception, Taste’, in Walker, J.A. Design History and the History of Design, London: Pluto Press