“Design is the occupation of straining our ears and eyes to discover new questions from the midst of everday life.”
(Kenya Hara)

“Design is less, but better. You cannot understand design, if you do not understand people.”
(Dieter Rams)

“Design can make us better through possible action and alternative critical knowledge and practices.”
(Idrees Rasouli)

Dr. Idrees Rasouli [BA (Hons). MSc (ICL). MA (RCA). PhD (RCA). PGCert. SFHEA. FRSA. AoU] is a design leader and strategic change-maker. He is an enabler of creative practice and pedagogy, knowledge exchange partnerships and collaborative research that break boundaries between higher education, business, and society, with deep knowledge and experience in growing initial pilots into mature scaled systems.



Born in Kabul, raised in London, and nurtured in over a dozen countries, I am an award-winning designer, academic, and researcher of products, processes, and places with a focus on innovation and transformation. I have worked with a wide range of cities, organisations, and people, helping them solve issues of urbanisation in the 21st century, and my international profile includes collaborations in fifteen countries, alongside research and commercial-educational partnerships with more than eighty organisations.

I am an enabler of creative practice and pedagogy, knowledge exchange partnerships and collaborative research, with a track record of grant capture and practice-based outputs that explore systemic issues beyond the realm of design and cross boundaries between higher education, business, and society through multi / transdisciplinary approaches to deliver mission-led and future-facing outcomes, drive policy, and have a meaningful impact on the socio-cultural system and socio-economic fabric of local and global communities.

I have over a decade of experience in strategic and people-centred leadership across art, architecture and design, as well as successfully managing a thriving academic and research culture in a creative, innovative, and professional environment. As Associate Professor and Deputy Head of Cambridge School of Art︎︎︎ at Anglia Ruskin University︎︎︎, I am the Chair of Art & Design and provide academic leadership and strategic direction for a community of ≤ 1,500 students + ≤ 50 staff, with a focus on extending the school’s purpose and offering in the 21st century, particularly around ethical, inclusive, and systemic education, research, and practice.

I am the Founder and Creative Director of X-Crop︎︎︎, a Cambridge-based research and innovation lab focused on making cities, organisations, and people better by design.

︎Design Leadership

Throughout my professional and academic career, I have consistently pushed boundaries in design education, research and practice, focusing on diversity, sustainability, and inclusivity within design and have won various design and research awards including: a Daiwa Foundation Award︎︎︎, a InnovationRCA Fellowship︎︎︎, a Dyson Foundation Award︎︎︎, a Wates Foundation Award︎︎︎, and a Core77 Award︎︎︎. I have been awarded scholarhips for design research by Ravensbourne University London︎︎︎(2015-20) and Anglia Ruskin University︎︎︎(2021-23) as well as a Dean’s Award for Leadership, and awarded a Senior Fellowship of the UK’s Higher Education Academy︎︎︎.

As a designer, I believe design should start from ‘small things’ — like a tornado that starts from small ideas and gradually turns into a bigger vision. A bottom-up approach that gives more agency to people and have them feel empowered by moving beyond the hierarchical traditions and old methodologies. A connected approach that integrates the immediate context, resources, systems and processes to find the most important problems in our cities, organisations and communities through observing and noticing everyday life conditions, and then trying to capture and turning them into something that’s simple, thoughtful and impactful as well as easy to understand and share.

Trained at the Royal College of Art︎︎︎ and Imperial College London︎︎︎ — I cultivated my leadership skills through 15+ years of extensive practice, pedagogy, and collaboration with a number of world-famous architecture, innovation, design, engineering, and branding companies, such as the Office for Metropolitan Architecture︎︎︎, InnovationRCA︎︎︎, Ramboll︎︎︎, Fortune 500︎︎︎, and Fitch︎︎︎; with direct involvement in projects across a wide range of industries, including technology, automotive, energy, healthcare, transport, fashion, aviation, consumer goods, manufacturing, education, and construction throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

︎Education & Academic Leadership
As a design academic, I am an expert in the design and delivery of knowledge exchange and public engagement activities which offer routes to impact and embed active and inclusive collaborative learning and teaching practices, with significant experience in initiating, developing, and delivering innovative academic practices at FE, UG, PGT, and PGR levels and influencing organisations in the UK and globally.

I have extensive knowledge and skills in experiential, authentic, and cross-cultural education, as well as student experiences that incorporate decolonisation, inclusion, diversity, employability, and sustainability into the curriculum. I have a successful and diverse track record in senior academic leadership, management, and enhancement roles spanning disciplines such as architecture and urban design, interior and environment design, industrial and product-service-system design, engineering and UX / experience design, fine art and visual communication design; as well as experience in driving change and innovation in a collaborative culture through excellence, influence, and self-esteem. I successfully navigate cross-institutional challenges to enhance and broaden research and educational offerings at the Department, School, and Faculty levels, as well as inspire and mentor diverse staff teams to foster an innovative research culture and provide high-quality education in dynamic environments.

I am a champion of transformative and adaptive leadership styles founded on empathy and transparency, with a focus on change vision and strategy that includes a clear purpose and a strong emphasis on morals and values. For me, leadership entails guiding and influencing a group of people while also connecting their ideas to a common vision.

I have the ability to identify and understand the perspectives and needs of others and respond to those perspectives and needs from a place of care, dignity, and compassion. In so doing, I help people to become better leaders and mobilise their intelligence, creativity, and talent to adapt to the change that is happening. My style of leadership makes me a proponent of codesign, someone who  brings everybody together to work across different fields, departments, and programmes to facilitate collaborations that allow for different approaches towards achieving a shared vision as well as collective and strategic objectives.

As a systems thinker, I understand the changes affecting Higher Education institutions and can bridge the gap between the strategic vision and day-to-day operations by driving efficiency and effectiveness, leading community engagement, and taking on roles that contribute to the vitality of the design discipline and the University. I have built strong purposeful networks and ecosystems with industry, government, and academia to address global, political, and social challenges, generate revenue, seek external funding, and develop pilots into mature scaled programmes.

I am a Senior Fellow [SFHEA] of The Higher Education Academy︎︎︎, a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts︎︎︎, and Academician of The Academy of Urbanism︎︎︎, all of which enable me to actively contribute to the social, cultural, economic, political, and physical development of cities, organisations, and people.

Previously, I was Head of Department of Architecture︎︎︎ at Ravensbourne University London︎︎︎, where I developed and delivered the department’s academic curriculum and led various design courses, including the world’s first ARB accredited interior design course︎︎︎. I focused on diversity, sustainability, and inclusivity to build high quality academic experiences and stimulating environment for students and staff from diverse backgrounds, and combined pedagogic experimentation and multi / transdisciplinary local, national, and international collaborations to co-create the best propositions for the issues of the built environment and society.

Moreover, I taught design and innovation to postgraduate and research students in the School of Design︎︎︎ at the Royal College of Art︎︎︎ alongside prominent academics and industry leaders, with a focus on cross-cultural design, transnational trends, and context-specific methods and approaches, as well as fostering external relationships that empower staff and enhance student employability and entrepreneurial skills.

Currently, I am Associate Professor of Art & Design and Deputy Head of Cambridge School of Art (Education & Enterprise)︎︎︎ in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences︎︎︎ at Anglia Ruskin University︎︎︎ where I provide academic leadership for Cambridge School of Art︎︎︎(CSA), and as the Chair of Art & Design, I oversee the strategic direction of Art & Design programmes, with a particular focus on vertical and horizontal experiences and progression and new forms of multi-site and shared collaboration integrating practice-based research with teaching and knowledge exchange, as well as evolving Art & Design’s relationship to the key local, national, and global challenges and the purpose of an art school in the 21st century.

At CSA︎︎︎, I take a leading role in embedding a culture of strategic societal engagement to foster confidence in Art & Design and have been working with various teams to reposition the school, academic staff, and existing research and academic provision and make them future-facing, global and leading-edge. I lead on the planning and development of formal and informal offerings as well as new and exciting undergraduate and postgraduate courses (including a new postgraduate framework for art & design education that includes MA Art, Health, and Wellbeing︎︎︎, MA Interior Design Innovation︎︎︎, and MA Human-Centred Design︎︎︎), with a focus on extending the school’s Art & Design curriculum and portfolio, particularly around ethical, inclusive, and systemic practice and innovation; looking at how we can move beyond disciplinary boundaries towards interconnected, holistic, analytical, decolonial, and entrepreneurial approaches that enable positive contribution to society, health, and planet.

To achieve outstanding results and strategic aims, my strength is in being a key resource in the development, articulation, and delivery of policy and strategy for education, research, and operations, and my principal accountabilities have included; academic leadership and strategic direction, quality management and assurance (learning, teaching, and assessment), research and knowledge exchange (global collaborations, external public engagement, and income generation) professional and scholarly development of colleagues, effective management of academic community, environment and resources, programme innovation and promotion, and delivering REF, TEF, and KEF targets linked to the improvement of institutional performance.

Additionally, I am the Chief External Examiner and Course Development Consultant for the School of Design, Architecture, and Interiors︎︎︎ at Falmouth University︎︎︎, where my responsibilities include assessing and monitoring programme structure, content, academic standards, and delivery, as well as offering expert guidance on developing innovative multi-site, digital, and cross-cultural undergraduate and postgraduate design courses.

Until recently, I served on the Board of Advisors for Digital Influx︎︎︎(a world’s first EdTech company that teaches young people User Experience and Design Thinking), my role was to help the company better understand design, technology, education, economics, demographics, geopolitics, and policy. I also served on the Board of Governors for Ravensbourne University London︎︎︎, with responsibility for successfully achieving university status (Taught Degree Awarding Powers-TDAP︎︎︎) and developing research and innovation partnerships with local government, NGOs, and creative industries. Prior to these, I was a member of the Design Innovation Committee for Design Museum︎︎︎(Design Ventura Programme︎︎︎), an annual design challenge for high school students, supported by Deutsche Bank as part of its global youth engagement programme Born to Be), where I helped the museum build partnership and collaboration capacity, advocate for creativity and entrepreneurship, and champion the role of design in transforming society and economy.

︎Research & Innovation Leadership
My overarching research, conducted through private practice, consultancy, teaching, and writing, and in collaboration with global public and private sector organisations, such as the World Humanitarian Forum︎︎︎, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation︎︎︎, Vestre︎︎︎, Crisis Response︎︎︎, and Atlantic Pacific︎︎︎; focuses on contextually, culturally, and geographically significant design methods and methodologies which are explored as ‘Design Pivots’ (multi/transdisciplinary approaches that seek alternative modernities and broaden the sense of design and impact by diversifying design practice, perspectives, and knowledge systems) with different strands focusing on Human-Connected Design, Design in/for Emergency, Autonomous Design, Decolonised Design, and Design Under Resource Constraints to tackle social, cultural, and environmental challenges rooted in systemic issues responsibly and through care, influence policy and products, and achieve sustainable, resilient, and just futures.

Idrees’ Overarching Research Focus and Areas

My practice-based doctoral research in Innovation Design Engineering at the School of Design︎︎︎ Royal College of Art︎︎︎, examined Decolonised Innovation as the seventh generation of innovation. My research, “Decolonised Innovation; Designing Needs, Dreams, and Aspirations Under Resource Constraints,” was set within transformative design that crossed geographic, cultural, and political borders, and it investigated the effects of social context, environment, and cultural differences on innovation. I researched new methods of innovation by examining how transnationalism, specifically borders (community, city, country, continent), serve as a point of convergence for identity, imagination, and design practice in the least developed, developing, and developed economies.

I am particularly interested in: a) creating a cross-cultural and world-leading research centre [Centre for Alternative Design and Innovation - CADI] to pioneer decolonial, ethical, and responsible design research and practice, and undo the dominance of a single cultural perspective in the innovation space; and b) leading a research group that investigates spatially and geo-culturally concentrated design and innovation, as well as their environmental, political, and socio-economic implications in the future.

Additionally, I am interested in pioneering new models of knowledge exchange and student enterprise frameworks by partnering academia with public and private sector organisations (particularly science and technology), such as the Transport Research Laboratory︎︎︎, Greater London Authority︎︎︎Ford Motors︎︎︎, and Ogilvy︎︎︎; to conduct research and co-create world-class ideas and prototypes that define the future of cities and urban environments, learning and experience, mobility and energy, transaction and trade, health and wellbeing, living and care, work and play.

My pedagogy focuses on encouraging an international and cross geo-cultural educational experience through multi-site and shared collaborative projects that challenges stereotypical approaches and methodologies to design education and practice by connecting the ostensibly unconnected, recognising the relationship and value of the local & the global as well as the importance of experimentation and the need to innovate for purpose.

I am often humbled by my students’ and colleagues’ potential, creativity, tenacity, and positivity despite the difficulties they face in education and the industry. Equally, I’m interested in the synergy between [1] the purpose of an art/design school, [2] the advances in technology and science, [3] the needs of the city where the school is based, [4] the stimulus of national and international industries and institutions, and [5] the culture, creativity, and resilience of the school’s multidisciplinary staff and its diverse body of students.

Therefore, I am always curious about how we engage with and bring the [Big 5] together and how we connect all of the complexities of design to the real-world difficulties that people, organisations, and cities face. Simultaneously, I am interested in exploring the art school as a 'nexus' to nurture dynamic ecosystems and design as a 'catalyst' to bridge societal gaps. And this is the type of thinking that, I hope, will contribute to making design education more inclusive and design research and practice more relevant to all communities.

Ford / Nokia / Shenzhen Stock Exchange / Chelmsford Borough Council / British Council / Kuwait Catering Company / Ashfield District Council / Leaside Regeneration Company / Hitachi / Imperial College London / Seoul Design Foundation / Fitch / Aspire Logistics / Rio Tinto / Royal College of Art / Office for Metropolitan Architecture / Kuwait Hotels Company / Ramboll Group / Ravensbourne University London / Design Museum London / Deutsch Bank / InnovationRCA / Wates Foundation / University of Milano - Bicocca / Korea Advance Institute of Science and Technology / Qatar Foundation / China Central Television / KEIO University / British Olympics Authority / Lusail Development / Samsung / LG, Korea / Tokyo Department for Tourism / Leicester City Council / Greenwich Automated Transport Environment / Transport Research London / ESNE University / Robert Owen Nursery School / World of Hope / Ogilvy / Southwark Council / Metropolitan Police / Royal College of Physicians / Creative Ken / Methodist Church / City of Kamaishi / Atlantic Pacific / Nebama Mind / Croydon Council / United Nations Development Programme / Unilever / Vestre / Dubai Design Week / Canadian University of Dubai / The Culture Capital Exchange / Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation / Institute for Innovative Global Education, Kansai University / European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) / Logitech / World Health Organisation / World Humanitarian Forum / Emergency Show / Digital Influx / Falmouth University / School of Architecture, Design, and Interiors / Cambridge City Council / Cambridge Arts Network / Crisis Response / University of Hertfordshire / Academy of Urbanism / Wysing Arts Centre / University of Cambridge / Cambridge Biomedical Campus / Institute of Metabolic Science / Innovate Cambridge / Cambridge Junction / Kavli Centre for Ethics, Science, and the Public / Fitzwilliam Museum / Mill Road 4 People / Microsoft Research

︎ +447985414318

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