Idrees Rasouli

Deputy Head, Cambridge School of Art;

Associate Professor, Art & Design

Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Cambridge School of Art
Areas of Expertise:
Design Innovation , Design Research , Design Education
Research Supervision:

Idrees Rasouli is an award-winning designer, academic, and researcher of products, processes, and places, with a focus on innovation and transformation. He specialises in Human-Connected Design, Design in/for Emergency, Autonomous Design, Decolonised Design, and Design Under Resource Constraints to tackle social and environmental issues and explore design and innovation interventions for specific geographic, cultural, and political contexts. As Associate Professor and Deputy Head of Cambridge School of Art, Idrees influences and shapes the future of Art & Design education to deliver world-class teaching and research at the intersection between Art & Design practice.

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Trained at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, Idrees has been working with all kinds of cities, organisations, and people, helping them solve issues of urbanisation in the 21st century through design, on both local and global levels. He cultivated his design leadership skills through 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, before founding X-Crop; 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.

Previously, he developed and managed multiple design courses, including the world’s first ARB accredited interior design course, and eventually the Department of Architecture at Ravensbourne University London, building high quality academic experiences and stimulating environment for students and staff from various backgrounds, with a focus on combining pedagogic experimentation, creative imagination, and cross-disciplinary collaboration to create the best propositions for the issues of the built environment and society. Moreover, he 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.

At Anglia Ruskin University, he leads the 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 by rethinking the role of critical and contextual studies in an art school environment and the purpose of an art school in the 21st century. Furthermore, he has been working with various teams to reposition the school, academic staff, and existing provision and make them future-facing, global and leading-edge with a focus on extending the school’s 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.

Idrees has extensive experience of leading and managing Art & Design education as well as the skills and knowledge in initiating, developing, and delivering innovative forms of collaborative pedagogy, practice, and research across different disciplines, sectors, and geographical contexts. As a senior leader, he has built strategic alliances with academic institutions, public and private sector industries, local governments and the third sector as well as strong cross-functional team cultures and transparent and effective relationships with diverse stakeholders. He is experienced in the design and delivery of academic and creative development activities and is actively involved in academic quality assurance and enhancement as external examiner and course development advisor, and takes on additional leadership roles as board advisor, creative director, and mentor to bring together diverse teams and functions to make cities, organisations, and people better.

Spoken Languages

  • English
  • Hindi
  • Pashto
  • Persian/Dari
  • Urdu

Research interests

Idrees’ research through private practice, teaching, and writing and in collaboration with public and private sector organisations, such as the World Humanitarian Forum, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, Vestre, Crisis Response, and Atlantic Pacific examines the concepts of Human-Connected Design, Design in Crisis and Emergency, Autonomous Design, Decolonised Design, and Design Under Resource Constraints to tackle social and environmental issues and explore design and innovation interventions for specific geographic, cultural, and political contexts.

  1. Human-connected Design: how social practices and local relations enable more effective, meaningful, systemic, and sustainable solutions? how can design increase adoption and usage, and address real-world needs and provide positive user experience? what constitutes ‘human-connected’ design, and why?
  2. Design in/for Emergency: how intensity and fluidity improve response efficiency and contribute to mitigating the impact and aiding in systemic recovery? how can design support the well-being of affected individuals and communities? what constitutes ‘resilient’ design, and why?
  3. Autonomous Design: how nonlinearity and minimal intervention enhance productivity, improve standards, reduce costs, and create innovative solutions to complex problems? how can design build capability for independence and provide the possibilities to rethink power structures? what constitutes ‘autonomous’ design, and why?
  4. Decolonised Design: how knowledge and methods vary across geographies, cultures, and political settings? how can design reveal the complexities of a specific situation? what constitutes ‘decolonised’ design, and why?
  5. Design Under Resource Constraints: how resource constraints create the conditions for creative diversity and enable the development of local knowledge and expertise? how can design bring together several elements into relationship with one another to formulate alternative methods and context-specific interventions? what constitutes ‘resource constrained’ design, and why?

Areas of research supervision

  • Innovation Methods
  • Cross-cultural & Transnational Design
  • Creativity & Design-thinking
  • Design Leadership & Systems-thinking
  • Nonlinear & Experimental Design
  • Social Design & Urban Relations
  • Sustainable Design & Inclusion
  • Sustainable Technology & Production
  • Design for Health & Wellbeing
  • Design for Resilience & Safety
  • Design Science & Pedagogy
  • Future Spaces & Environments
  • Social Regeneration & Urban Rehabilitation
  • Participatory & Community Design


Idrees’ pedagogy focuses on pioneering new methods and strategic models for partnering public and private sector organisations with academia to co-create prototypes that respond to current and future needs and has included leading design innovation collaborations and commercial-academic partnerships with Transport Research Laboratory, Greater London Authority, Ford Motors, and Ogilvy. His teaching focusses on encouraging an international and cross geo-cultural educational experience that challenges stereotypical approaches and methodologies to design practice, research, and education through 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.

Idrees contributes to our MA Human-Centred Design, MA Art, Health, and Wellbeing, and MA Interior Design Innovation. He currently leads its teaching on the following modules:

  • Design Ethics: Human, Planet, and Future Conditions
  • Care Ethics: Place, Environment, and Community
  • Design Methods and Contexts
  • Grand Challenge
  • Design Practices: Design for Humanity and Systemic Change
  • Design Practices: Urban Futures and Smart Inhabitations
  • Care Practices: Creative Future Health Art for Health and Wellbeing


  • MPhil Innovation Design Engineering, Royal College of Art
  • PGCert in Teaching & Learning for Creative Courses, Ravensbourne University London
  • MA Innovation Design Engineering, Royal College of Art
  • MSc Innovation Design Engineering, Imperial College London
  • BA (Hons) Interior Design Environment Architectures, Ravensbourne University London

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Arts
  • Academician and Member of The Academy of Urbanism

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Selected recent publications

Rasouli, I., 2020. Disaster Recovery by Design. Crisis Response Journal. Vol: 15, Issue: 4, P38-39

Rasouli, I., 2020. Design for Social Regeneration After Mass Disaster: Researching Solutions for Immediate and Longer-term Needs. Research report. Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation.

Rasouli, I., 2017. The Six Realities: Conservation of Architecture in the 21st Century. in: Proceeding of the UAE Modern Conference on Modern Architecture Heritage Research and Practice, 14-15 November, Dubai Design Week, Dubai.

Recent presentations and conferences

Designing for the Future (panel), The Academy of Urbanism (Congress 2023) Cambridge, UK, 2023

The Thinking City (keynote), Cambridge Arts Network (C.A.N Conference 2023: More Than Nice To Have) Cambridge, UK, 2023

Betterment by Design (keynote), Architecture Society (University of Hertfordshire School of Architecture), Hertfordshire, UK, 2022

Is the Future Inclusive? (speaker), Cambridge Arts Network Conference (A Place of Creativity: creative & cultural response to a changed landscape), Cambridge, UK, 2022

Urbanisation, Cities, and Future Planning Through Design (speaker), World Humanitarian Forum (The Global Rest Dialogue: Re-Defining Humanitarism), London, UK, 2021

Design, Freedom of Speech, and Human Rights (panellist), Criminology Society, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK, 2021

Leadership Challenges and Post-COVID 19 Futures (panellist), Leadership Think Factory, The Culture Capital Exchange, London, UK, 2021

The 13 Types of Innovation Under Resource Constraints (presenter), Research Conference, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2020

Application of United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals by Design in the Process of Recovery from Disaster (keynote), Institute for Innovative Global Education, Kansai University, Osaka, Japan, 2020

Reducing Inequalities and Increasing Social Mobility in Design and the Built Environment Education and Practice (panellist), Vestre, London, UK, 2020

Innovation in Controlled Environment Agriculture and Future of Urban Consumption (advisor), Crop Health & Protection, London, UK, 2020

Design Under Resource Constraints (presenter), Research Conference, Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2019

Current and Future Agendas for London (panellist), London Architecture School Leader’s Think Tank, New London Architecture, London, UK, 2019

Building Better, Building Beautiful: Station-led Regeneration, Mobility, and Housing in the Modern City (workshop lead), Future Cities Forum, London, UK, 2019

21st Century Design Tools and Methods (keynote), Research, Learning and Teaching Conference, Ravensbourne University London, London, UK, 2018

Conservation of Architecture in the 21st Century: The Six Realities (keynote), UAE Modern, Dubai Design Week, Dubai, UAE, 2017

Feeding Future Cities (keynote), Smarter Cities Now Conference, London, UK, 2017

Innovations for Emerging Markets (panellist), InnoFrugal Conference, Helsinki, Finland, 2017

Education x Industry (keynote), Research, Learning and Teaching Conference, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK, 2017

The Architecture of Money (keynote), The Culture Capital Exchange, London, UK, 2016

Designing for the Sea (Keynote), University of Milano Bicocca, Milan, Italy, 2014

Media experience

Idrees is regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences and events as a keynote and panellist on the subject of making cities, organisations, and people better by design—healthy, prepared, safe, and fulfilled. He is the founder and Creative Director of X-Crop, a Cambridge-based research and innovation lab exploring ethical, sustainable, and inclusive products, processes, and places for specific geographic, cultural, and political contexts. He works in partnership with public and private sector institutions, civil society organisations, science, health, and technology teams, as well as grassroots and professional associations to navigate and develop new capabilities with and for communities and individuals affected by emergencies such as urban disasters, health and well-being concerns, population growth and consumption, environmental deterioration, economic crisis, social and cultural issues, conflict, food insecurity, and displacement.