Skip navigation

How can we envision, explore and realise possible futures?

Design research can help us develop deep understandings of problems and develop creative ideas and innovative solutions in response.

Our research helps this process in two ways. We develop and study new and innovative design practices, and we then apply these to real world problems.

Ideate operates at the intersection of design, social science, psychology, business and computing, exploring how design research and associated methods and processes can be used to understand what it means to be human, to examine social, political and environmental issues, and to develop new products, services, technologies and systems in response to these.

Our research takes multi- and cross-disciplinary approaches to innovation where we both research into and research through design. We combine design methods with approaches and expertise from other domains to produce rich new insights. We pioneer creative and critical methodologies for engaging with real-world challenges and opportunities, framing problems in new ways, and prototyping, anticipating and realising possible futures. Our work is guided by ethical sensibilities and participatory values that ensure deep stakeholder dialogue with both local and global communities and partners.

The scope of our design research at Northumbria University is diverse but, across the board, we aim to enable positive change – in social, cultural, technological, and professional terms. Our researchers have explored a wide-range of topics and issues, such as what it means to thrive in old age, promoting healthy everyday living, enhancing experiences at cultural venues, supporting digital identity management and designing inclusive banking services, among many others. The ideas that we bring to life in such projects have better futures firmly in mind.

Northumbria University is a leader in design and innovation, but not just because of the unique approaches that we can offer. We also constantly ask if we’re seeking to solve the right problems, and we investigate and address the risks inherent in ground-breaking design.



Northumbria University has an international reputation for design research and innovation. We recognise the potential of design to deliver new products, services, and experiences that transform ways of thinking, making, and living in the future. We have specific strengths around design and wellbeing, design with and for business and publics, and advanced manufacturing and making. Our staff have pioneered original approaches for evolving design research practices, especially emerging technologies and craft, co-creation and participatory design, and responsible innovation.

While Ideate research is grounded in design, it involves working across disciplines. Our projects on designing new services for later life involve gerontologists and medical experts; we work closely with social scientists and psychologists in the development of techniques and to evaluate solutions; and we collaborate with computer scientists, engineers and business researchers in exploring emerging technologies and their value to enterprise and society. We also work in collaboration with an extensive network of external partners in multiple sectors including health and social care, financial, consumer goods, telecommunications, and non-profit organisations.

Through our research we aim to envision and critically explore possible futures. Using the material language of design within inter-disciplinary projects, we give form and narrative to new ideas and speculations, guiding the direction and decision making on programmes of work. We also recognise the significance of creative approaches for raising research questions, pursuing inquiry, and delivering understanding about people’s lives. This has included establishing novel forums for discussing and disseminating practice-based design research, including the Research through Design (RTD) conference series.


What do you think? Share your views using #ChangingChallengingWorld

Prof John Vines

Ideate lead and Professor of Design

Department: Northumbria School of Design 

John is a designer by background, and most of his research is located in the fields of human-computer interaction and participatory design. He works across a broad range of areas, often exploring the ways in which design processes can be opened up to involve expertise from multiple disciplines, sectors, and groups of people who may be affected by what is designed. His research is highly collaborative, and has involved working across topics such as ageing and the lifecourse, financial inclusion and the future of money, social and informal care, stigmatisation and othering, and civic engagement and public service design – with the common themes being participatory design and the development of new technologies that improve the lives of citizens.


John is the lead for the Ideate Multidisciplinary Research Theme. Since 2012 he has published over 60 papers in leading HCI and design research conferences and journals, and has ongoing research projects funded by the EPSRC, ESRC and NIHR.


Get in touch: / 0191 227 4325


Join the Conversation


Back to top