Strength in diversity

Design Star aims to develop future intellectual leadership in design: research leaders of the future who are equipped to make a difference to contemporary social concerns, knowledge production and creative practices. This requires an approach to research training that places diversity and interdisciplinarity at its core.

Design Star brings together world-class research in

  • design for industry
  • interaction design
  • design process
  • communication design
  • sustainable design
  • design history
  • curation
  • creative practice.

Its spread of design disciplines is linked by a common approach to design that encourages the integration of history, theory and engagement.

  1. You are part of a consortium that brings together world-class research in design for industry, interaction design, design process, communication design, design history, curation and creative practice. Our spread of design disciplines is linked by a common approach to research that encourages the integration of history, theory and engagement.
  2. You are part of a  community of design researchers through the sense of a common understanding of issues affecting design thinking and its application.
  3. Design Star has a strong student voice – we consulted with students as part of our planning and our graduate researchers will play an important part in the organisation and future direction of the consortium.
  4. Design Star research training is innovative, stimulating and relevant. You benefit from learning supported by a broader range of expertise and covering more methods than within any one single institution.
  5. You benefit from outstanding supervision and research advice from across the consortium, not just from within a single university.
  6. Our external partners will support our research training by contributing to our events, and by offering placements ranging from a few days to longer work experience placements during or at the end of your study.
  7. You benefit from the well-established Graduate Schools at each of the Design Star universities that provide excellent generic research training and opportunities to meet with PhD students across the arts, humanities and sciences
  8. You have access to the specialist facilities at all the Design Star universities, such as eye-tracking equipment, observational spaces, collections and archives, and fabrication laboratories that include rapid prototyping, specialist model-making, CAD/CAM and 3D printing.
  9. Design Star is committed to public engagement with research. You will receive training in writing for different settings and audiences, and in presenting your research online and in the media.  You’ll also have an opportunity to present your PhD research to the public at the end of your study.
  10. Design Star has additional and flexible funding for cohort and student development including support for travel, for attendance at events, and for placements.

The consortium brings together five institutions that represent a distinctive, engaged, and interdisciplinary perspective on design. Each institution is broad-based, and recognised for the high quality of its design research through both excellent performance in research assessment exercises, scholarly engagement with audiences and publics, and by demand from prospective high-calibre PhD students.

Brighton University

Brighton’s Faculty of Arts has played a significant role in design and design historical research since the late 1970s with its first doctorates in these fields. More recently, complementing research into design policy, design education, design management and innovation, sustainability and the design profession, much design research at Brighton has been characterized by inter-disciplinary investigations in science and engineering, medicine and business, and architecture and the environment. Providing a further stimulus for design research have been the University’s Design Archives. Focusing on British and global design in the twentieth century they have provided significant opportunities for pioneering disciplinary developments in the practice, theory and history of design.

Goldsmiths, University of London

Design at Goldsmiths is renowned for its research in sustainability, interaction design, design learning and assessment, critical practice and design futures. Operating in the midst of distinctive social science, humanities and arts Departments, it has a distinct critical edge in its recognition of the ways design is implicated in cultural formation and the concomitant responsibility of designers in these processes. The Department has a suite of Masters programmes that link directly to its research groups, all designed to provide pathways through to PhD and post-doctoral research. Research students benefit from innovation and consolidation of the range of approaches supported by the Department, including scholarly, empirical, and practice-based research.

Loughborough University

Research in the Loughborough Design School is vibrant and world class, attracting external funding exceeding £3 million each year and is dedicated to advancing knowledge in a wide range of areas by combining appropriate specialists and facilities from a particularly broad spectrum of designers. There are well established strengths in user-centred design, design technology, human factors, sustainable design, transport and safety research, design education, and design engineering, and with this range of areas the school was rated 1st for Art & Design in RAE2008. The BA & BSc programmes are enhanced by a range of MA/MSc and a large PhD community.

The Open University

Design at the Open University has established an outstanding reputation for innovation in research and distance learning since its foundation in 1969. The design group’s research has a richly inter-disciplinary approach addressing the more generic aspects of design such as processes, grammars, and modes of thinking. This emphasis is reflected across our key thematic areas in processes and products, complexity, ecologies, collaborative and inclusive design and digital scholarship. Wide ranging collaborations help foster a dynamic research culture and involve a number of different partners such as technology companies (Volvo, GKN), consultants (ARUP), local councils (Milton Keynes) and charities (Nesta). Our PhD students are viewed as central to developing this research culture and our strategy of continued research excellence.

The University of Reading

The Department of Typography & Graphic Communication has an international reputation for research in the theory, history and practice of ‘design for reading’. Since the late 1960s, it has developed an entirely new university discipline that blends an understanding of language, the craft tradition of printing and newer digital technologies, perception, aesthetics, project management, social and economic history, education and the graphic arts. It has an innovative suite of MA programmes including Book Design, Information Design, and Typeface Design. It has an established international reputation for postgraduate research and is a pioneer of PhDs in design. The Department’s excellence has been affirmed in 2012 through a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for ‘A world-leading centre of typographic teaching and research’.

Our high-profile core partners contribute to Design Star’s diversity and we aim to involve them as much as possible in Design Star activities and decision making.

Design Museum

The Design Museum’s HE programme aims to establish the museum as a key UK resource within the design and architecture sector and a cultural must-see for all students, offering rich content and specialist insight into the professional world of contemporary design.

Intel Labs

Intel Labs is devoted to the research of new technologies and innovations in multiple areas of computing including efficient computing, immersive experience, transportation, intelligent connectivity, sustainability, worryfree computing, cloud computing, visual computing as well as exploratory research.

Maybourne Projects Ltd

Maybourne is an architectural practice with an award-winning track record as innovator in social building and care solutions. It promotes the understanding of the complexities of brief and finance that produce design; and the value of cross-discipline dialogue. Unusually, Maybourne’s design processes are a subject of academic record.

Microsoft Research

Microsoft Research Cambridge conducts leading-edge research that is driven by social and technological challenges as well as scientific interests. Microsoft Research aims to push the boundaries of computer science, and to enable the creation of software technologies that will help shape the future of society.

Milton Keynes Council: Economic Development

The motto of Milton Keynes, established in 1967, is ‘by knowledge, design, and understanding’ which is why the Economic Development office of the city council see collaboration with Design Star as furthering their aim of providing vision and strategy for the city’s future development.


Monotype specialises in typesetting and type design, particularly digital type solutions for tablets and e-readers, and document workflows, with an international emphasis. Its extensive type archives and collections have considerable potential to influence current thinking about type design and technology.

Policy Connect

Policy Connect is an organisation linking parliamentarians with business and the public sector with the aim of developing new policy in the area of Design and Innovation. To achieve this aim it is closely involved with the All Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group, chaired by Barry Sheerman. Policy Connect are interested in Design Star in the area of hard evidence for how design works as a facilitator between disciplines (output).

Spy Studio

Spy is a brand and design practice, giving clients a point of view and a point of difference, so they can succeed in whatever they do. Using deep-dive research, inventive thinking and refined design skills, we help to give brands a distinctive personality and communicate with clarity and originality.

Bracknell Forest Public Health

Our key interests are how to encourage and support healthy behaviours, promote early detection of disease and illness e.g. communities identifying the risks of diabetes / participating in cancer screening and using services appropriately. Within our remit to inform and support all communities we focus on engaging the hard to reach group.

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