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Design practices

Qualification dates
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This module provides a foundation in design practice by introducing topics from different creative and design disciplines. Each topic introduces design principles and practical skills that you’ll apply in a series of short design projects. Your tutor will support you throughout your project work, organising regular check-ins, discussion opportunities and project reviews. Your project work will contribute to your final design portfolio, a professional body of work that reflects your interests and your emerging design practice and identity.

What you will study

You’ll learn about design by exploring different design principles and learning essential practical skills through six topics and short projects.

Topic 1
In the first topic, you’ll explore visual and layout design by learning some key graphic design principles and basic skills in creating digital images. You’ll try out these principles and skills in Project 1 when you design a cover for an album, podcast or digital audio product.

Topic 2
This topic explores material and making in design, introducing some product and physical design principles. It provides a step-by-step introduction to developing your drawing, prototyping, and communication skills. You’ll use these skills to complete Project 2 – to repurpose an existing object.

Topic 3
Topic 3 introduces the emerging field of algorithmic design, exploring how computers are used to engage in creative design work, not just as design tools. You’ll have a chance to try some basic coding for yourself by designing a tiling pattern for wallpaper.

Topic 4
The fourth topic introduces principles of designing the places where we live. It also introduces some key design skills and tools commonly used in the design of the built environment, leading to the design of your own ‘small place’.

Topic 5
This project explores the complexity of design through systems, user experience and service design principles. You’ll develop skills useful in understanding complex product-service systems and apply these in Project 5 to redesign a service.

Topic 6
The final topic focuses on your design practice, exploring what you’ve learned and your design values. In Project 6, you'll begin to prepare your final design portfolio and will use this to explore what areas of design interest you and what you want to do next.

You’ll end the module by developing your design portfolio and reflecting on your personal and professional development. Your portfolio brings together a professional body of work that reflects your specific interests and your emerging design practice and identity.

By the end of the module, you’ll have become familiar with different areas of design, explored your own design practices, and developed core design skills by applying them to design projects – all of which will be a solid foundation to continue your learning.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this module.

At The Open University, we believe education should be open to all, so we provide high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Preparatory work

We recommend you’ve completed:

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • interactive design activities
  • assessment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • OpenDesignStudio, our online virtual studio space.

You will need

  • a digital camera (or mobile phone) – to take photos of your design work
  • access to a printer – to print out your work.

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

  • a scanner – to bring your doodles and sketches onto your computer
  • a graphics tablet – to help you interact with your computer with a pen instead of a mouse.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

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.

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.


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

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T190 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Design practices (T190) starts twice a year – in February and October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in February 2032.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment