Design Museum R+D

R+D is the Design Museum’s platform for developing new ways of teaching, showing and sharing learnings about contemporary design practice within the museum context.

Design Museum R+D is concerned with contemporary design and architecture in all its manifestations: from speculation to production, from the physical to the immaterial, from the miniature to the monumental. By interrogating assumptions, asking original questions and bringing together diverse perspectives, the ambition is to develop new critical tools for the museum’s learning programmes, curatorial activities and to make significant contributions to academic scholarship.

A platform for research, conferences, symposiums, publications, workshops and exhibitions, Design Museum R+D encourages collaborative networks and partnerships between educational organisations, designers and funders, aiming to be an advocate for new ways of understanding the value of design.

Future Observatory

How can we put design to work to rebuild Britain?

A new national programme of research, debate and training that will investigate how design can drive Britain's future prosperity coordinated by the Design Museum in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UKRI.

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Design Researchers in Residence

Future Observatory launches a new programme for emerging design researchers supported by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

2020/21 Theme: Restore

2022/23 Theme: Islands

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Material Tales: Research in Action

'Material Tales: Research in Action' is an accompanying design research workshop to our 'Material Tales: The Life of Things' touring exhibition. The series of workshops seeks to understand the material cultures of different regions in more depth, to consolidate ongoing research across the globe into material innovation and sustainable practices.

The 'Material Tales: The Life of Things' touring exhibition unpacks how designed objects and the materials from which they are made impact our day-to-day lives on the one hand and the planet on the other.

The 'Research in Action' workshop was first delivered at the Design Museum in November 2021 by Marta Giralt. The workshop was conducted through a 3 stage process of activities – define, refine and redesign.

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research projects

Design School – the Future of the Project

The Design Museum is partnering with Imagination, Lancaster University and Charles Sturt University, Australia, in ‘Design School: The Future of the Project’, a research initiative funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The project comprises three research summits focusing on the educational, industry and cultural turns of the design school project.

The first summit took place on June 2016. The second took place in May 2017. The third summit is taking place in November 2017. Please see below for further information.

Summit 2: Design School – the Industry Turn

This summit, Design School and the Industry Turn, questions how design education can best meet the challenges of the loss of “fundamental freedoms” and of design’s role within the creative and manufacturing industries in the UK and global economies.

This summit took place in May 2017 at the Design Museum

Summit 3: Design School – the Cultural Turn

Join leading curators, thinkers and academics across the design and museum sectors to explore the relationship between the design school of today and the cultural sector, in particular the museum as an educational resource, manifest through exhibition making, public programme and collections.

This summit will take place in November 2017. Registration is by invitation only.

Please see below for speaker biographies.

Speaker biographies

research partnerships

Curating Contemporary Design MA with Kingston University

A joint partnership between the Design Museum and Kingston University, our MA in Curating Contemporary Design is taught by leading curators and designers. The course gives students the opportunity to test and develop new ideas about curating contemporary design through projects with the Design Museum and partner organisations including the British Council, Architecture Foundation, and the V&A.

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award Scheme with Brighton University

The Design Museum currently has two research studentships with the University of Brighton, funded through the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme. Liz Farrelly is investigating national and international perspectives on the 21st century design museum, with a particular focus on the Design Museum’s history. Tom Wilson is researching the design and display strategy of the Museum’s new home, the former Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.

Design Age Institute: Designing for Age, Agency & Joy

The Design Age Institute is the UK’s national strategic unit for design and the healthy ageing economy, bringing together designers, businesses, researchers and communities to help address the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society.

research presentations and publications

A selection of papers and publications by Design Museum's past and present employees.

Justin McGuirk, Chief Curator: Keynote speech for Creative Spaces: Urban Culture and Marginality in Latin America

Keynote speech at a one-day symposium organised by the Institute of Latin American Studies, May 2016. Focusing on marginal urban spaces in Latin America, this conference looks at creative interventions and solutions to the problems encountered in them, and on creative representations of their inhabitants.

Design Objects and the Museum ed. Liz Farrelly and Joanna Weddell (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)

Design Objects and the Museum brings together leading design historians, curators and educators to consider the place of contemporary design objects within museums. The Design Museum has contributed two chapters to this volume:

Helen Charman, Director of Learning and Research: Just What Is it that makes Curating Design so Different, so Appealing?

Tom Wilson, Head of Collection and Research: ‘You Are Here, We Are There: Tracing NID’s Design Histories’

Dr Helen Charman: Thinking in Public: Visitor Voice between the Discursive and the Immersive.

An international symposium on Research in 21st Century Art Museums, organised by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and Aarhus University, December 2015

Justin McGuirk: Privacy 1.0.

Keynote speech for Span 2015, organised by Google Design, November 2015

Tom Wilson: 'Beautiful and Made of Fine Materials’: Design and Diplomacy at the Commonwealth Institute, London, 1958-62’.

Research paper given at From 'Soft' to 'Hard' Power? Changing Visions of Diplomacy by Design From 1945 Onwards, a one-day symposium organised by the University of Brighton, November 2015


The Design Museum Library and Archive

The Design Museum Library and Archives are a valuable resource for the study of design and architecture.

Please note that the space is closed to the public until further notice.

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Library and Archive

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research talks and events

The Design Museum R+D programme offers a range of public talks, workshops and symposia. Check the website for updates.

Get in touch

Design Museum R+D works with a wide range of local and international partners. If you’d like to discuss possible research collaborations or projects, please get in touch using the online enquiry form below.