Mark’s research is about the practices of design that enable multidisciplinary groups to work creatively together to address stubborn and complex challenges in pursuit of positive change. Specifically, through my research I have helped shape the development of the new field of multidisciplinary innovation practice and pedagogy, and demonstrated how design-led, enquiry-based, cooperative learning develops new knowledge and meaning at the intersection of disciplinary boundaries. He believes that whatever form a designed output takes, it is a manifestation of synthesised knowledge crystallised as a version of certainty at the moment of its completion. Furthermore, that synthesised knowledge is a crystallisation of the multiple compromises, creatively made in the artistry of reaching that temporal certainty.
The unique, experimental and innovative Master’s programme in Multidisciplinary Innovation programme that Mark established capitalises on this concept of design as knowledge creation.
As a pragmatic academic, his approach has been an entirely integrated one and this is evidenced by his creation of an Integrated Academic Practice (IAP) model. With this he established and leads environments that enable high quality authentic, cooperative, enquiry-based learning and excellent practice-based research undertaken through business engagement operating at the heart of the research/teaching nexus.
Employing this IAP model, he has led collaborations with multiple organisations including Unilever, Mars, Philips and Herman Miller as well as many SMEs, start-ups and charities. These collaborations allow the academic team to develop and deploy new knowledge regarding the role of design within enterprises whilst simultaneously affording students the opportunity to learn through addressing real-world issues that really matter to the partner organisation.
Mark has worked in Higher Education for more than 20 years having previously spent ten years leading design and development projects in the Aerospace industry where he worked on advanced passenger and business jet concepts as well as designing bespoke private jet interiors. He has also led a small design consultancy business. A highlight of his early consultancy career was as part of the design team that designed the best-selling ‘Little Professor’ for Texas Instruments!
He supervised a Knowledge Transfer Partnership embedding Service Design methodology within Age UK Newcastle which won the Research Councils of UK Knowledge Base Impact Award in 2013. He has led the School of Design’s Cultural Partnership with the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) of which he is a Fellow. He is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has contributed to the Pure Insight Innovation Leaders programme delivering on the subject of ‘Smart Failing’ to delegates from companies such as Mars, Pepsico, Telefonica O2, Astra Zeneca, Birds Eye, Coca Cola, Carlsberg, Philips and GSK.
Through his Integrated Academic Practice approach, over the past decade, Mark has worked, with some 70+ different companies across 3rd, public and private sectors. These have included BBC, Philips, Mars, Bower and Wilkins, Unilever, Age UK, Northumbrian Water Group, Fendor, NCVS, Berghaus, Northumbria Police, Sonoco Alcore, Elddis and the Parking Appeals Tribunal to name but a few.
Over a decade of working in partnership with Unilever, characterises the value of this sort of unique research and educational partnership: https://vimeo.com/128358762
Mark is interested in the role of the designer as orchestrator, facilitator and translator within multidisciplinary innovation teams. He is particularly interested the role of education in this regard. He is concerned with developing knowledge around and approaches to design and innovation practice and education with reference to organisational settings with a particular emphasis on multidisciplinary activism and the role of the designer/design approaches in facilitating innovation in teams of ‘non-designers’. His work is involved with pedagogical approaches to broad spectrum design activity ranging from service and system design through brand strategy to artefact.
As Northumbria’s Principle Investigator in both phase 1 and phase 2 of the AHRC/ERDF/ACE funded c.£6m collaborative research programme Creative Fuse North East https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/academic-departments/northumbria-school-of-design/research/creative-fuse/ programme, Mark has employed his Integrated Academic Practice approach to enable post graduate innovation students to act as co-investigators in developing and deploying innovation readiness workshops with regional small businesses.
Mark sees value in design education for ‘non-designers’ recognising the critical importance of establishing creative confidence as a key employability attribute. To this end, he is also an active co-investigator in the €1m EU funded Global Entrepreneurial Talent Management 3 programme (https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/research-areas/global-entrepreneurial-talent-management-3-getm3/), through which he is exploring the role of designerly pedagogies in preparing graduates, outside design disciplines, for jobs that don’t yet exist.