module specification

DN7018 - Design Project Development (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title Design Project Development
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 40
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 400
319 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 30%   Project Proposal (3000 words)
Coursework 70%   Studio Practice
Running in 2019/20
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

Project Proposal
Textual submission, including primary and secondary research appendices, (3000 words) fully contextualising and justifying the project proposal, including an appropriate and relevant reference list and bibliography as directed, and if appropriate the ethical and/or final users’ requirements and/ or responses discussed and debated. A clearly communicated design concept that is perceptive in its analysis of key issues, well constructed in its rationale and engaging in terms of ideas.

Studio Practice
which will demonstrate through appropriate modes of documentation:
• a body of visual and related contextual material demonstrating systematic collection and collation of primary and secondary data relevant to the field of research;
• documentation of design practice working methods and showing a well-informed research methodology through the systematic application of a set of techniques for problem analysis, data gathering and analysis;
• annotated archive of process experimentation showing analysis and valid interpretation of results through the development of evaluation models with reference to requirements of brief and context;
• presentation of research findings and project brief proposals to professional exhibition standard;
• critical self- evaluation of project management and completion;
• identification of a specific field of research and practice for the major project.

Studio practice may include: drawings; photographic material; multi-media material; quantitative data; qualitative data; 3D models or prototypes; artefacts; web-based material or any other appropriate material by agreement with tutors. 

Work will be assessed considering: scope and ambition, degree of rigour of application of research methods to practice, relevance to brief, quality of analysis and interpretation, quality of documentation/ outcome/ presentation.


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