Course Brief

Contextual Studies provides an historical, cultural and theoretical framework to allow us to make sense of art and design, as well as to consider how they may help us to understand the wider world.

This unit is designed to introduce students to key cultural developments, practices and movements related to the history of art, design, visual and popular culture since 1900. Emphasis will be placed upon developing a broad knowledge of art and design contexts, considering the technological, economic, social and aesthetic causes which have, and continue to, inform our understanding of art and design within the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Topics included in this unit are: semiotics, values and tastes, subcultures, advertising, modernism, postmodernism, hypermodernism, gender politics within art and design, materiality and immateriality.

Students will be introduced to the theoretical methods with which to research and analyse works of art and design, helping them to understand the importance of being able to contextualise their own practice, as well as enhancing their understanding of the wider art and design landscape. On successful completion of this unit students will have developed their contextual knowledge and their conceptual tool kit by undertaking a contextual investigation of their own, linked to their subject specialism.


  • This course is offered in 60 contact hours

By the end of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Discuss the social, historical and cultural context of key art and design movements, theories and practices.
  2. Analyse a specific work of art or design related to own area of specialism.
  3. Use primary and secondary research methods to investigate an area of practice, with consideration of research ethics .
  4. Present research findings, through written work, visually and orally.

Unit type: Core
Unit Level: 4
Credit value: 15

  • BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) in Art and Design

    The Pearson BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) in Art and Design is an internationally recognized qualification that prepares students for employment in the design sector in areas such as Web Design, Animation, Marketing, Illustration, Multimedia as well as the business aspects of Corporate and Freelance design.

    Learners will be able to direct their studies to specialize in either Graphic Design, Digital Design or Arts Practice. This programme allows learners to develop a contemporary focus on areas of creative practice relevant to their chosen career path.

    Pearson is the largest International awarding body approved by the UK government; it has the widest range of UK academic and vocational qualifications available to schools, colleges and organizations worldwide; operating in over 110 countries, over two million people study for Pearson qualifications in over 7000 centres annually.

    Graduates will be able to gain direct access to the extended final year of the BA (Hons) in Graphic Design offered by the University of Sunderland.