Areas of Research

Design is the place where engineering comes together with other disciplines such as business, the arts, and the social sciences to tackle complex problems. The designer, therefore, must not only be creative, but also skilled at understanding diverse perspectives, able to develop well-framed problems, and thrive in the face of uncertainty.

Our department, partnered with the Segal Design Institute, has an enviable record of leadership in creating and directing award-winning interdisciplinary design education and research programs.

Design Programs

Strong Research Themes Include:

  1. Human-centered design
  2. Computational design
  3. Predictive design
  4. Design informatics
  5. Human-machine interaction
  6. Social computing

Design Groups

Students interested in design research may have the opportunity to work with these groups at Northwestern:

Integrated Design Automation Laboratory (IDEAL)

Directed by Professor Wei Chen, Integrated DEsign Automation Laboratory (IDEAL) focuses its research in rational design method based on mathematical optimization techniques and statistical methods.

Laboratory for Intelligent Mechanical Systems (LIMS)

Directed by Professors Ed Colgate, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Peshkin, Laboratory for Intelligent Mechanical Systems (LIMS) focuses on research in human-machine interaction, motion planning and control, and self-organizing robotic systems. LIMS actively works with Rehabilitation of Chicago's Sensory Motor Performance group on many rehabilitation robotic projects.

Human Centered Design Research Group

Directed by Professor Elizabeth Gerber, the Human Centered Design Research Group investigates human-centered design and work practices through a behavioral science lens.

In addition, these programs and institutes at Northwestern work closely with students pursuing design research:

Northwestern Center for Engineering Education Research

Professor Ann McKenna co-directs the Northwestern Center for Engineering Education Research. Its mission is to conduct research on how to best educate engineering students as adaptive experts who can solve and anticipate global technological challenges.

Master of Science in Product Design and Development

Professors Walter Herbst and Rich Lueptow co-direct the Master of Science in Product Design and Development (MPD2) program. In MPD, mid-career professionals learn about managing creativity and design, form and function, project management, customer-focused innovation, research, and financial issues, all from the perspective of product development. This two-year, part-time program helps enhance the current skills of professionals by learning from professionals and professors.

Segal Design Institute

Segal's research program advances our knowledge of design innovation and human-centered design. Wei Chen directs the Segal Design Council and Liz Gerber directs the Segal Design Research Cluster.

Learn more about research at Segal

Faculty Active in this Research