module specification

DN7013 - Design for Change (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Design for Change
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 200
161 hours Guided independent study
39 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Portfolio of case studies, design work and written component
Running in 2022/23

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

Module summary

Design for Change focuses on the interaction of people with the designed environment and material culture, and the design characteristics that create meaningful relationships and affect thinking and behaviour. The title of the module recognises that a working definition of what a designer does is, fundamentally, to effect change.

People, objects and environments mutually influence each other, the purpose of this module is to create scenarios through which strategies for understanding these dynamics, and testing and refining design that enhances these experiential relationships can be developed.

When change is deliberately intended or accidentally effected on people in any way, the responsibility to act with care, sensitivity and secure knowledge and information and within an ethical framework is clear. Therefore, the projects undertaken in this module will be founded in deep and rich research into the impact of design on users. Students will research the numerous ways, obvious, subtle and covert, in which designed artefacts and environments affect human thinking, behaviour, emotions, relationships and wellbeing. Students will adopt well-established research methods, and where appropriate, construct or synthesise their own. Data will be evaluated and analysed before becoming the foundation for a design process that will be collaborative and consultative at its core. People, whether they are clients, consumers or members of society in general, do not necessarily have the means to express, understand, safely and ethically design or construct the answer to their needs. The role of the designer is to expertly mediate between all the parties, conflicting objectives, needs and desires at play in any given project and ensure the best possible outcome through all the constraints imposed on the project.

Different projects might seek to allow, enhance or transform thinking, behaviour or experience. Whatever the brief, students will be expected to research, model and test their design development, always seeking to design while holding the interests of the various parties involved in an ethical balance. Innovation is expected, as is the creation of an individual approach to design. This will arise through a personalised application of sector-specific industry standard research methods to the briefs set. The challenge will be to fulfil the task set while expressing creative identity in solutions for complex and sometimes ambiguous situations.

The module aims to:

• enable students to identify and understand the cognitive, sensory, psychological, ethical  and social factors that are entailed in relationships with objects and environments;
• engage students with theories about human/ environmental relationships;
• equip students to research and analyse the impact of existing or proposed designs on people and communities;
• provide students with the opportunity to design a collaborative, human-centred design research process;
• test understanding of the issues and abilities in design research in practice and present process and outcomes convincingly.


The module commences through case studies of notable examples of design acknowledged to have effected significant change. The studies would include examples of change understood to be for the better or worse, but importantly also include intended and unintended change. LO1,LO3

There will be seminars detailing and exploring, at an advanced level, the theories attaching, the factors at play and the sector specific design research, development and testing techniques and strategies for assessing the probable impact of design proposals. LO1,LO2

A brief for a situation, condition, location or other circumstance that will benefit from change through a design intervention will be set or self-set, and the criteria for evaluation determined so far as is possible before commencement. LO4,LO5

Students will then conduct a complete process of research, design development, testing and presentation of proposals, findings and evaluation, with a specific aim of achieving the desired change in the thought, behaviour, emotions, relationships or wellbeing of users, and also of understanding the quality and degree of change achieved. LO4,LO5

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.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

1. identify and understand the cognitive, sensory, psychological, ethical and social factors that are entailed in relationships with objects and environments;
2. place their understanding of the impact of designed environments and artefacts in a theoretical context;
3. understand and evaluate the impact of designed environments and artefacts on people and communities;
4. through a designed, collaborative, human-centred design research process, test and evaluate their own designs in practice, and present the process and outcomes convincingly;
5. understand the responsibilities of the designer to all those involved or affected by their work, whether principal or incidental.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed through a submission of a portfolio containing case study analyses and individual design work. Precise requirements will be set at the start of the module. The written component/s should be a minimum of 1500 words.

The work will be assessed in relation to:

• evidence of clear and accurate understanding of the cognitive, sensory, psychological, ethical and social factors that are entailed in relationships with objects and environments, and related theoretical contexts;
• the demonstrated ability to evaluate the impact of designed environments and artefacts on people and communities through case studies and precedents;
• clear evidence of understanding of the responsibilities of designers to all users, primary and secondary, intended and unintended;
• the appropriateness and success in construction and application of collaborative and human-centred research methods through which a proposition is developed and evaluated;
• the quality of the design proposition and its communication.


The following are indicative and initial only.  Refereed journals/ articles and electronic resources: issued according to projects.

Brown, T. (2009) Change by Design: How Design Thinking Creates New Alternatives for Business and Society, London: Collins Business
Esslinger, H. (ed.) (2012) Design forward: Creative Strategies for Sustainable Change, Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art
Fuad-Luke, A. (2009) Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World, London: Earthscan
Shea, A. (2012) Designing for Social Change, New York: Princeton