Skip to Main Content
of desiGn

Building and Understanding Context




Insight Development

Credit Hours


Covers basics of argumentation, secondary research, and group-based discussion methods for establishing useful contexts to design against.

This course will improve critical thinking skills when considering the wide variety of inputs and insight that often accompanies design initiatives. Understanding the context of a particular design challenge is critical to ensuring an insightful and reliable solution. Most design challenges today require an astute understanding of the many dynamics –social, political, economic, cultural, aesthetic and environmental–at play to see a path forward. The context in this sense is the surrounding landscape of trends and influences across all aspects of design from brand, form, and interaction to platforms, IP, and underlying business models. The course will include basic overviews of argumentation, secondary research, and group-based discussion methods.

Learning Objectives

  • Provide a forum for students to build a repertoire of approaches to quickly understand the context of any design challenge
  • Hone critical thinking skills to question the validity of reference information and conclusions drawn from them
  • Expose students to contemporary issues in the field of design

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to collect, organize, and interpret secondary information for the purposes of problem orientation
  • Students will be comfortable debating points of view developed as a result of building a context of understanding

Format & Grading

Classes will have lectures on basic tools and frameworks for context building and critique. However, most classes will be focused on identifying and discussing the situation surrounding a variety of existing products, services, and environments. The bulk of the course will revolve around in-class reviews of contextual assessment assignments.

Enrollment restrictions

No prerequisites. This course is open to all Institute of Design students.