Claudia Eckert


I joined the Open University in September 2008. I am fascinated by design as a professional practise in different domains. I study design processes of complex incremental products in industry through interviews and observations to identify problems to address them through tools, methods and the development of design theory. This brings me in touch with a broad range of topics from process management, processes planning, collaboration, sustainability and energy. The main focus of my research has been engineering design, fashion design and in recent years also construction, which has led to a long standing interest in comparisons between design domains. I collaborate and co-author widely with researcher in the UK, Europe and the US. 

I am a co-chair of the "Modelling and Managing Engineering Processes" Special Interest Group of the Design Society and a member of the Board of Management the Design Society. I am also an area editor of Research in Engineering Design and IEEE Transaction on Engineering Management 


Professor of Design, The Open University, since 2013   

Senior Lecturer in Design, The Open University, 2008-2013   

Research Associate, Senior Research Associate, Assistant Director, Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge, 1999 - 2008  

PhD, "Intelligent Support for Knitwear Design", The Open University

Research Follow, The Open University, 1996 - 1998

Research Assistant, University of Loughborough, 1993 - 1994

MSc, Applied Artificial Intelligence, University of Aberdeen

My research aims to understand how design processes work, how they can be supported and what drives the differences between different processes around the following themes:

Engineering design

  • design process planning and risk assessments 
  • engineering change
  • functional modelling
  • testing
  • product architecture and platform design
  • communication in design teams

Theoretical issues 

  • understanding how abstract concepts play out in the design processes, e.g. complexity, similarity, ambiguity formality
  • epistemology of models
  • comparisons between different design domains
  • drivers and constraints 

Creative processes

  • inspiration processes 
  • mechanisms of fashion
  • individual design cognition 
  • product trends
  • creativity in engineering 

Sustainable design in textile and building refurbishment

Design research methodology

Current projects

"Design Margins", PhD studentship funded by Volvo and GKN

Past projects

"Converge: Collaborative Communication Driven Decision Management in Non-hierarchical Supply Chains of the Electronic Industry”  EU FP7 project, 2009 – 2011

"De2RHECC:  Design & Delivery of Robust Hospital Environments in a Changing Climate, EPSRC, 2009 – 2012

”Considerate Design for Personalised Fashion Products”, EPSRC/AHRC, 2006 – 2009

“Transfer of Best Practise across DesignDesign Domains”, Cambridge-MIT Institute, 2003 - 2005 PI of Cambridge-MIT Institute 

"MIND: Mechanisms of Inspiration in Novel design", ESRC, 1996-1998

Completed PhD

Tim Jarratt, ‘A Model-based Approach to Support the Management of Engineering Change’, Cambridge EDC, 2004

Tido Eder, ‘Design freeze during product development: supporting change prediction during detail design’, Cambridge EDC, 2005 

Thomas Flanagan, ‘Supporting design planning through process model simulation’, Cambridge EDC, 2006

David Wynn ‘Model-based approaches to support process improvement in complex product development’, Cambridge EDC, 2007

Anja Maier, ‘A grid-based assessment method for communication in engineering design’, Cambridge EDC, 2007

Rene Keller, ‘Predicting change propagation: algorithms, representations, software tools’, Cambridge EDC, 2007

Labi Ariyo, ‘Change propagation in complex design: predicting detailed change cases with multi-levelled product models’, Cambridge EDC, 2007

Malia Kalpinen, ‘The Emergence of Change at the Systems Engineering and Software Design Interface: An Investigation of Impact Analysis’, Cambridge EDC, 2008

Andrew Muir Wood, ‘The nature of change in product design Integrating aesthetic and technical perspectives’Cambridge IfM, 2011

Future students and topics

I am very interested to hear from students who share my research interests and outlook. Here is a selection of potential topics building on existing research

  • Planning of testing processes
  • Integrated testing for subjective product properties
  • Patterns of designing: Comparing design processes across domains
  • Overview versus deep expertise in the design process of complex products
  • Creativity in late stages of design processes
  • Approaches to functional modelling for different product classes
  • Collaboration in engineering projects / building projects before computer technology
  • Empowering designers to make sustainable decisions in fashion design
  • Refurbishment as a design problem in building or complex engineering products

Production Team Member of T74

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