Professor Young retired from the School of Design in 2019 after a long and dedicated service to the university. When he left, he was Professor of Design Practice for a number of years.
As Professor of Design Practice, his role was to develop research related to design practice. He would say that it’s one of the most important roles in the school, as the ethos of the school has always concerned the practice of design. In this sense, it differentiates from research and learning around design, where design is treated as an object of enquiry rather than a process and a practice of doing. That is a really important distinction for the School, something that the School has to be reminded about in order to understand its raison d’étre and key purpose. In terms of the Innovate Academic Community of Practice, the underlying theme is ‘Making Changes’ and this is interpreted as we use a variety of creative and innovative practices to effect changes in the world. Design is a subject concerned with making things happen, not just a theoretical or hypothetical discourse, but a sincere motivation to make the world a better place. Of course that leads us to a lot of qualifying questions – what do we mean by ‘change’, what do we mean by ‘better’? And that is really the subject of the research activities that he was interested in.
The thing that has always excited Professor Young about design is the creative oeuvre that lies at the heart of a designers practice. It’s that part of their DNA that is a fundamental aspect to their creativity. It gets them out of bed in the morning but drives them through the hardest project. He would often refer to a paper by Davies and Talbot (titled ‘Experiencing ideas: identity, insight and the imago’) written 25 years ago, where they studied the nature of design and creativity and identified that there is something distinctive about the creative gene. That creativity is a natural form of adrenalin in designers, and one of the core things that drives them. For him, that aspect of creativity is not limited to products or artefacts, but pervades every aspect of life. It’s the kind of opportunity to work with people and introduce creative opportunities at every twist and turn.
See an up to date list of Robert’s publications on the Northumbria University Research Portal.