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

2018/9, Trimester 1, Face-to-Face,
Occurrence: 001
Primary mode of delivery: Face-to-Face
Location of delivery: SIGHTHILL
Member of staff responsible for delivering module: Gavin Maclean
Module Organiser:

Learning, Teaching and Assessment (LTA) Approach:
Each taught input uses a variety of resources to foster student engagement including in class exercises and group discussions and a reflective and critical approach to the subject matter is maintained through fostering an empirically grounded theoretical approach involving the use of detailed case studies and contemporary research materials.

Formative Assessment:
Throughout the module students are encouraged to discuss key themes and issues through the medium of tutorial presentations and tutorial exercises to gauge their comprehension and to facilitate the practice of public speaking. Students are also asked to submit a 500 word draft design proposal in week 7 which they will then discuss with their tutor. This proposal is not graded but does allow them to benefit from the tutors suggestions and comments which they may then incorporate into their final Design Project submission.

Summative Assessment:
The students are required to submit a written project of 3500 words in week 13 which enables them to explore a particular design topic in detail. The topic they choose is also open for discussion with the tutor so that students can pursue areas of interest covered in the module they find relevant and appropriate.

Student Activity (Notional Equivalent Study Hours (NESH))
Mode of activityLearning & Teaching ActivityNESH (Study Hours)
Face To Face Lecture 24
Face To Face Seminar 12
Independent Learning Guided independent study 164
Total Study Hours200
Expected Total Study Hours for Module200

Type of Assessment Weighting % LOs covered Week due Length in Hours/Words
Project - Written 100 1,2,3,4,5 & 6 13 HOURS= 0, WORDS= 3500
Component 1 subtotal: 100
Component 2 subtotal: 0
Module subtotal: 100

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:

Please contact your Module Leader for details
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