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Design and Innovation research at the Open University has been part of the institution’s narrative for the past 50 years. It is distinctive in being inter-disciplinary in nature, drawing on subjects from cybernetics and systems to ecology, social policy and education theory. As a result, design research and its teaching here is not confined to any one professional area of application but rather its focus is on the creative, technical, social and ecological dimensions of design and innovation, which traverse multi-disciplinary views and contexts of design including product design, architecture, engineering, sustainability, fashion, transport, education, health and services.

In broad terms OU Design research explores the general principles and processes of design, with an emphasis on conceptualising design and innovation in terms of evolving technological, social and ecological intersections and transitions. Key research themes are:

  • Design Processes
  • Sustainable Design and Innovation
  • Collaborative Design
  • Design Education
  • Complexity and Design

Our multi-disciplinarity is reflected in our staff and students, who include not only designers and architects, but also mathematicians, social scientists, computer scientists and engineers. Collectively, we combine rigorous research of design practise and theory and narratives of innovation as a means of addressing and transforming the challenges of modern society. The OU Design Blog is open to view and updates regularly on our research and teaching and external engagement activities.

Have a look at a list of current and completed research Projects conducted by the Design academics and a list of PhD theses completed since 2014.