Christopher Earl


Since moving to the Open Univeristy from Newcastle five years ago my research interests have focussed on four areas: Computional design, Planning design and manufacture of complex products, Comparative design and, Complexity in products and design processes.

I collaborate with several design research centres including Cambridge Engineering Design Centre, MIT Engineering and Architecture Schools, CMU Pittsburgh, Leeds and Newcastle Universities.


After my undergraduate and masters in Mathematics at Oxford, 1971-5, I did research for PhD in Design at the Open Univeristy, awarded in 1981.  Following contracts as research fellow in Design at the Open University, in 1984 I went to Bristol Polytechnic as Principal Lecturer in Design and Manufacture and then in 1991 to Newcastle University in the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering and the Engineering Design Centre.  In 2000 I returned to the Open University, being Head of Department since 2003. Other academic duties include refereeing, examining, member - Steering Committee for Cambridge EDC and external examiner - Design and Manufacture School of Mechanical Engineering, Leeds University,


Selected Publications

Prats M, Earl C, Garner S, Jowers I 2006 “Exploring style through generative shape descriptions” accepted Artificial Intelligence in Engineering Design and Manufacture

Earl C F,  Johnson J H, Eckert C 2005 "Complexity in Design" in Design Process Improvement Springer ISBN 1-85233-701-X Earl C F et al 2005 'Comparative study of design: application to Engineering Design' Proc International  Conference in Engineering Design, ICED 2005, Melbourne, August 15-18

Eckert C, Earl C, Clarkson P J 2005 “Predictability of change in engineering: a complexity view”, paper DETC 2005-8539 Proc ASME Int Design Engineering Technical Conf,

Sept C, Earl C F Song D P, Hicks C 2002, "Planning complex engineer-to-order products"  in Recent Advances in Integrated Design and Manufacturing in Mechanical Engineering Kluwer, Dordecht, ISBN 1-4020-1163-6

Earl C F 1999 "Generated Designs: structure and composition" Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design Analysis and Manufacture (AIEDAM) 13, 277-285Earl C F 1997 "Shape boundaries", Planning and Design,, 24, 669-687

Full list of publications

Current Projects

Comparative Design - Cambridge MIT Institute (CMI) project "Across Design".  Forthcoming book with L Bucciarelli (MIT) and C Eckert (Cambridge EDC) to be published MIT press 2006.

Planning for complex products with C Hicks, Newcastle University, D P Song, Plymouth University, developing theory and simulation modelling.

Generative Design - design descriptions for exploration and emergence in product design including parametric curve and surface shape grammars. Applications to design usability.

Communities of use - intitial stages/discussion of EC collaboration in FP6/FP7 Cultural Dynamics theme. Applications of comparative design analysis.


Main undergraduate teaching has been as author on T211 Design and Designing, in the areas of Detail Design, Sustainability and Design for Manufacture. Major contributions to T173 Engineering the Future, A 178 Perspectives on Leonardo da Vinci, MT365 Graphs Networks and Designs. Module for HEIF funded i10 consortium on Design for Disassembly.

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