Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education
Professor Sir Christopher Frayling who represents the College of Medallists on The Awards Committee, read the citation for Professor Rachel Cooper OBE:
The recipient of the 2015 Award for Innovation in Design Education is Rachel Cooper of the University of Lancaster. The phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has become something of a cliché over the last few months, but Rachel, tonight’s winner, is undoubtedly a one-person Northern Powerhouse...

She is a pioneer in teaching and researching design — within an academic environment — in ways which strongly relate to the practice of design as well as its study. She has created innovative forms of design research, which are timely and relevant as well as being rigorous—especially in the areas of design management, design policy, socially-responsible design, design and healing (a special area), design against crime, service design and design and the city (another of her special areas). Quite a portfolio! And in the process she has persuaded the Research Councils—notably the EPSRC and the AHRC — at long last — that ‘design’ is a worthy subject for serious study and serious funding. She has led this campaign, and we are all in her debt for it.

Compared with Fine Art and Architecture — where the archive of research goes back 500 years to the Renaissance — design research is a recent development, paralleling the maturity of the design profession. Rachel has established and led a significant community of researchers at Lancaster, has chaired Imagination Lancaster (a centre for research into the products and places and systems of the future) and championed LICA—the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts, an important interdisciplinary Centre in a terrific new building which she also championed, with great energy and commitment. Its light wooden interior and Scandinavian look has already earned it the affectionate if inevitable nickname of LIKEA.

One of the features of the last ten years has been the way in which design research has been growing within mainstream universities as well as in its traditional heartland of art and design schools. Rachel Cooper has been at the forefront of this movement, and has herself published widely on The Design Agenda, The Design Experience, and Designing Futures — as well as editing The Design Journal. She has achieved all this while retaining the confidence of the design community—often suspicious of academic research. An achievement in itself. She’s customised academe to design... and design to academe.

All excellent reasons why the selectors had no hesitation in recommending Rachel Cooper as a worthy recipient of this year’s Award for innovation in design education.

The 2015 Awards Ceremony