module specification

DN7018 - Design Project Development (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Design Project Development
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 40
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 400
319 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Portfolio 1 (set project)
Coursework 50%   Portfolio 2 (Major Project development)
Running in 2023/24

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

Module summary

This module, carried out within the context of a design studio, advances discipline-specific design research, development and management skills in the context of a self-directed project development exercise. Students will test in applied practice, research methods considered in the Design Research for Practice module. Its purpose is to facilitate effective planning and development of an appropriate masters design major project under relevant subject-specialist supervision.

Through investigatory practice, students will test, select, assemble and apply design and design research methods through which an individual approach to design process can be constructed, and from which innovation can arise. Opportunities arising from emerging social, economic and technological contexts will be sought, and worthwhile and defensible projects will be identified and framed. Students will be encouraged to engage in both speculative and discursive enquiry and rigorous and valid research programmes. Students will be expected to build a comprehensive knowledge of the current state of the context of their interests and practice and be able to position their concepts and proposals as significant interventions.

Students will refine developmental work into coherent and articulate designs, which are capable of convincing clients, community or peers of the potential success and value of the proposed outcome.

The module aims to:
• develop capacity to plan, undertake, present and evaluate complex professional design projects in response to set and self-set briefs, in preparation for a Master’s major/ thesis project;
• extend students’ ability to position design projects in professional, social, technological, ethical, theoretical and conceptual contexts;
• guide students to a fully integrated synthesis of research and design development in their working processes;
• ensure students equip themselves with a working understanding of the essential requirements of practice and legislation concerning such issues as intellectual property rights, health and safety, product liability, ethical practice and consumer law;
• consolidate students’ ability to work independently as critical professional practitioners, able to accept and address complex and unstable problems and partial solutions;
• use strategies for problem finding, idea generation, inter-disciplinary working, lateral thinking, integrated research methods and process experimentation to drive innovation.


The syllabus for this module is negotiated from the specific programme of the design studios and student-set or client-led projects, which are revised each year.

Students will work either individually or as part of a design group determining a specific framework, process and set of outcomes.  Students will increasingly determine an individual study plan outlining a self-set project for development across the remainder of the course. Students will develop their understanding of the unique aspects of design research in relation to the specific issues encountered in their discipline. This background will enable the critical selection and appropriate forms of research to be employed in developing well-informed design models. All stages of the design process will require students to constantly evaluate, consider and critically reassess their position in light of insights gained during their study to date.

This structure will encourage students to work both collaboratively and independently as critical practitioners within an agreed supervisory framework, towards realising their accumulated learning in an appropriately devised project. It will encourage students to take responsibility for the organisation and time management of their Masters research within an agreed schedule of works. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5,LO6,LO7

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 practice-focused learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able to engage and challenge the intellectual and professional environment of their discipline, 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 to:

1. construct effective design development processes that can be used to generate ideas, drive innovation and rigorously test design proposals against a wide range of practical and theoretical criteria;
2. present findings and proposals effectively, in a coherent and cogent manner, appropriate to the context of reception;
3. satisfy set and self-set briefs in accordance with accepted discipline-specific professional practice, legal requirements and ethical constraints;
4. demonstrate effective skills in the evaluation and application of primary research methods for design practice;
5. exhibit the ability to negotiate and work with complex situations that resist simple definition and basic linear problem solving;
6. develop their work taking into account professional, social, technological, ethical, theoretical and conceptual contexts;
7. construct a Master’s level major project/ thesis proposal grounded in applied understanding of contexts, theory and methods.

Assessment strategy

Portfolio 1

Portfolio 1 will present your design proposal in response to a set project that will be issued at the start of the module. It will change annually; details and requirements for submission will be given in a project brief.

Portfolio 2

Portfolio 2 will present design research and development work for your Major Project that you will complete in the summer term, and make use of the contextual information you gather and analyse in the Contextual Report in DN7017 Design Research for Practice.

Both portfolios should be of a professional standard of presentation, both will include 2D design work and presentation, both may include models, prototypes, samples or other 3D artefacts and both will be annotated.

There should be a clear distinction between what is design research and development material that would be presented to a client, and development material that would not be presented to a client.

The portfolios should use presentation techniques for final outcomes that are appropriate to your discipline, but should be easily comprehensible to a client who is not him or herself an expert in your field.

Precise requirements for the format, size and other details of the portfolios will be issued at the start of the projects, along with assessment criteria.


The following are indicative only: students will construct their own bibliographies according to their disciplines and projects.

Bramston, D. (2017) Idea Searching for Design: How to Research and Develop Design Concepts, London: Bloomsbury
Collins, H. (2010) Creative Research : the Theory and Practice of Research for the Creative Industries, Lausanne: AVA Academia
Crouch, C. and Pearce, J. (2012) Doing Research in Design, Oxford: Berg
Inns, T. (ed.), (2010) Designing for the 21st Century: Interdisciplinary Methods and Findings, Farnham: Ashgate
Martin, B. and Hanington, B. (2012) Universal Methods of Design : 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions, Beverly, Mass.: Rockport
Simonsen, J. et al, (eds), (2010) Design Research: Synergies from Interdisciplinary Perspectives, London: Routledge
Thackara, J. (2005) In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press