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Personal profile

Research profile

Dan Lockton is a British interaction designer and researcher. His work centres on tools and methods for participatory (re-)imagining: helping people, together, create and explore possible futures, imagine new ways to live, and understand ourselves and the world around us better, in an age of crises in climate, health, and social inequalities. He joined the Department of Industrial Design at TU/e in 2021, as an assistant professor, with climate futures and design research methods as particular focuses. Dan also runs the Imaginaries Lab, an independent research-through-design studio—now based in Amsterdam—originally established in 2017 as part of Carnegie Mellon University.

Before joining TU/e, Dan was an assistant professor and Chair of Design Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, United States, where he retains a courtesy appointment. Dan contributed to the Transition Design subject area, and was also a Faculty Affiliate of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at CMU, a member of the Center for the Arts in Society, and collaborated with the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture, the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, and Metro21. Between 2013–16, Dan worked at the Royal College of Art, London, first as a senior associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design’s Work & City and Age & Ability Labs, and then as a research tutor in Innovation Design Engineering and for other doctoral programmes, supervising and advising PhD researchers. He was also a guest tutor in the Master’s programmes in Information Experience Design, Textiles, Global Innovation Design, Design Products and Service Design, and part of the RCA’s External Education projects in Sweden, Qatar and the UK. Before the RCA, Dan was a research fellow in Experiential Engineering at WMG, University of Warwick (2011–12) and a research assistant in Environmentally Sensitive Design at Brunel University (2010–12). Earlier in his career, Dan worked in industry on a range of product design projects, including R&D for Sir Clive Sinclair (on mobility products and some unusual folding bikes).

Dan has been an investigator or researcher on projects bringing together design and technology with societal, community, and environmental challenges, including: IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability (2022–25), led by Oslo Metropolitan University and funded by the Research Council of Norway; Playing With The Trouble (2022–23), funded by the Centre for Unusual Collaborations; Game Your Way Through: Games as a method for transformative collaborations (2021), also funded by the Centre for Unusual Collaborations; Spooky Technology (2020–21), funded by the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art at the Frontier and Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts; Sleep Ecologies (2019), funded by Philips; Legible Policy (2015–16), with Laboratorio para la Ciudad Mexico City, Superflux and the Future Cities Catapult; SusLabNWE (2013–15), a European Union sustainability and energy research ‘living lab’ collaboration led by TU Delft; Media, Community & the Creative Citizen (2013–15), a Research Councils UK Connected Communities project; Creating Sustainable Innovation through Design for Behaviour Change (2014), funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council; and Empower (2010–12), an energy research collaboration between Brunel University, University of Warwick, startup CarbonCulture and the Department of Energy & Climate Change, funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board. In 2015 Dan was project manager for the RCA’s role in GATEway, a driverless vehicle research programme.

Dan is creator of the Design with Intent toolkit (Equifine, 2010)—which has been widely adopted by educators, researchers, designers and businesses worldwide—and New Metaphors: A Creative Toolkit for Generating Ideas and Reframing Problems (Imaginaries Lab, 2019), which has been applied in contexts as diverse as robotics, corporate culture, and the circular economy. He is an editor of Spooky Technology (Imaginaries Lab, 2021), Living Labs: Design and Assessment of Sustainable Living (Springer, 2016); he led the editorial team for Creative Citizens’ Variety Pack: Inspiring Digital Ideas from Community Projects (RCA, 2014); is a co-author of Drawing Energy: Exploring Perceptions of the Invisible (RCA, 2015); and is author of Rebel Without Applause (Bookmarque, 2003), a history of the Reliant Motor Company.

Academic background

Dan holds a PhD in Design from Brunel University, London, a Master's in Technology Policy from the University of Cambridge (one of a set of experimental programmes developed by the former Cambridge-MIT Institute), a BSc in Industrial Design Engineering, also from Brunel, and is a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Society of Arts (2008–). Dan is also an elected member of the Design Research Society’s International Advisory Council (2020–26)—and programme committee chair for DRS 2022—and a member of the Plurality University Network, a Paris-based international collective of designers, futurists, and science-fiction writers, and Untitled (run by Demos Helsinki, Finland), an alliance of activists across sectors including design, architecture, policy, and civil society which aims collectively to create an agenda for social transformation.

He regularly publishes in international academic journals and at conferences, in design, HCI, and related fields, and has been a member of programme and review committees for events including DRS, CHI, DIS, C&C, and EPIC. He is a regular reviewer for leading academic journals, and has been a reviewer for funding bodies including the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, EU Horizon 2020 Future & Emerging Technologies Programme, RCUK Sustainable Society Network+, and Fond National de la Recherche (Luxembourg), and for PhD programmes at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, TU Delft, and OsloMet. Dan maintains an active engagement with professional interaction design and social sector practice through delivering keynotes and workshops at practice-focused events around the world, including IxDA Interaction, UX London, UX Lisbon, and Interaction Latin America, and through the Imaginaries Lab's work with organisations including the UK’s National Lottery Community Fund, American Eagle Outfitters, CMU's Tepper School of Business, and Demos Helsinki's Untitled Alliance. Dan was a jury member for the IxDA Interaction Awards 2019, co-chair of the student design competition for ACM DIS 2020, and workshops co-chair for ACM Creativity & Cognition 2022. He is a member of the 'sounding board' of the EWUU Alliance's Centre for Unusual Collaborations  and external examiner for Brunel University's BA/BSc/MDes programmes in Design (2022–26).

In addition to his work at TU/e, Dan currently advises two PhD candidates at Carnegie Mellon (and one at the RCA in London). He has successfully supervised / advised ten PhDs to completion (at CMU, the RCA, and at TU/e) as supervisor, advisor, or committee member, and been an external examiner for PhDs at Monash University, Loughborough University, NTNU (Trondheim), and RMIT Europe.

Affiliated with

Education and Teaching

Current squad: 'New Futures'
(on joining TU/e Dan was initially in the 'Seamless Interaction Design' squad)

"So far at TU/e, as well as the squad coaching, I have taught in the courses Researching the Future Everyday (Master's level), Constructive Design Research (Master's level), From Idea to Design (first year Bachelor's level), and done guest workshops for other courses. In my previous role at Carnegie Mellon, I chaired the Design Studies topic area across the whole undergraduate design programme, which aimed to introduce critical and societal awareness in a design context, as well as teaching seminars and studio courses at PhD (Transition Design), Master's, and undergraduate levels, including in the Design for Environments track."

Project topics for coaching

"I'm interested to coach projects related to people's interactions with the designed world, and how that affects how we imagine, now and in relation to our futures, in an age of crises around climate, sustainability, and social inequalities.

Much of my previous work has been around design and behaviour change, especially design for sustainable behaviour around energy use, but in the last few years I have expanded that into questions of imaginaries—how do people think about, and understand, the world around them, the future, and invisible or intangible systems and phenomena that affect our lives, from energy to AI to mental health to visions of futures? And how can we use participatory design research methods, and making things, to investigate—and influence—these imaginaries in an inclusive way, as part of transitions to better futures? Some of that might be creating new forms of (more qualitative) interface which help people understand and experience the world differently; a lot of it is about developing methods for doing research and participatory futuring work with people, from approaches to more experiential futuring, to creative ways for people to externalise and share their thinking with others."

What is your vision on education/coaching?

"I think my vision for education is for designers (building on the intersection of art and technology) to recognise both the power they have to shape the world and people's lives (for good or bad) and the futures ahead of us, but also the influence and constraints of the systems and infrastructures we work within, both natural and human-created. Another aspect of this is wanting designers to be confident about seeing themselves as researchers too—able to investigate the world and generate knowledge that can be of use to other disciplines. In this sense, perhaps I see 'design' as a way of doing things rather than a 'subject' in itself. I expect my students to take a critical stance on technology and what it does, and to adopt a progressive approach to social justice issues in relation to design and the world.

Also, I would note that I have little interest in assessment for its own sake, particularly for creative work. It is by far my least favourite part of being an academic, and—however much it is part of the educational systems in which we all currently have to live—my aim would be to get to a position within academia where I have the autonomy to experiment with some very different kinds of educational model."


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor, Design, Brunel University

Award Date: 1 Jul 2013

Master, Technology Policy, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jul 2005

Industrial Design Engineering, Brunel University

Award Date: 1 Jul 2004

External positions

Director, Imaginaries Lab

1 Aug 2021 → …

Courtesy appointment, Carnegie Mellon University

1 Jan 2021 → …

Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

1 Aug 201631 Dec 2020

Research Tutor, Royal College of Art

1 Jan 201531 Jul 2016

Senior Research Associate, Royal College of Art

1 Mar 201330 Mar 2015

Research Fellow, University of Warwick

1 Oct 201130 Sept 2012

Research Assistant, Brunel University

1 Sept 201031 Oct 2012


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