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, United Kingdom, where he was responsible for developing the first distance-learning courses in design.[1] 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") as a domain-independent discipline.[2] He is one of the key people of the Design Research Society.


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;[3] 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).[4] The second DTRS meeting at Delft (1994) laid the foundations for much subsequent work on protocol and other studies of design activity.[5]


In 1982 Cross published a journal article 'Designerly Ways of Knowing',[6] 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 and Humanities. This is based on 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".[7] This paper developed the concept of design thinking as a domain-independent discipline, now widely adopted in modern design practice.[8] Understanding "how designers think and work" has been a significant theme in his writings, culminating in the book Design Thinking (2011). His focus has been on identifying cognitive and practical skills underlying design thinking and expertise in design.[9]


  • 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:]
  2. ^ Cross, N. 'Developing design as a discipline', Journal of Engineering Design, Vol. 29, pp. 691-708, 2018. ISSN 0954-4828
  3. ^ Cross, Nigel (2001). "Can a Machine Design?". Design Issues. 17 (4): 44–50. doi:10.1162/07479360152681083. JSTOR 1511919.
  4. ^ Cross, N. 'A brief history of the Design Thinking Research Symposia series', Design Studies, Vol. 57, pp. 160-164, 2018. ISSN 0142-694X
  5. ^ Cross, Nigel; Christiaans, Henry; Dorst, Kees, eds. (1996). Analysing Design Activity. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-96060-7.
  6. ^ Cross, Nigel (1982). "Designerly ways of knowing" (PDF). Design Studies. 3 (4): 221–7. doi:10.1016/0142-694X(82)90040-0.
  7. ^ Cross, Nigel (1982). "Designerly ways of knowing". Design Studies. 3 (4): 223. doi:10.1016/0142-694X(82)90040-0.
  8. ^ Rodgers, P. A. and Brember, C. (2016) "The Concept of the Design Discipline". Dialectic. 1.1, 19-38.
  9. ^ Cross, N. '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, 2018. pp. 327-388. ISBN 9781107137554
  10. ^ "Professor Nigel Cross - Lifetime Achievement Award 2005". Design Studies. 27: 1–4. 2006. doi:10.1016/j.destud.2005.10.001.
  11. ^ Design Society. "List of Honorary Fellows". The Design Society.
  12. ^ "IED Award" (PDF). IED Journal. p. 13. Retrieved 5 February 2017.

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