The Design Group incorporates a range of expertise across the spectrum of design research and reflects a non-discipline-specific approach to understanding design and design processes. Our research is wide-ranging, often drawing on, and combining with, other disciplines. We work in many sectors and contexts including product and manufacturing, fashion, urban and built environment, participatory design, sustainability, innovation, energy and climate change. Our teaching and research are mutually reinforcing.

Over the last 50 years the group has developed world-leading expertise in the processes, approaches and tools for delivering design education at a distance. The OU Design Group has performed consistently well in National audits of research quality, repeatedly appearing in the top ten UK institutions for research quality in Design. We are a supportive community of researchers and welcome new members of the group, whether they are staff or students: it’s a great place to do a PhD!

The research that the Design Group undertakes seeks to advance understanding of design and innovation’s role in society, to transform lives and to challenge the ways that people participate in this change. Our research is clustered around key themes:

  • design processes
  • sustainable design and innovation
  • collaborative design
  • complexity and design
  • distance design education.

Key facts

  • The first journal in design, Design Studies, was founded by the Group and we continue to have editorial input.
  • The Group is recognised for its internationally excellent research and has been consistently highly ranked across all research assessment exercises.
  • OU Design staff have strategic roles in international design research organisations: The Design Society; and The Design Research Society.


Most of our full-time research students are based at our campus in Milton Keynes UK, with part-time students generally working remotely.  For details of residence requirements for different modes of study see Full-time study and Part-time study.


The group has design prototyping facilities, STEM laboratories and digital design studio technologies:

  • The FabLab
  • Open STEM Labs



Find your research topic

Explore specific areas of research, current and prospective projects, entry requirements, fees and funding, available supervisors, how to apply and contact details for advice.

Collaborative design

Complexity and design

Design education

Design processes

Sustainable design and innovation