Design Studies – history, theory, criticism


Admission requirements

Basic Eligibility + English B


Course Code:
KD346A revision 1.1
Swedish name:
Designstudier – historia, teori, kritik
Level of specialisation
Main fields of study:
No main fields
Date of ratification:
13 May 2020
Decision-making body:
Faculty of Culture and Society
Enforcement date:
31 August 2020
Replaces Syllabus ratified:
29 January 2020

Entry requirements

Basic Eligibility + English B

Specialisation and progression relative to the degree regulations

The course does not have a main field.


The course contextualizes design historically, culturally and politically. The aim is to promote an understanding of design from a critical perspective and as a critical phenomenon, conceptually as well as in terms of practice, and thereby to present a bridge between different design disciplines as well as between the design field and the humanities. Designated as Design Studies the course is pedagogically oriented towards exploration and debate with certain design-related and practical elements.


Based on a previously offered course in Design Theory (15 hp), the Design Studies course is more clearly oriented towards Scandinavian design history and debate, with aspects such as modernity, the Welfare State, and democracy as central frameworks. The course introduces “design” as a concept, as a historical phenomenon and skillset, but also in more general terms, as a socio-material practice, as an expression of contemporaneity and ‘futurability’.
The course is divided into three parts:

  1. Design histories: Culture, society, modernity;
  2. Pioneers in the expanded design field: A Scandinavian outlook;
  3. Design Controversies: Needs, values and desires

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course the student should be able to:

  1. give an account of important historical development phases and design disciplines;
  2. explain the concept of design as idea, practice and artefact;
  3. describe design processes with the point of departure in different theories, methods and value perspectives;
  4. identify how different relationship between cultural, societal and political imaginaries affect the idea of design and result in different approaches to design practice;
  5. conduct a critical and constructive dialogue on current forms and applications of design;
  6. identify ethical dilemmas of design, i.e. where environmental or ideological interests clash with ideas of economic development;
  7. apply the course content in oral and written interpretations and evaluations of design products, environments and services.

Learning activities

Reading course based on group exercises, seminars and individual writing assignments, yet with certain emphasis on practical, orally supported visualizing forms of communication and presentation.


Assessment is based on individual literature summaries (LO 1,2,3 – 6 hp) complemented with group assignments including practical elements (LO 4,5,6 – 3 hp), and a final independent interpretative essay with certain practical elements (LO 1,4,7 – 6 hp). Equal weight is attached to content and form aspects.
For re-examination of group- and practice-oriented assignments, certain circumstances apply since the examination of these assignments are dependent on peer-learning and student participation within the framework of the course. Re-examination will be given according to the student’s rights, taking into consideration the character of the assignment and its specific context.

Grading system

Excellent (A), Very Good (B), Good (C), Satisfactory (D), Pass (E) or Fail (U).

Course literature and other teaching materials

  • Clark, H. and Brody, D (2009) Design Studies: A Reader) Oxford ; New York : Berg.
  • Dunne, A. and Raby, F. (2013) Speculative Everything. Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT Press.
  • Fallan, Kjetil (red.) (2012) Scandinavian Design: Alternative Histories. London: Berg Publishers.
  • Heskett, J., Dilnot, C. and Boztepe, S. (2017) Design and the Creation of Value. Bloomsbury.
  • Kaaberg, Helena and Barbara Mill Lane (eds.) (2008) Modern Swedish Design: Three Foundational Texts. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.
  • Mattsson, Helena; Wallenstein, Sven-Olov (2009). 1930|1931: Swedish Modernism at the Crossroads. Stockholm: Axl Books.
  • Redström, J. (2017) Making Design Theory. MIT Press.
  • Scarry, E. (1987) The Making and Unmaking of the World. Oxford University Press.
  • Heskett, J. (2005) Design: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
  • Julier, G. (2000) The Culture of Design. London: Sage.
  • Tharp, B.M. and Tharp S. M. (2019) Discursive Design. Critical, speculative and alternative things. MIT Press.
  • Willis, Anne-Marie ed. (2019) The Design Philosophy Reader. London and New York: Bloomsbury.)

Course evaluation

The University provides all students who are participating in, or have completed, a course to express their experiences and views on the course through a course evaluation which is organized at the end of the course. The university will collate the course evaluations and provide information about their results and any actions prompted by them. The results shall be made available to the students. (HF 1:14).

Interim rules

When a course is no longer given, or the contents have been radically changed, the student has the right to re-take the examination, which will be given twice during a one-year period, according to the syllabus which was valid at the time of registration.


The education is provided by the Faculty of Culture and Society at the School of Arts and Communication.

Further information