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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (11 'Big Sur' 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.