Nigel Cross

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Nigel Cross (born 1942) is a British academic, a design researcher and educator, Emeritus Professor of Design Studies at The Open University,[1] United Kingdom, where he was responsible for developing the first distance-learning courses in design in the early 1970s.[2] He was an editor of the journal Design Studies since its inception in 1979 and is now Emeritus Editor in Chief. Cross helped clarify and develop the concept of design thinking (or "designerly ways of knowing") related to the development of design as an academic discipline.[3][4] He is one of the key people of the Design Research Society.


Nigel Cross studied architecture at the University of Bath 1961-1966. He then took a MSc course in Industrial Design Technology, run by the leading design methodologist John Christopher Jones, at the University of Manchester Institute of Science of Technology (1967).[5] In 1974 he also completed a PhD at UMIST in computer aided design.


Nigel Cross began his design research in the 1960s with studies of "simulated" computer-aided design systems where the purported simulator was actually a human operator, using text and graphical communication via CCTV. Cross later referred to this as a kind of Reverse Turing test;[6] in interaction design this kind of study later became known as a Wizard of Oz experiment. He also applied early forms of protocol analysis to these experiments. His PhD on ‘Human and Machine Roles in Computer Aided Design’ was expanded into the book The Automated Architect (1977), which was critical of some of the computer-aided architectural design work of that time. In 1971, Cross co-organised the first major conference of the Design Research Society (DRS), on Design Participation. He continued to play significant roles in DRS, and was its President from 2006-2017.

Early interests in design methods led to an edited book of foundational papers, Developments in Design Methodology (1984) and a textbook of Engineering Design Methods (1989, now in a 4th edition).

Subsequently his research interests turned more to design cognition or design thinking. In 1991 Cross established, with colleagues at Delft University of Technology, the international series of Design Thinking Research Symposia (DTRS).[7] The second DTRS meeting at Delft (1994) laid the foundations for much subsequent work on protocol and other studies of design activity.[8]


In 1982 Cross published a journal article 'Designerly Ways of Knowing',[9] drawing on design research to show Design as having its own intellectual and practical culture as a basis for education, and contrasting it with cultures of Science and Arts & Humanities. This was a clarification of the idea that "There are things to know, ways of knowing them and ways of finding out about them that are specific to the design area". The paper established the concept of design as a discipline, now widely adopted in modern design theory, education and practice.[10][11]

In subsequent papers, Cross continued to identify and clarify the cognitive and practical skills underlying design thinking,[12][13] and the nature of expertise in design.[14][15]

With Kees Dorst, Cross advanced the concept of 'co-evolution' in design,[16] observing how designers progress a project by developing the problem space and solution space in parallel, with activities in each 'space' cross-fertilising the other. Understanding "how designers think and work" has been a significant theme in his writings, culminating in the book Design Thinking (2011).


  • Design Participation (editor), Academy Editions, London, 1972.
  • The Automated Architect: human and machine roles in design, Pion Ltd., London, 1977. ISBN 0 850860571
  • Developments in Design Methodology (editor), John Wiley and Sons Ltd., Chichester, 1984. ISBN 0 471102482
  • Research in Design Thinking (co-editor with K. Dorst and N. Roozenburg), Delft University Press, Delft, 1992. ISBN 9062757960
  • Analysing Design Activity (co-editor with H. Christiaans and K. Dorst), John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester, 1996. ISBN 0 471960608
  • Designerly Ways of Knowing, Springer, London, 2006. ISBN 1 846283000; 978 1849965736
  • Designerly Ways of Knowing, Birkhauser, Basel, Switzerland, 2007. ISBN 978 3764384845
  • Engineering Design Methods: strategies for product design (fourth edition), John Wiley and Sons Ltd., Chichester, 2008. ISBN 978 047051926 4
  • Design Thinking: understanding how designers think and work, Berg/Bloomsbury, Oxford and New York, 2011. ISBN 978 184788 6378 (hb), 978 1847886361 (pb)



  1. ^ [See official university website at: and Archived 2018-10-07 at the Wayback Machine]
  2. ^ Cross, N. and Holden, G. 'Design Education in the Open', Open Arts Journal, 9, pp. 149-161, 2020.
  3. ^ Cross, N. (2006) Designerly Ways of Knowing, Springer, London. ISBN 978-1-84628-300-0
  4. ^ Cross, N. 'Developing design as a discipline', Journal of Engineering Design, Vol. 29, pp. 691-708, 2018. ISSN 0954-4828
  5. ^ Cross, N. (2018) ‘Developing Design as a Discipline’, Journal of Engineering Design, 29, pp. 691-708.
  6. ^ Cross, Nigel (2001). "Can a Machine Design?" (PDF). Design Issues. 17 (4): 44–50. doi:10.1162/07479360152681083. JSTOR 1511919. S2CID 57562395.
  7. ^ Cross, N. 'A brief history of the Design Thinking Research Symposia series', Design Studies, Vol. 57, pp. 160-164, 2018. ISSN 0142-694X
  8. ^ Cross, Nigel; Christiaans, Henry; Dorst, Kees, eds. (1996). Analysing Design Activity. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-96060-7.
  9. ^ Cross, Nigel (1982). "Designerly ways of knowing" (PDF). Design Studies. 3 (4): 221–7. doi:10.1016/0142-694X(82)90040-0.
  10. ^ Rodgers, P. A. and Brember, C. (2016) 'The Concept of the Design Discipline'. Dialectic. 1(1) 19-38.
  11. ^ Christensen, B. & Ball, L. (2019) 'Building a discipline: Indicators of expansion, integration and consolidation in design research across four decades'. Design Studies. 65, 18-34.
  12. ^ Cross, Nigel (1999) 'Natural intelligence in design'. Design Studies, 20 (1), 25-39.
  13. ^ Cross, Nigel (2001) 'Design Cognition: Results from protocol and other empirical studies of design activity'. In C. Eastman, M. McCracken and W. Newstatter (eds.) Design Knowing and Learning: Cognition in Design Education, Elsevier, Oxford, pp. 79-103.ISBN 0080438687
  14. ^ Cross, Nigel (2004) 'Expertise in design: an overview'. Design Studies, 25 (5), 427-441.
  15. ^ Cross, Nigel (2018) 'Expertise in Professional Design' in K. Anders Ericsson, R. Hoffman, A. Kozbelt, A. M. Williams (eds.) Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (2nd Edition), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK and New York USA. pp. 327-388. ISBN 9781107137554
  16. ^ Kees Dorst & Nigel Cross (2001) 'Creativity in the design process: co-evolution of problem–solution'. Design Studies, 22 (5) 425-437.
  17. ^ "Professor Nigel Cross - Lifetime Achievement Award 2005". Design Studies. 27: 1–4. 2006. doi:10.1016/j.destud.2005.10.001.
  18. ^ Design Society. "List of Honorary Fellows". The Design Society.
  19. ^ "IED Award" (PDF). IED Journal. p. 13. Retrieved 5 February 2017.

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