DESN 3001 Contextual Design Studies

Credit Points 10

Legacy Code 102275

Coordinator Alison Gill Opens in new window

Description Contextual design studies is the study of what happens around design practice - before, during and after - to explain its meaning and effect. Successful communication design has always depended on the connection between form, content, audience and context, and the designer's abilities to analyse, understand and clarify the contexts of communication have become more important to creative practice. In this subject students will learn to apply the theoretical frameworks of semiotic, thematic and rhetorical analysis used by the interdisciplinary field of Design Studies to interpret design's potential as cultural expression and communication. Students will analyse visual signs and conventions as both targeted and tacit responses to a range of contexts revealing design's interests in marketplaces, society and identity. Students will analyse various graphic examples, and design literature, as they investigate the significance and agency of design interactions, media artefacts and systems.

School Humanities & Comm Arts

Discipline Graphic Design Studies

Student Contribution Band HECS Band 2 10cp

Check your fees via the Fees page.

Level Undergraduate Level 3 subject

Pre-requisite(s) DESN 2014

Equivalent Subjects DESN 2003 - Design Issues

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  1. Apply terminology and theoretical frameworks used in design studiesto analyse what design means and does.
  2. Research and investigate the social, economic and/or political contexts that inform visual design in explicit and tacit ways;
  3. Critically evaluate examples of contemporary design practice that respond to these contexts.
  4. Reconceptualise codes and conventions or redirect visual concepts to address an audience and construct a context for visual design including enriching social diversity and environmental sustainability.
  5. Demonstrate advanced visual and text-based literacy skills in effective written and visual communication.

Subject Content

1. An overview of the interdisciplinary field of Design Studies and the cultural, communication and sociological theories required for analysing design contexts.
2. The subject content will investigate several scenarios where theoretical frameworks are employed to unpack the economic, social, and/or political contexts of design.
3. Examples of visual communication responses strategically informed by the analysis of various contexts might include:
-The expanding commodity form and consumerist value system
-Codes and conventions used in advertising consumer products and identities; for example, gender representation in visual culture.
-Branding; product values and service systems.
-Fast fashion cycles in the mediated marketplace; fashion, media and material impacts.
-investigating The social and material intelligences deployed in The design of ?eexperiences?f as designers Seek A deeper Understanding of human behaviour, value systems and relationships.
-Participatory design; working


The following table summarises the standard assessment tasks for this subject. Please note this is a guide only. Assessment tasks are regularly updated, where there is a difference your Learning Guide takes precedence.

Type Length Percent Threshold Individual/Group Task
Applied Project Visual, plus 200 words 30 N Individual
Summary 1,000 words 30 N Individual
Essay 1,800 words with visuals 40 N Individual

Prescribed Texts

  • Yates, D. & Price, J. (2015). Communication design: Insights from the creative industries. London; New York: Fairchild Books.

Teaching Periods

Autumn (2023)

Parramatta - Victoria Rd


Subject Contact Alison Gill Opens in new window

View timetable Opens in new window

Autumn (2024)

Parramatta - Victoria Rd


Subject Contact Alison Gill Opens in new window

View timetable Opens in new window