Studio 10: Critical Theory and Design: Artefacts, Images, Sites, Process

Studio brief

Critical theories can be said to have a practical aim: to increase our freedoms in the circumstances of domination, and thus aim for real democracy and consensus in our societies. This dissertation studio aims to bring into discussion the ways in which design artefacts, images, sites and processes can be seen to uphold various circumstances of domination. For example, consider ongoing sexism, racism, ableism, neo-colonialism in our 'globalised' everyday of images, artefacts, sites and the production and consumption of these.

This dissertation studio invites you to interrogate the problems of our social reality through a well developed theoretical critique of the culture of design in our everyday lives. You will focus on carefully identified primary objects of study (artefacts, images, sites, processes); close examination of these objects of study and their complex socio-cultural, political, economic, technological and historical contexts will employ relevant critical theories to understand and explain how they contribute to, uphold the problems of our social reality. In writing a rigorous critique of design, you will not only present clear norms for your own and your peers' ongoing criticism (e.g. through your design careers) but also actively participate in transforming our societies - through the very work of critical writing.

First seven weeks of study

The first 6-7 weeks of this studio will be devoted seminars, presentations, discussions and visits aimed at familiarising us all with the underpinning ethics of critical theory, with various critical theories, and with methods of applying critical theory in analysing your primary research. All studio members are expected to participate for the principal of true consensus. You will also develop a coherent dissertation proposal with supervision and through peer discussion. After this time you will progress to developing your own critical dissertations with supervisory advice, tutorials and peer presentations of work in progress.

Reading list

  1. Badminton, Neil and Julia Thomas, eds. (2008). The Routledge Critical and Cultural Theory Reader. London: Routledge
  2. Candlin, Fiona and Raiford Guins, eds. (2009). The Object Reader. London: Routledge
  3. Highmore, Ben, ed. (2009). The Design Culture Reader. London: Routledge
  4. Mirzoeff, Nicholas, ed. (2013). The Visual Culture Reader. London: Routledge
  5. Key academic journals: Design Studies. Journal of Design History, Journal of Popular Culture
Graffiti, Venice, 2013


Tutor Dr Dipti Bhagat

Tutor biography


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