Imaginaries Lab: Dan Lockton

A photo of Dan Lockton

Dr Dan Lockton

Dan Lockton is a British interaction designer and researcher. His work centres on tools and methods for participatory (re-)imagining: helping people, together, create and explore possible futures, imagine new ways to live, and understand ourselves and the world around us better, in an age of crises in climate, health, and social inequalities. He runs the Imaginaries Lab, an independent research-through-design studio—now based in Amsterdam—originally established in 2017 as part of Carnegie Mellon University. Since 2021, Dan has been an assistant professor in the ‘Future Everyday’ group, Department of Industrial Design, at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Netherlands, with climate futures and design research methods as particular focuses.

Before joining TU/e, Dan was an assistant professor and Chair of Design Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, United States, where he retains a courtesy appointment. Dan contributed to the Transition Design subject area, and was also a Faculty Affiliate of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at CMU, a member of the Center for the Arts in Society, and collaborated with the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture, the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, and Metro21. Between 2013–16, Dan worked at the Royal College of Art, London, first as a senior associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design’s Work & City and Age & Ability Labs, and then as a research tutor in Innovation Design Engineering and for other doctoral programmes, supervising and advising PhD researchers. He was also a guest tutor in the Master’s programmes in Information Experience Design, Textiles, Global Innovation Design, Design Products and Service Design, and part of the RCA’s External Education projects in Sweden, Qatar and the UK. Before the RCA, Dan was a research fellow in Experiential Engineering at WMG, University of Warwick (2011–12) and a research assistant in Environmentally Sensitive Design at Brunel University (2010–12). Earlier in his career, Dan worked in industry on a range of product design projects, including R&D for Sir Clive Sinclair (on mobility products and some unusual folding bikes).

Dan has been an investigator or researcher on projects bringing together design and technology with societal, community, and environmental challenges, including: IMAGINE: Contested Futures of Sustainability (2022–25), led by Oslo Metropolitan University and funded by the Research Council of Norway; Playing With The Trouble (2022–23), funded by the Centre for Unusual Collaborations; Game Your Way Through: Games as a method for transformative collaborations (2021), a Spark grant from the Centre for Unusual Collaborations; Spooky Technology (2020–21), funded by the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art at the Frontier and Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts; Sleep Ecologies (2019), funded by Philips; Legible Policy (2015–16), with Laboratorio para la Ciudad Mexico City, Superflux and the Future Cities Catapult; SusLabNWE (2013–15), a European Union sustainability and energy research ‘living lab’ collaboration led by TU Delft; Media, Community & the Creative Citizen (2013–15), a Research Councils UK Connected Communities project; Creating Sustainable Innovation through Design for Behaviour Change (2014), funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council; and Empower (2010–12), an energy research collaboration between Brunel University, University of Warwick, startup CarbonCulture and the Department of Energy & Climate Change, funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board. In 2015 Dan was project manager for the RCA’s role in GATEway, a driverless vehicle research programme.

Dan is creator of the Design with Intent toolkit (Equifine, 2010)—which has been widely adopted by educators, researchers, designers and businesses worldwide—and New Metaphors: A Creative Toolkit for Generating Ideas and Reframing Problems (Imaginaries Lab, 2019), which has been applied in contexts as diverse as robotics, corporate culture, and the circular economy. He is an editor of Spooky Technology (Imaginaries Lab, 2021), Living Labs: Design and Assessment of Sustainable Living (Springer, 2016); he led the editorial team for Creative Citizens’ Variety Pack: Inspiring Digital Ideas from Community Projects (RCA, 2014); is a co-author of Drawing Energy: Exploring Perceptions of the Invisible (RCA, 2015); and is author of Rebel Without Applause (Bookmarque, 2003), a history of the Reliant Motor Company.

Academic background

Dan holds a PhD in Design from Brunel University, London, a Master’s in Technology Policy from the University of Cambridge (one of a set of experimental programmes developed by the former Cambridge-MIT Institute), a BSc in Industrial Design Engineering, also from Brunel, and is a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Society of Arts (2008–). Dan is also an elected member of the Design Research Society’s International Advisory Council (2020–26), and a member of the Plurality University Network, a Paris-based international collective of designers, futurists, and science-fiction writers, and Untitled (run by Demos Helsinki, Finland), an alliance of activists across sectors including design, architecture, policy, and civil society which aims collectively to create an agenda for social transformation.

He regularly publishes in international academic journals and at conferences, in design, HCI, and related fields, and has been a member of programme and review committees for events including DRS, CHI, DIS, C&C, and EPIC. He is a regular reviewer for leading academic journals, and has been a reviewer for funding bodies including the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, EU Horizon 2020 Future & Emerging Technologies Programme, RCUK Sustainable Society Network+, and Fond National de la Recherche (Luxembourg), and for PhD programmes at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, TU Delft, and Oslo Met. He is a member of the ‘sounding board’ of the EWUU Alliance’s Centre for Unusual Collaborations and external examiner for Brunel University’s BA/BSc/MDes programmes in Design (2022–26).

Dan maintains an active engagement with professional interaction design and social sector practice through delivering keynotes and workshops at practice-focused events around the world, including IxDA Interaction, UX London, UX Lisbon, and Interaction Latin America, and through the Imaginaries Lab‘s work with organisations including the UK’s National Lottery Community Fund, American Eagle Outfitters, CMU’s Tepper School of Business, and Demos Helsinki’s Untitled Alliance. Dan was a jury member for the IxDA Interaction Awards 2019 and was co-chair of the student design competition for ACM DIS 2020.

In addition to his work at TU/e, Dan currently advises two PhD candidates at Carnegie Mellon (and one at the RCA in London). He has successfully supervised / advised ten PhDs to completion (at CMU, the RCA, and at TU/e) as supervisor, advisor, or committee member, and been an external examiner for PhDs at Monash University, Loughborough University, NTNU (Trondheim), and RMIT Europe.

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CV (January 2022)
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