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Engineering Design Centre


Relating designers, artefacts and users

The Design Creativity Group researches how new ideas are developed and implemented, the barriers to such processes and how such processes can be supported.

Our research is highly interdisciplinary, and this is manifest in two ways. First, when seeking to establish the conceptual foundations of particular aspects of design creativity, there is a broad base of existing knowledge to draw on and this knowledge is distributed across many different academic and professional disciplines. It is therefore necessary to identify the most relevant ideas developed in other fields and bring these ideas into design research. Second, when conducting empirical enquiries into how people develop and implement ideas a broad range of research methodologies are useful and these originate from many different disciplinary traditions. Consequently, the identification and adaptation of appropriate research methods is important when conducting and presenting our work.

The topics and methods of the Design Creativity Group are relevant to a broad range of disciplines, including various design fields, the creative industries and business more generally. As such, we publish and present our work not only to design research but also to the disciplines we draw from and those to which our work relates. In doing so, we make contributions to how design and creativity are thought about, taught and practised, and to how other disciplines view those subjects.

Group Members

Associated Projects

IdEAS - Interdisciplinary Engineering Approach to Systems

IdEAS is a five-year EPSRC-funded project to develop design insights that are flexibly applicable across a range of technologies. Three topics are being addressed: (1) design creativity and fixation; (2) complex design problems; (3) system lifecycle properties. The project is interdisciplinary by nature, employing concepts and methods from various academic fields, including technology studies, psychology and the social sciences. The project also engages with Government and Industry stakeholders through collaboration with the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy.


Problem characterisation radar plot

This document provides a visualisation for problem characterisation. The visualisation helps us represent the ways in which we find problems difficult to understand or difficult to address. It was developed for work with individuals, groups and organisations who might describe such problems as ‘ill-defined’, ‘messy’, ‘complex’ or ‘wicked’ (in contrast to those that are ‘well-defined’, ‘clean’, ‘simple’ or ‘tame’). Such problems include problems of organisational management and strategy, social and political change, and environmental protection and restoration.


From Modularity to Emergence: a primer on the design and science of complex systems

Chih-Chun Chen, Nathan Crilly. Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.

This 'primer' introduces a domain-neutral framework and diagrammatic scheme for characterising the ways in which systems are modular or complex. It allows researchers and practitioners from different disciplines to share methods, theories and findings related to the design and study of different systems, even when those systems appear superficially dissimilar.