Northumbria School of Design is committed to people-centered, design-led and societally engaged research, with strengths in our core subject areas of industrial and innovation design, fashion and textile design, graphic design, interior design, and interaction design and human-computer interaction.
Much of our research is built on long-term collaborations with businesses, citizens and communities, and includes collaborations with a range of non-profit, public and commercial partners. The school hosts: Craft Futures, our forum for exploring emerging making practices and practice-led design and craft research; CoCreate, a multi-disciplinary research group with a focus on social and interaction design and creative practice; the Northumbria Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab (nDESIS Lab); and the Digital Disruption Network, a research network where organisations and academics invent the future of digital technology together. The School of Design also established the Research Through Design conference series, and is a key constituting member of Northumbria’s Practice Research Group.
While our research is diverse in nature, the School has three strategic research themes that much of our work falls within and is underpinned by:
Design + wellbeing: This theme includes research that explores the ways artefacts, services and systems can promote wellbeing, as well as research that explores the benefits to wellbeing that comes from engaging in making, collaborative design and creative practice.
Research in this theme takes a broad view of wellbeing, from looking at the role of design in improving healthcare service delivery and intervention design, to designing new systems and technologies that enable physical health, mental health and wellbeing promotion for individuals living with specific conditions. We take a view that design has an important role to play in promoting wellbeing within communities, and in creating public spaces and forms of civic engagement that support the wellbeing of all citizens. Our research also looks at the benefits that participation in design activities and creative practice can have on the wellbeing of those involved in co-creative design work.
Design + innovation: This theme includes research that explores the ways design processes, methods and techniques can lead to innovative new ideas and value creation for organisations and society.
Research in this theme may examine design within the industrial and commercial sector, such as design's strategic role in responsible corporate innovation and creativity in product manufacturing and service organisations. Design’s role and process in facilitating innovation across disciplines. Our work also employs design within the public and third sectors, tackling a range of social challenges. This includes research into whether the design of public and community services can be used to improve the delivery and commissioning of public services, and how collaborative designing with communities can be used to engender ownership and a sense of empowerment amongst their stakeholders. We also conduct research with organisations across all sectors exploring how they can make the most of new technologies, materials and platforms – such as blockchain, crowdfunding and immersive technologies.
Design + making and materials: This theme concerns materials and the cultural value and benefits of making in society, and the effects emerging technologies and materials may have on design, making and craft practices.
Research in this theme cuts across the whole range of design disciplines – product, industrial, interaction, service, textile, interior, and fashion – using their disciplinary knowledge and maker expertise to explore the application of new and advanced material technologies and entrepreneurial design making. Our activities brings the act of making to centre-stage of design research, focusing on its artefacts, processes, and practices and recording and reflecting research through design projects. The outcomes of our projects include descriptions of technical applications, methods, processes and insights emerging from designing, as well as the actual products and artefacts. These descriptions help us to better understand the opportunity of design making research to address particular problems and contexts of concern.