Course Title: Design in Society: Histories, Politics and Contexts of Application

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Design in Society: Histories, Politics and Contexts of Application

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


315H Architecture & Design


Sem 1 2006,
Sem 1 2007,
Sem 1 2008,
Sem 1 2009,
Sem 1 2010,
Sem 2 2010,
Sem 1 2011,
Sem 2 2011,
Sem 1 2012,
Sem 2 2012,
Sem 1 2013,
Sem 2 2013


City Campus


320H Architecture & Urban Design


Sem 1 2014,
Sem 2 2014,
Sem 1 2015,
Sem 2 2015,
Sem 1 2016,
Sem 2 2016,
Sem 1 2017,
Sem 2 2017


City Campus


370H Design


Sem 1 2018,
Sem 2 2018,
Sem 1 2019,
Sem 2 2019,
Sem 1 2022,
Sem 2 2022,
Sem 1 2023,
Sem 2 2023


Brunswick Campus


370H Design


Sem 1 2020,
Sem 2 2020,
Sem 1 2021,
Sem 2 2021

Course Coordinator: Soumitri Varadarajan

Course Coordinator Phone: Please email

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: Please email

Course Coordinator Availability: Please email

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description

Industrial design practice and its outcomes are both a product, and producer, of historical, political, social and cultural paradigms. Design and Society opens up both contemporary and historical contexts of industrial design and its technical, aesthetic, social and political discourses. In this course you will develop a broadened appreciation for the discipline and its origins, and the asymmetry of its current and significantly globalized locations and modalities of practice; within the Asian century and the intensity of late stage industrialisation; within contexts of development; and, within it’s changing roles and meanings within post-industrial economies.

This course aims to equip you with the foundational knowledge and skills to effectively research and reflect on the inter-contingent nature of design and society through a variety of cultural, social and critical theories and the investigation of contemporary and historical design practices. You will develop an approach to design history and theory that will enable the acquisition of a rich theoretical and methodological base from which to conduct an informed and critical practice in design. You will be guided through developing analytical abilities to interpret and articulate how and why Industrial design functions within societal contexts, and in doing so will develop your own values and orientations as a designer.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

In this course you will develop the following program learning outcomes: 

Apply analytical, critical, creative and strategic thinking to industrial design problems and research within complex and unfamiliar contexts and concerns.

Articulate complex design ideas to diverse audiences through an advanced and adaptable repertoire of communication strategies and technologies.

Advocate through design practice the improvement of the conditions and wellbeing of people, cultural practices and environments.

Reflect on own learning and the efficacy of design decisions made, adapting to needs and issues as they arise, and continuously seeking improvement.

Demonstrate through practice-based design research an advanced knowledge of the socio-technical, environmental and economic eco-systems of industrial design both locally and globally.

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

1) Effectively map, research, analyse and communicate theories and their interrelationships confidently through written, design, oral and visual presentations.

2) Appropriately evidence propositions and ideas in response to methods of research and academic conventions.

3) Engage in peer to peer learning and critique processes and to be critical and reflective of own work.

4) Locate key ideas in design theory with reference to their historical and methodological origins.

Overview of Learning Activities

You will be actively engaged in learning that involves a range of face to face and online activities such as lectures, tutorials, group and class discussion, group activities and individual research. You will be required to undertake the following learning activities: reading, in field observations, watching films and documentaries, field trips, debates, presentations, academic writing, drawing, peer review and associated design activities. You are encouraged and expected to participate (in an ongoing manner) in tutorial discussions and activities and to present their work and ideas in an open way for appraisal by peers.

Overview of Learning Resources

RMIT will provide you with resources and tools for learning in this course through our online systems.

To effectively participate in coursework, either on or away from campus, you are advised to obtain (as a minimum) the following:

  • Drawing Supplies including visual diaries, pens, pencils, markers and ancillary products and consumables.
  • Personal Protective Equipment including protective eye-wear, ear plugs, a dust jacket, and closed toe safety shoes - Prototyping Supplies including a 150mm steel ruler, a high quality craft knife and ancillary products, materials and consumables.
  • Design and Documentation Equipment including a personal computer of an appropriate specification, course specific software, a digital camera and a mobile phone.

    When on campus you will have access to and will utilise the School of Design workshop facilities, specialist computer labs and software, and 2D and 3D printing facilities.

    Course specific resources such as readings, reference lists, access to specialist software, video demonstrations and class notes will be provided online.

    There are services available to support your learning through the University Library. The Library provides guides on academic referencing and subject specialist help as well as a range of study support services. For further information, please visit the Library page on the RMIT University website and the myRMIT student portal.

Overview of Assessment

You will be assessed on how well you meet the course’s learning outcomes and on your development against the program learning outcomes.

Assessment Tasks

Assessment Task 1: Appreciation, 10% CLO2

Assessment Task 2: Design Research, 30% CLO1, CLO3, CLO4

Assessment Task 3: Critical Writing, 30%, CLO1, CLO3, CLO4

Assessment Task 4: Project Report, 30%, CLO1, CLO2, CLO3, CLO4

Feedback will be given on all assessment tasks.

If you have a long term medical condition and/or disability it may be possible to negotiate to vary aspects of the learning or assessment methods.

You can contact the program coordinator or Equitable Learning Services if you would like to find out more. Your course assessment conforms to RMIT assessment principles, regulations, policies, procedures and instructions.