This year design teaching and research at the Open University is 50 years old. We are celebrating this milestone with a series of events to reflect and look forward.

You can register for upcoming events at our Eventbrite


The first event in this series was a panel discussion with Prof. Nigel Cross and Prof. Robin Roy talking to Georgy Holden on Thursday November 11th. The focus of the event was on teaching design at a distance and the impact that OU Design teaching has had. It will include clips from historic video programmes as provocations for the discussion. We used a Padlet to capture the audiences’ feedback and ideas during the panel discussion.

Made with Padlet

About the contributors

Nigel Cross is Emeritus Professor of Design Studies at the OU. He was one of the first design academics employed at the OU and played a significant role in shaping the vision for distance design teaching. He was the editor of the journal Design Studies since its inception and is well known for his book “Designerly Ways of Knowing” and his work developing the concept of design thinking.

Robin Roy is Emeritus Professor of Design and Environment at the OU. He has been at the OU since 1971 and is still active in teaching and research. He has contributed to many of the Design modules since the earliest days as well as contributing to modules on Environment and Technology and Innovation Management.

Georgy Holden is a Senior Lecturer in Design and Innovation and began her association with the Open University as a Design student in 1973. She leads to qualification in Design and Innovation and has contributed to many of the design modules.


Design research has been at the heart of the design disciplines since its onset. It has driven the content and the conceptualisation of design teaching at the OU. The need to make tacit design skills explicit to facilitate distance teaching was driven the design research agenda and the OU and far beyond.

Design research at the OU is and has always been a microcosm of design research across the world. It has brought researchers together from a range of academic fields such as social sciences and mathematics as well as different areas of design practise from architecture and urban planning to engineering. Over this time many design PhDs have graduated and several of the current staff began their research careers as OU design PhD students.

About the contributors

Stephen Potter is Emeritus Professor of Transport Strategy at the OU. His involvement with the OU started in 1974 as the first full-time PhD student in Social Sciences with a degree on economics and geography, where his interest in transport started. He worked as a researcher and later investigator on numerous projects on transport and sustainability. His work with the Design Group spans four decades.

Jeff Johnson is Professor of Complexity Science at the OU and a long-serving member of the Design Group. He is a mechanician by background and joined the centre of configurational studies at OU in 1981 as a research fellow. His research has been focussing on complex systems research in collaboration with a rich network of researcher across the world.

Claudia Eckert is Professor of Design. After studying mathematics and philosophy, she obtained a PhD in Design at the OU. She carries out empirical studies of complex design processes and works on support tools and theoretical foundations of design.

Climate Change

Design has never been its usual ‘discipline-self’ at the OU. For 50 years we’ve been teaching and researching design through the lens of ‘beyond discipline’ – exploring multiscale relationships, technologies, systems and environments in richer ways to further open up a design landscape.

We talk to four OU academics interested in the relationship between design and the environment in looking at new ways to see the potential of design today – specifically in the context of a changing climate – and looking back to what we build on from the OU thinking of the last 50 years. We ask why creative approaches to climate change are critical and how design can help facilitate a shift to the transformative thinking and actions that emergencies demand.

About the contributors

Stephen Peake is Professor of Climate Change and Energy at the Open University (UK), Fellow of the Cambridge Judge Business School and Senior Associate of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. He often uses practice-based methods of inquiry in his teaching and research which focusses on sustainable business practice and leadership

Emma Dewberry is Senior Lecturer in Design at the Open University (UK). Emma’s teaching and research focuses on design for sustainability and specifically on the relationships between design, consumption, sufficiency, resource circularity, ecoliteracy and transformative education.

Derek Jones is Senior Lecturer in Design at The Open University (UK), part of the OU Design Group, and the Convenor of the DRS Education SIG. His main research interests are design education, theories of design knowledge, and ecological philosophy (ecosophy).

Alessandra Campoli is Lecturer in Design at The Open University (UK). She is interested in creative activism, the role of design in generating reflexive engagement with social and climate justice issues, sustainable pedagogies, and art-based methodologies to reach and work with marginalised communities.