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Introduction to Social Design Online Short Course

Course description

Course DescriptionOver recent years design has expanded from its traditional terrains and been adapted for application to social, systemic and public policy challenges. This course will provide an introduction to the emerging field of social design: the ideas and theories behind it, and the ‘how’ of practicing it.As well as a weekly talk on each topic from tutors, students will have the opportunity to read, reflect on, and debate some current ideas, arguments, controversies and research insights around social design, as well as gaining practical experience of developing and seeing through a social design project. They will leave the course with a plan for applying a social design approach to their own challenge.

This short course is run by the UAL Social Design Institute (SDI) and is informed by research from the SDI and the UAL research centres.

Students will have access to:

  • Reading list and resources for further exploration of the field
  • Tailored feedback on their project from tutors
  • Peer-to-peer learning and feedback through seminars and crits

This is an 8-week online course, with one 2-hour webinar per week, plus around 2 hours of work to do in between sessions. The course will be a mixture of readings, seminar discussions and practical exercises, plus a practical social design project.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • develop a critical understanding of what it means to design for, in and with social contexts and outcomes
  • gain some hands-on experience in addressing a social, environmental or systemic challenge with a social design framing and practices
  • develop an approach to applying social design in their own organisational, professional or personal context

Who Should Attend:

This course is aimed at up-skillers/career changers,  people working in professional design who want to reorient towards social/sustainable practice. It is also suitable for civil servants, local government officers (or people working in other organisations/ contexts such as foundations, networks and platforms) interested in deploying design, but who want something more critical and socially-conscious than design thinking/ service design.

This is an introductory level course  no previous experience/ knowledge of design is necessary.

Please note that all courses are taught in UK time.

Online courses are closed to all new bookings 48 hours prior to the course starting.

Available dates

If no dates are showing then please sign up to our mailing list to find out about upcoming dates and new course developments.


Topics covered

  • The history of social design
  • Contemporary debates about social design
  • Key social theories (how can we make sense of the social?)
  • Key ideas in design (how does social design differ from mainstream design?)
  • Methods and practices for: research, analysis, problem definition, idea generation, prototyping
  • Understanding and assessing the impact and value of design work
  • Ethics, criticality and reflexivity
  • Principles for social design


Online short course materials

To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

  • An up-to-date web browser (we recommend Chrome)
  • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended. The built-in microphone in your device would also be fine).
  • Webcam
  • Strong Internet connection - we recommend a minimum of 2 Mbps download, and 1 Mbps upload, faster if possible. You can test your network speed here -

As well as video conferencing, we will make use of online collaboration tools (e.g. Miro), although no prior experience of these is necessary. We will conduct a familiarisation exercise in the first class.

In some classes there will be drawing exercises to do (no prior drawing skills necessary), which can be done on pen and paper or using a tablet.

Please bring for the first session:

  • notebook and pen
Meet the Tutor:

This Introduction to Social Design short course provides a hands-on experience in addressing a social, environmental or systemic challenge. You will be encouraged to develop a critical understanding of what it means to design for, in and with social contexts.

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