An Interdisciplinary Approach

Design Research at the Open University is of the highest quality. We have consistently performed well in research assessment exercises, most recently in the 2014 REF. 86% of the outputs we submitted to the Art and Design panel were rated as world-leading or internationally excellent,  and we were ranked 6th out of 84 institutions.

The common concern of research in the Design Group is to advance design theory and knowledge with a view to improving design practice and increasing the effectiveness of design education. The uniqueness of our research lies in the emphasis on the generic aspects of design activity, rather than developing specific disciplinary areas. Our research is carried out under strategic themes with an even spread of staff and research students associated with each.

Research Themes

Within each of the themes research on the principles, procedures and processes of design is undertaken by a mixture of individuals and research groups. There are considerable overlaps between themes, which are actively encouraged, with many staff contributing to more than one. Our view is that the potential for the most innovative research is in the linkage between themes.

Design Processes

- product development processes
- computational design
- innovation
- communication


Design Ecologies

- infrastructure
- sustainable innovation
- transport and energy
- product service systems


Complexity and Design

- policy design
- networks and hyper networks
- connected communities
- design in socio-technical systems


Collaborative Design

- inclusivity
- participatory design
- cross cultural design
- education and digital scholarship

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