Dipti Bhagat

Studio 10: Critical Theory and Critical Design. Artefacts, Images, Sites, Processes in Graphics and Illustration

Graffiti, Venice, 2013.

Studio brief

Critical theories can be said to have a powerful 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 lively discussion and critique the ways in which design artefacts, images, sites and processes can be seen to invent, reiterate, uphold and extend domination. You'll consider the sexism, racism, xenophobia, ableism, ageism, homophobia and transphobia in our so-called ‘globalised' everyday life of images, artefacts, sites and the reckless production, mediation and hyper-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: this will be done either through a full dissertation (6,000-7,500 words) or through a combined submission of academic writing (4,500-6,000 words) and a co-constitutive critical design response to the unfreedoms you wish to illuminate.

Yes, this studio offers a choice to develop and complete a dissertation+critical design outcome, where text and design will work together. However, be warned, this is not an easy option; on the contrary, this is a very demanding combination to get right and you will feel like you are doing two pieces of work.

You'll 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 what they contribute to and how they uphold the unfreedoms of our social reality. You will either: develop and complete a full dissertation, or a dissertation and critical design submission. You'll be closely supervised and advised, so as to ensure you can deliver on your choice of dissertation.

The question remains: through your work as rigorous academic writers and astute critical designers, can we actively participate in transforming our societies? Indeed, what do we learn about the world through our efforts to transform the world?

First seven weeks of study

The first 6 weeks of this studio will be devoted to seminars, presentations, workshops, discussions and visits aimed at familiarising us all with various critical theories, with methods of applying critical theory in analysing your primary research, and with critical design as a practice. All studio members will attend fully and are expected to engage at a high level for the principal of critical dialogue. You will also develop a coherent dissertation or dissertation+critical design proposal with supervision and through peer discussion. After this time you will progress to developing your own dissertations with supervisory advice, tutorials and peer presentations of work in progress. We will work together as a studio to develop workshops, visits and seminars and dissertations.

Reading list

  • Badminton, N. and J. Thomas, eds. (2008). The Routledge Critical and Cultural Theory Reader. London: Routledge
  • Candlin, F. and R. Guins, eds. (2009). The Object Reader. London: Routledge
  • Davis, L.J., ed. (2010). The Disability Studies Reader. New York: Routledge.
  • Dunne, A. and F. Raby, (2001). Design Noir: the Secret Life of Electronic Objects. Basel: Birkhauser Verlag
  • Hall, S. (2012), City, Street and Citizen: The Measure of the Ordinary. London: Routledge
  • Highmore, B. ed. (2009). The Design Culture Reader. London: Routledge
  • Jones, A., ed, (2010) The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. London: New York: Routledge
  • Lopez, A. J. ed. (2005). Postcolonial Whiteness: a Critical Reader on Race and Empire. Albany: State University of New York Press
  • Mirzoeff, N., ed. (2013). The Visual Culture Reader. London: Routledge
  • Stryker, S. and A.Z. Aizura, eds. (2013). The Transgender Studies Reader 2. New York; Abingdon: Routledge

Articles from key academic journals will be supplied through weblearn. Further reading will be recommended as work develops.


Tutor Dr Dipti Bhagat with Christopher Emmett

Tutor biography

Dissertation Studios

Studio 1: Another India

Harriet McKay

Studio 1: Another India will examine, reflect upon and critique the historic use of "exotic" motifs in design.

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry

Christina Paine

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry is an exploration of race, gender, class and more in music.

Studio 4: What Not to Wear?

Emma Davenport

Studio 4: What Not to Wear? will investigate the roles that dress and fashion play in our workplaces.

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories

Ektoras Arkomanis

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories allows you to critically examine any work that can be seen as theory or presents an interesting relationship with theory.

Studio 6: Curating Contemporary Art: From the Wunderkammer to Installation art

Nico de Oliveira

Studio 6: Curating Contemporary Art examines the impact of curatorial practice on art.

Studio 7: Fashioning culture: clothing and the shaping of identity

Dr Lesley Stevenson

Studio 7: Fashioning culture will examine critically the links between fashion, clothing and identity.

Studio 8: Pleasure, Excess and Dirt

Edwina Attlee

Studio 8 explores ideas of category, definition, identification and belonging through the examination of a series of objects and behaviours that appear to be in the wrong place instead of the right place.

Studio 9: The Continuing Lives of Objects

Danielle Hewitt

Studio 9: The Continuing Lives of Objects uses debates about change and preservation explore ideas within architecture.

Studio 10: Critical Theory and Critical Design. Artefacts, Images, Sites, Processes in Graphics and Illustration

Dipti Bhagat with Christopher Emmett

Studio 10 requires deep commitment and completion of critical theory and design for graphic design and illustration.

Studio 12: London Walking

Clare Qualmann

Studio 12: London Walking looks at walking as a mode of creatively appropriating the city, with particular attention to our own city, London.

Studio 14: All in the best possible Taste

Dr John Cross

Studio 14: 'All in the best possible Taste' examines the historical influencers of taste, style and fashion.

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas

Lewis Jones

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas encourages you to explore how and why we make music, including its origin, relationship to technology and more.

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling

Jon Baldwin

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling will see you produce storygraphs, storyboards and various forms of narrative analysis in the seminars.

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences

Jeremy Collins

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences will encourage you to study an audience group using qualitative research methods in your investigations.

Studio 19: Material in Motion

Heidi Yeo

Studio 19: Material in Motion will explore why an audience will put time, money and thought into acquiring an object.

Studio 20: Image ethics: Form, meaning and context

Dr Nick Haeffner

Studio 20: Image ethics: Form, meaning and context explores the aesthetics of the image and its role within fantasy, desire and social memory.

Studio 21: The Nonsensical Realm III

Joseph Kohlmaier

Studio 21: The Nonsensical Realm is a cross-disciplinary studio. This year it will engage with the idea of metaphor in art, architecture, design and music.

Studio 22: Meaningful work

Paul Harper

Studio 22: Meaningful work explores the value of making and the idea of craft as meaningful work.

Studio 23: A Common Thread

Gina Pierce

Studio 23: A Common Thread examines the relationship between textiles and everyday life, including its design, trade, sustainability and more.

Studio 24: Words in Space

David Price

Studio 24: Words in Space reflects on the role that words play in our visual world, performative spaces and the urban environment.

Cass Studios archive by year