This Masters programme provides the critical skills necessary to reflect on and interpret the numerous roles design plays today, while challenging conventional perceptions of what design is. It draws on theory and direct observation, using research, reporting, and analysis to develop a personal point of view articulated in the form of writing and exhibition-making.
The course invites close study of things – that is, the physical products of a consumer society. How are objects imbued with meaning? What do they say about our culture and society? What economic and environmental systems determine them? Students will learn to “read” objects and be able to place them in a broader cultural context. It will soon become apparent, however, that objects are less and less divisible from the systems and networks on which they rely. So much design today is inherent in the workings of technological products – at the level of code. Screen-based interfaces and networked devices govern so many of our everyday experiences, and their underlying design has a logic and a politics that demands scrutiny. Similarly, social design engages in the workings of a community, in the complex network of relations. Design literacy today demands an awareness of such systems. Our analysis of non-things also extends to the understanding of spaces, from interiors to the public realm. How do we read a space, and how do people behave in particular places? How are our notions of public and private changing?
This course is geared towards a rapidly shifting media landscape in which publishing, museums, academia and design institutions are redefining themselves. Students are encouraged to develop a high level of critical thinking which they can continue to pursue in professional careers that incorporate aspects of journalism, research, criticism and curating. They are equipped with skills that address traditional forms of writing and exhibition-making alongside online platforms, broadcasting and more experimental media and display formats.
One of the advantages of being embedded in a design school is that aspiring writers and curators are in an environment where design is constantly being generated. This proximity to the thought processes and working methods of designers offers a deeper understanding of how design works. It is also an opportunity to develop collaborations and alliances with designers that may be formative to their future practices.
The course is a crossroads for international writers, curators, editors, and designers, who share their insights and experience. Students also benefit from affiliations with the Design Museum in London and the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, with the potential to gain an insider’s view of live projects.