This course is organised jointly by the MA-programs CoDE – Contemporary Design and FaCT – Fashion Clothing and Textile Design and it is a compulsory course for all first-year students.
We will convene in different locations, please bear with us! The code V refers to Väre building (Otaniemientie 14) and U refers to the old main building at Otakaari 1. The classes take place mainly in these locations. If some changes occur, further announcements will be made via MyCourses.
The 21st century is marked by uncertainty. Suddenly many of the questions we used to ask through design – and answered – seem superfluous and we question our basic assumptions of how we produce, consume and engage with the world. In the domain of contemporary design and fashion, a number of norms have been challenged recently while an expansion of their boundaries has taken place.
For instance, in design we question the expert role, hierarchies and processes of our profession (Manzini 2015). We also question unsustainable global production and consumption models and the untenable prioritisation of comfort over resilience. Also, in fashion, the traditional models of practice and exchange, such as “fashion week” are being questioned by numerous fashion designers and brands (Nonoo 2017).
We need to rethink the norms we follow – not only to navigate the constantly changing field of design, but also develop design practices that minimise our negative impact on the planet. The aim of this course is to critically reflect on actual design case studies, become aware of what we take for granted in our own design practices – and actively evolve our ways of working through this reflection.
2. Intended Learning Outcomes
The intended learning outcomes of the Critical Design Practices course is to:
(1) critically unpack a design practice, articulate the methods employed in it and reflect on their effectiveness;
(2) analyse one’s own practice to identify and articulate established norms and methods employed;
(3) critically examine their sociocultural background and finally
(4) propose and develop an alternative approach that challenges a specific norm and expands your methods thus far.
3. Teaching Methods and Motivation
To work towards these learning outcomes, you will undertake field work, reflect on your findings and research, receive input through lectures and complete studio-based group work. You will be asked to submit individual learning diaries alongside the final outcomes you create.
The beginning of the course overlaps with Helsinki Design Week (September 5-15, 2019 / HDW). You are invited to attend the opening of Critical Tide exhibition on the 5th of September (18-20pm, Design Museum Helsinki) and will be asked to participate in multiple events of the design week on the weekend before the course starts and during the first week of the course.
The theme for this year’s Helsinki Design Week is “Learning Climate” and the spectrum of events include workshops, performances, exhibitions and talks. This programming enables you to start the project with field work, by immersing yourselves into the HDW program, to then critically reflect on the methods applied and speculate how to apply the thinking into your own design practice. Individually, you choose a few events to participate in and analyse them in a brief report. The methods you discover form the basis of a subsequent discussion on frames and methods of design. Your choice of events / frames / methods will demonstrate your individual interests and help teachers group them accordingly.
To complement your reflections on HDW, teaching staff and guest lecturers will give a series of lectures. These provide a theoretical context for students from CoDe and FaCT to support their critical thinking and provide tools for more expansive interpretations.
The group work builds on the above mentioned individual tasks, written reflections and learning diary. This is to further encourage students to transform the theories of design and fashion into their practice. We will form interdisciplinary groups consisting of both CoDe and FaCT students, that are intended to provide a platform for and exchange of their perspectives whilst grounding their individual knowledge and practice.
In this course, we reflect outwards on the world that we shape through design and on the designerly methods to do so as well as on the established frames of practice. We are looking for a critical approach.
Criticality means becoming aware of the inherent problems in a ‘business as usual’ approach to design, reflecting on it and its influence on one’s own methods and practice. Within the scope of this course, we will ask you – individually and in groups – to identify ‘business as usual’ aspects of design and actively transcend one of these through your own practices. We then want to explore what the effect of these changes would be if they were made across the wider field of den.
For instance, we will critically review the notion of ‘design thinking’, which is widely spread with a strong association of the ‘problem-solving’ aspect of design practice. However, this generic characterization of design limits possibilities of expanding design practices. Thus, critically challenging this normative perspective yet exploring understudied subfields of design are important. As an invitation for a constructive dialogue between design and fashion, we introduce the notion of ‘fashion design thinking’ to compare and contrast with design thinking.
Relevant reading materials are provided by teachers to complement the tasks and the contents of this course.
4. Assessment of Learning
Assessment items of the course and their criteria are presented as follows:
The course consists of 14 contact teaching sessions summarized in the following table (V: Väre, U: Undergraduate Centre):
Matt Malpass. 2017. Critical Design in Context: History, Theory and Practice. London: Bloomsbury.
First Things First Manifesto 2000. Eye Magazine. http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/first-things-first-manifesto-2000
Toolkits. Common Cause Foundation. https://valuesandframes.org/toolkits
Milton Glasers. Road to Hell in 12 Steps. https://medium.com/@dylanopet/milton-glasers-road-to-hell-in-12-steps-c40f222e0f06
Namkyu Chun. 2018. Re(dis)covering Fashion Designers: Interweaving Dressmaking and Placemaking. Helsinki: Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Chapter 1, 2 and 4. https://shop.aalto.fi/media/filer_public/97/7d/977df363-f66c-401a-8e50-cb2c5ab0b293/rediscovering_fashion_designers.pdf