University of Technology Sydney

85502 Researching Design Histories

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2023 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Design
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


Designers need to communicate with funders, suppliers, logisticians, craftspeople, marketers and users. In addition to portfolio work, designers benefit from supplementing their practice with rhetorical skills that assist in offering direct and distinctive accounts of their concerns and abilities. An understanding of design history and key design concepts enables them to make more convincing arguments for their work. Through familiarity with a repertoire of key historical examples, students build the foundations on which to confidently describe and distinguish the emerging ideas in their own design practice.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. Discuss the significance of key historical events and contexts important to design.
2. Describe and analyse the relationship between form, style, material and idea across a diverse range of design artefacts.
3. Access and analyse data from a range of sources (analogue and digital).
4. Communicate verbally and visually according to specifications in the creation and size management of digital files and original work.
5. Demonstrate awareness and understand the value of Indigenous research perspectives.

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

The term CAPRI is used for the five Design, Architecture and Building faculty graduate attribute categories where:

C = communication and groupwork

A = attitudes and values

P = practical and professional

R = research and critique

I = innovation and creativity.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs) are linked to these categories using codes (e.g. C-1, A-3, P-4, etc.).

Teaching and learning strategies

Researching Design Histories will be delivered through blended learning for students studying locally and online for students who are offshore. The delivery format of this subject is a one hour lecture followed by a two hour tutorial.

Depending on the week, lectures will be presented in person, live on Zoom, and/or as a recording made available on Canvas. Please see the weekly description of the lecture to find out the mode of delivery for that week. Any changes to the schedule will be communicated in the Announcements section on Canvas.

Tutorials will be delivered face-to-face and through Zoom for students studying remotely. Tutorials are collaborative spaces for you to discuss and share ideas with your tutors and peers. Your tutor will help the group to stay on track with the subject content, facilitate discussion and offer expert insight and direction as needed, but as learners you are primarily responsible for creating a dynamic class environment.

To make the most of the learning opportunities offered through the subject, watch the lecture and complete required readings and preparatory tasks as instructed before class. It is your responsibility to arrive to tutorials with questions and insights gleaned from engaging with the subject materials (readings, lecture, additional resources).

Skill development:
In this subject, you will be engaging with tasks that are designed to allow you to develop some basic and very important skills you will need as a designer and that will also set you up to successfully complete your degree. Through this subject you will have opportunities to develop your learning academic literacy skills, research skills, groupwork methodologies, presentation skills and very important critical analysis skills.

This subject is specifically designed to ensure students have the opportunity to respond to feedback on their work. Assessment 1 functions as an interim for Assessment 2, allowing students to use the expert feedback from tutors for the earlier assessment task to improve their written communication in the final submission. Students will thereby be able to gauge the extent to which their work is developing in relation to the subject objectives over the course of the session. Students will receive informal, impressionistic feedback during tutorials, as well as formal feedback though the online feedback software, Review. In addition to formal feedback, tutors will use a range of tutorial activities that function to facilitate an in-class milieu where peers verbalise constructive advice to each other.

Changes to planned delivery
While we remain in the COVID-19 pandemic there could be changes to planned delivery necessitated by changes in public health orders, or an unplanned emergency situation (e.g. the teaching tutor is in isolation). If an emergency change to the delivery plan is needed, this will be published in the notifications and announcements section on the subject site in CANVAS.

OPELA and Language Development Tutorials
An aim of this subject is to help you develop academic and professional language and communication skills in order to succeed at university and in the workplace. To determine your current academic language proficiency, you are required to complete an online language screening task, OPELA (information available at

If you receive a Basic grade for OPELA, you must attend additional Language Development Tutorials (each week from week [3/4] to week [11/12] in order to pass the subject. These tutorials are designed to support you to develop your language and communication skills.

Students who do not complete the OPELA and/or do not attend 80% of the Language Development Tutorials will receive a W (result Withheld) grade. This grade can be lifted when students complete a Language Development Intensive (LDI) or Language Development Online (LDO).

Content (topics)

Researching Design Histories is composed of three key modules:

  1. Identity
  2. Consumption
  3. Labour

The following concepts and themes are shared across the modules.

  • Design as an engaged social practice
  • Discussion of design responses to wider social and cultural shifts
  • Ethics of consumption
  • Relationships between physical and virtual space
  • The impact of design thinking in changing the operations within a range of life contexts
  • The changing nature of production and labour
  • Impact of the construction of historical narratives for the formulation of individual and social identities


Assessment task 1: Weekly Responses (Weeks 2 - 4)


In this assessment task students demonstrate comprehension and engagement with ideas presented through Module 1: Identity (weeks 2 - 4). In the preparation of this submission students develop skills in synthesising ideas from a range of sources, apply academic writing principles and become familiar with the UTS referencing system and academic integrity protocols.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 4 and 5

Type: Exercises
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 35%

Length: 3 x 300 - 400 word entries (900 - 1200 words in total)


1. Comprehension and engagement

2. Written communication and referencing

3. Respect and understanding of Indigenous perspectives

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Comprehension and engagement 35 1
Written communication and referencing 35 4
Respect and understanding of Indigenous perspectives 30 5
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Research Project


In this assessment students conduct a focused research project reflecting on the cultural significance and relationships between THREE design artefacts. During this assessment students expand analytical and research skills, which are essential in starting to develop ideas underpinning individual design practices. This assessment task engages a mixture of approaches to the presentation of ideas, which allows students to develop visual, oral and written communication skills.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3 and 4

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 65%

Written Submission 1800 - 2000 words.


1. Analysis
2. Historical understanding
3. Research
4. Written communication and referencing
5. Concept mapping communication

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Analysis 30 2
Historical understanding 20 1
Research 20 3
Written communication and referencing 15 4
Concept map communication 15 4
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

The DAB attendance policy requires students to attend no less than 80% of formal teaching sessions (lectures and tutorials) for each class they are enrolled in to remain eligible for assessment.

Records of lecture attendance will be kept.

Tutorial Attendance

Students are expected to come to tutorials adequately prepared. This means doing the readings and being ready to discuss them. If students are not adequately prepared for tutorials, they will be marked as absent. The readings, lectures and tutorials are an interconnected system designed to optimise your opportunities to learn. The high degree of continuity across the subject's program means that missing one week can leave you ill-equipped to participate in the following week’s discussion.

Additional Writing Support

Students are advised that this subject involves a significant reading and writing component. If students are concerned about their literacy skills they are encouraged to contact the UTS Higher Education Language and Presentation Support (HELPS) service as early as possible.

OPELA and Language Development Tutorials

It is a requirement of this subject that all students complete OPELA. Students who received a Basic grade in the OPELA are required to attend 80% of the Language Development Tutorials in order to pass the subject. Students who do not complete the OPELA and/or do not attend 80% of the Language Development Tutorials will receive a W (result Withheld) grade.

Required texts

All Required readings can be accessed online through the Reading List tab on Canvas. See the week-by-week lecture schedule for details.

* Students must complete each week’s activities before the lecture and tutorial on Monday.

Recommended texts

Adamson, G., Riello, G., & Teasley, S. (2011). Global Design History, London : Routledge.

Archibald, J., Xiiem, Q., Lee-Morgan, J., Santolo, J., & Smith, L. (2019). Decolonizing research : indigenous storywork as methodology. London, United Kingdom: ZED Books Ltd.

Clark, H. & Brody, D.E. 2009, Design studies: A reader, English edn, Oxford and New York : Berg.

Fallan, K. 2010, Design history: Understanding theory and method, Oxford and New York: Berg.

Fry, T. (2012). Becoming human by design. Oxford and New York: Berg.

Fry, T., Dilnot, C., & Stewart, S. (2015). Design and the question of history . New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Kaufmann-Buhler, J., Pass, V., & Wilson, C. (2019). Design history beyond the canon . London ;: Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

Koolhaas, R. (2002). Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping, Taschen Press.

Latour, B. (2013). ‘Telling friends from foes at the time of the anthropocene,’ Lecture prepared for the EHESSCentre Koyré- Sciences Po symposium "Thinking the Anthropocene" Paris, 14th-15th, November 2013, See:

Lees-Maffei, G. & Houze, R. (2010), The design history reader, New York : Berg.

Riello, G. & McNeil, P. (2010). The fashion history reader: global perspectives. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon and New York : Routledge,.

Sloterdijk, P. (2013). The World Interior of Capital. Trans. Wieland Hoban. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 169-176.

Smith, L. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies research and indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). London : Zed Books.

Stephen, A., Goad, P. & McNamara, A. (2008). Modern times: The untold story of modernism in Australia. Melbourne and Sydney : Miegunyah Press in association with Powerhouse Publishing.