Dickinson graduated from Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University) in 1979 with a First Class Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Design for Industry. The "Design for Industry" degree was the first of its kind, formerly a three-year "Industrial Design" degree. The new course with two additional terms for industrial placements, extended the degree to four years and the introduction of the term "sandwich".
Dickinson joined Sir Clive Sinclair's Sinclair Research Ltd in December 1979, replacing John Pemberton who was leaving Sinclair to head up a new design centre for ITT in Harlow. Sinclair Research offices were at 6 Kings Parade, Cambridge.
Rick Dickinson was the in-house industrial designer of Sinclair Research Ltd. He designed the ZX80 and ZX81 home computers, including the touch-sensitive keyboard, as well as the rubber keyboard of the ZX Spectrum. He also designed the TV80 casing and Sinclair QL. Dickinson is a graduate of Newcastle Polytechnic, and worked for Sinclair as a student on one of his industrial placements from Newcastle Polytechnic before he had completed his degree.
The ZX81 won a British Design Council award in 1981. It won a Haus Industrieform award and is in a permanent collection in Essen. The Sinclair QL won an Italian design award at the Smau Industrial Design Award.
In 1986, he founded Dickinson Associates, an industrial design consultancy based in Cambridge. That year he produced the industrial design for an early laptop computer, the Cambridge Z88. In 1987 he was commissioned by Alan Sugar to create the industrial design concept for Amstrad's first portable computer.
In 1989 Rick Dickinson, Christopher Curry (Acorn Computers), and Keith Dunning had a re-think of the famous MacArthur field microscope and Rick designed the Lensman microscope, a portable field microscope. In 1991 the Lensman microscope won the BBC design awards, The Prince Of Wales Award For Industrial Innovation And Production, Archimedes award for Engineering Excellence.
He produced the industrial design concepts and models of the first "Broad Band phone" for AT&T. Dickinson Associates created the industrial design, mechanical design, and production engineering design for the first GSM mobile phone "reference phone" design, for Rockwell. Dickinson Associates were also the designers of the Gizmondo handheld console (originally the Gametrac).
- Lidwell, William; Manacsa, Gerry (2009-11-01). Deconstructing Product Design: Exploring the Form, Function, Usability, Sustainability, and Commercial Success of 100 Amazing Products. Rockport Publishers. pp. 214–. ISBN 978-1-59253-345-9. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Rick Dickinson interview: The Enigma of Design Part 1
- Rick Dickinson interview: The Enigma of Design Part 2
- Rick Dickinson interview: The Enigma of Design Part 3
- Rick Dickinson interview: Designer Update Part 1
- Rick Dickinson interview: Designer Update Part 2
- Planet Sinclair - Rick Dickinson
- Sinclair User magazine, Modest award winner sets the pace in micro design, August 1982
- Rick Dickinson's photos on Flickr
- ZX80 patent
- ZX81 patent