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Designing for the 21st Century

Extending our knowledge of design through research

Design is central to many of the disciplines and subjects that come under the remit of arts and humanities. From architecture to engineering and applied arts through to fashion, computing and communications, it is an integral element of our lives.


As design requires a collaboration of minds and skills, this programme is a joint initiative between the AHRC and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). By coming together in this way, researchers funded by both research councils were able to work collaboratively and foster understanding of the different perspectives of design research.

The Programme

The programme aimed to support leading-edge design research which explored new modes of design thinking suitable for the challenges of designing for the 21st Century society. It was in two phases. The first phase set up cross-sector and cross-disciplinary networking activities through the establishment of research clusters, whilst the second funded interdisciplinary research projects.

Its objectives included:

  • promoting the formation of new communities and networks of design researchers, practitioners and end-users of design
  • building shared understanding of theoretical concepts, cultures, languages and methods within different design communities
  • stimulating new ways of design thinking that will meet the challenges of designing for the 21st Century Society
  • supporting leading edge research that is self-reflective, socially aware, economically enterprising and internationally significant.

For more information, visit the Design 21 website