Module title: The Sociology of Design

SCQF level: 10:
SCQF credit value: 20.00
ECTS credit value: 10

Module code: SSC10105
Module leader: Gavin Maclean
School School of Applied Sciences
Subject area group: Social Science

Sociology at SCQF level 7

Description of module content:

The module takes a grounded sociological analysis of design incorporating many of the ideas and arguments the Module Leader developed in his own PhD research in this area. It begins by examining the process of commodification, changes within the social division of labour and the rise of designers and how their values, methods, culture and practice influence not only the profitability and stability of various organisations but more importantly the quality of our everyday lives. We then proceed to evaluate the role of designers in a number of key areas starting with the workplace, the site of labours commodification, does a dominant design paradigm exist vis a vis wage labour, what alternative types of workplace design are there and what are the social, cultural and political variables influencing workplace design? Having considered the workplace we then look at domestic design, the principle site of labours reproduction, what types of homes do we live in and why, what are the rationales behind different types of home, what type of artefacts do we put in them and why, how has the use of space within the home changed over the years and what are the personal and social consequences that flow from these different domestic designs? We then go on to examine product design, the physical embodiment of alienated labour, focusing in particular on the dual nature of the product under capitalism ie its use-value and exchange value, exploring the dynamics and contradictions of a commodity producing society and evaluating the `strengths’ and `weaknesses’ of particular product designs. We then explore the ways in which our physical bodies are being re-shaped, re-modelled and re-worked at this particular historical conjuncture where social and political uncertainties and anxieties have reached new levels and led to a deeper preoccupation with bodily praxis. The module concludes by exploring the role of the state and local government agencies, pressure groups and third sector agencies etc. in maintain or undermining particular design paradigms and systems. Huge sums of public money are spent on particular design solutions be they in the areas of `defence’, transport or education etc. We will be looking at how particular design decisions are made and why particular paradigms are chosen and others rejected.

Learning Outcomes for module:

Upon completion of this module you will be able to:
LO1: Critically reflect upon the process of commodification and understand the centrality of design and the role of designers in maintaining capital accumulation.
LO2: Critically assess the core values, methods and practice of designers and appraise the ways in which they impact upon the design of any particular artefact or system.
LO3: Critically reflect upon the design process and the social, cultural and political variables affecting design outcomes in the workplace, home, product and body.
LO4: Evaluate the role of the state in supporting or undermining particular design paradigms.
LO5: Determine through the use of detailed case studies and the utilisation of key theoretical debates how particular artefacts and systems succeed whilst others fail.
LO6: Develop critical reading, writing and presentation skills

Indicative References and Reading List - URL:
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