Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years (1.8.2018-31.7.2020), which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


The course introduces students to design as a social practice. Students will be asked to address a real concern in a real community context, by generating and responding to one or a number of real life briefs in that chosen community. In addressing the brief(s), students should prioritise social over commercial impact.

To contextualise design practice in a social context, the course aims to position it in the expanding field of design. Students may furthermore explore positions, practice forms and practitioners in the fields of design activism, inclusive design, transition design, open design, communities of practice, design thinking, participatory design, public and private space.

In preparation for the live brief(s), participating students will be familiarised with methods of primary research, brief writing, project management, communication and presentation skills. The realisation of physical outcomes will be supported by the Aalto workshops as required.
On completion of the course, the students should be able to: (1) Contextualize design practice in a social context in the expanding field of design; (2) Demonstrate an understanding of social design positions, strategies and methods and incorporate these in their own design practice; (3) Apply theoretical, practical, activist and reflective methods of design in a social context in their own field of design.

Credits: 10

Schedule: 25.02.2020 - 02.04.2020

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Julia Grundmann

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):



  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    The course acts as an introduction to: (1) Design practice in a social context, historically and theoretically; (2) Different positions, practices and practitioners in the field of design in a social context. (e.g. design activism, inclusion, transition design, open design, communities of practice, design thinking, participatory design, concepts of public and private space); (3) Practical methods enabling students to effectively research first-hand, generate and write their own briefs, manage their projects, as well as realising, communicating and presenting their outcomes.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    For passing the course, the student has to participate in excursion, lectures and group activity (80%), and present the final artefact. After the course, the student has to deliver learning diary. Evaluation criteria: activity during the course, the creative process, quality of the final artefact and learning diary.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    270 h

    Contact teaching: lectures, site visits, group discussions, assignments and final presentation 90 h

    Independent work: literature study, writing assignments, studio work in groups and individually 160 h

    Personal reflection 30 h


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Manzini, Ezio (2015). Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. London: MIT Press. (selected chapters)


    Papanek, Victor (1992). Design for the real world: Human Ecology and Social Change. London: Thames and Hudson. (selected chapters)

    Sanders, Elisabeth (2002) From User-Centered to Participatory Design Approaches. In Jorge Frascara (ed.), Design and the Social Sciences, pp. 1-7. London: Taylor & Francis.


    Other literature sources will be given during the course.



Registration and further information