The uniqueness of our research lies in the emphasis on the generic aspects of design activity, rather than developing specific disciplinary areas. The Design Group is a unique teaching and research unit comprising a multidisciplinary team of staff. The group is unusual, and perhaps unique, in being devoted to the subject of Design as a distinct domain/discipline. 

Subject Areas

Research in design embraces a broad range of subject areas including architecture, planning, product and industrial design, fashion design and engineering design, with a focus on design as the underlying process and the possibilities this entails. The group approaches design as a natural human ability but also as a special skill or practice that can be nurtured through design education.

Promoting Design Thinking

The uniqueness of our research is that it is not confined to any particular professional area of application, but instead tries to understand and promote design thinking and design processes in different domains: from product and information design, through to engineering design, architecture, transport, town planning and policy. This includes studying the complex processes and environments within which design activity and products are situated, as well as understanding how design activity can become a vehicle for innovation and sustainability.


Design research at the Open University is of the highest quality. We were ranked 3rd out of 72 UK Institutions in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, and have been rated 5 in all previous research assessement exercises. Members of the group have secured resources from major research funders such as The Leverhulme Trust, the EU, EPSRC, AHRC and JISC. A leading international design research journal Design Studies was launched from this department in 1979 and still maintains strong links with the group through the editorial board. Our research is themed into these main areas: