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Design essentials

The world is full of designed objects, from skyscrapers to products that fit into the palm of your hand. Designers have used their skills to translate ideas and needs into all the objects that you see around you. In this module you will learn about the essential skills and practices that designers use to create detailed design solutions. You will develop your own ability to identify opportunities for design, meet the needs of potential users and create and communicate new design solutions. The knowledge and skills that you will gain are relevant in many design domains as well as a wide range of industries.    

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

Browse qualifications in related subjects

Module

Module code
T217
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
OU SCQF FHEQ
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module is presented in five blocks. Each block focuses on a different phase in the development of a designed product. The first three blocks will give you the skills and tools that are necessary for the research, planning and development of a design project by looking at various products such as chairs, bicycles, mobile phones, kitchen gadgets, buildings and many others. The last two blocks will give you the skills and tools to translate your design ideas into well-specified products by focusing on the configuration, form, material and manufacturing processes.

Block 1 – Exploring designs and designing

The first block sets the scene of the whole module. It looks at the relation between people and products and discusses the human, cultural and engineering factors that influence the creation of designs. Block 1 will help you develop critical and inquisitive thinking skills when you observe designs around you.

Block 2 – Designing for people

In this block you'll focus on designing for people and the research carried out in the early stages of the design process. You will learn how to find out about people’s needs, preferences and behaviours in order to specify new products. Block 2 will help you develop user research and planning skills.

Block 3 – Creative designing

The third block focuses on the creative strategies that designers employ in order to address design problems – particularly strategies for idea generation in the early concept design phases. It also teaches some of the core theories of creativity. Block 3 will help you develop your creative thinking skills.

Block 4 – Embodying designs

This looks at the configuration and form of designs aiming to teach you how to turn design concepts into a well-defined design description (layout design). Block 4 will help you develop your visual and spatial thinking skills.

Block 5 – Design for making

The final block looks at material and manufacturing processes and how design ideas are developed into detailed designs for manufacturing. It will help you to bring together the skills you have developed throughout the module.

All five blocks will contribute in the development of your ability to think and communicate ideas through modelling and drawings.

You will spend time working both online and offline. The core materials for the module are printed books supported by online multimedia resources and practical design activities (offline and online). You will use SketchUp to develop your computer-aided design skills. Central to the module is an online virtual design studio, where you will upload images of your practical work to discuss online with other students and your tutor.

You will learn

At the end of this module you will be able to:

  • understand why designs take the forms that they do
  • create and develop design ideas through drawing and modelling
  • carry out user research and apply creative strategies for generating design ideas
  • turn ideas into detailed designs for manufacturing by specifying the form and materials of designs.

The knowledge and skills developed in this module are applicable in various roles within creative industries, product design, engineering and architecture.

Vocational relevance

The module will help you gain knowledge and skills that are applicable across many design fields, including product design, engineering, architecture and other creative industries. It can help you creatively engage with any situation that requires the identification and exploration of problems, the research and development of ideas as well as the translation of ideas and concepts into designs. The module also develops a broad understanding and appreciation of design and design processes applicable in education, business and other domains related to arts and technology as well as to design.  

The knowledge and skills learned in this module can be used in various roles in these different fields. They can be used to lead or facilitate research and creative thinking within teams, businesses and organisations and they may also be used as part of your development as a designer.

The module can also help you when you are considering studying design elsewhere by providing a good background on and experience of the essential skills and knowledge of designers.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Design essentials (T217) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2021.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2022.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    Examination
    No residential school


    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have the study skills required for this level, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

    Our OU level 1 module Design thinking: creativity for the 21st century (U101) would be ideal preparation, but is not essential.

    Beyond basic study skills, nothing more specific is expected other than a curiosity about objects, why they are as they are, and how they might be different and better. We do not assume that you can already design, or even draw competently. You will be taught all the concepts and skills that you need, but if you already have some skills you will be able to develop them further.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jun 2022 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2022.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 23/09/2021.

    What's included

    You'll have access a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assessment details and submission section
    • OpenDesignStudio which is an online platform for sharing your work and viewing and commenting on the work of others
    • online tutorial access
    • some software downloads which will be used during the module.

    You'll also receive five printed books, a modelling workbook and a paper pack.

    You will need

    • A digital camera or phone camera to take and upload photos of your work.
    • Access to a printer to print out your work and other materials.

    Although not essential, you might also find it desirable to have access to the following:

    • A scanner or scanning app to put hand-drawn sketches onto your computer.
    • A video camera.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T217 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.