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Dr Idrees Rasouli

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

Dr. Idrees Rasouli is Deputy Head of Cambridge School of Art and Associate Professor of Art & Design, responsible for influencing and shaping the future of Art & Design education to deliver world-class teaching and research at the intersection between Art & Design practice. He is an award-winning designer, academic, and researcher of products, processes, and places, with a focus on innovation and transformation. He has worked with a wide range of cities, organisations, and people, helping them solve issues of urbanisation in the 21st century, and his international profile includes collaborations in fifteen countries, alongside research and commercial-educational partnerships with more than eighty organisations.

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Trained at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, Idrees cultivated his 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 (a Cambridge-based research and innovation lab); 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.

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 knowledge exchange and public engagement activities which offer routes to impact and embed active and inclusive collaborative learning and teaching practices. He 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.

Previously, Idrees was Head of Department of Architecture at Ravensbourne University London, where he developed and delivered the department's academic curriculum and led various design courses, including the world's first ARB accredited interior design course, with a focus 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, 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, as well as fostering external relationships that empower staff and enhance student employability and entrepreneurial skills.

At Anglia Ruskin University, Idrees provides academic leadership for Cambridge School of Art, and as the Chair of Art & Design, he oversees 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, enterprise, 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. Furthermore, Idrees has been working with various teams to reposition ARU's offering, academic staff, and existing provision to make them future-facing, global, and leading-edge, with a focus on extending the 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.

Spoken Languages
  • English
  • Hindi
  • Pashto
  • Persian/Dari
  • Urdu
Research interests

Idrees’ 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. His 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.

Idrees’ 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’ (approaches that seek to diversify and balance 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 and environmental issues responsibly and through care, influence policy and products, and achieve sustainable, resilient, and just futures.

  1. Human-connected Design: how social and cultural practices as well as local relations enable more effective, meaningful, systemic, and sustainable design outcomes and practices? 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 unlock resilience and support the well-being of affected individuals and communities? what constitutes ‘design in/for emergency’, and why?
  3. Autonomous Design: how nonlinearity and systemic intervention help to develop outcomes and practices that address complex/wicked problems, increase productivity, raise standards, and reduce costs? 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 can design reveal the significance of diverse design outcomes and practices? what are the complexities of varied knowledge and approaches that exist across geographies and cultural contexts? 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
  • Product-Process-Service-Systems Design & Innovation
  • Design for Health & Wellbeing
  • Design for Resilience & Safety
  • Design Science & Pedagogy
  • Future Spaces & Environments
  • Social Regeneration & Urban Rehabilitation
  • Participatory & Community Design

Idrees is 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. His 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.

Idrees contributes to our MA Art, Health, and Wellbeing, MA Interior Design Innovation, and MA Human-Centred Design. He currently leads 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
  • PhD Innovation Design Engineering, Royal College of Art
  • 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
  • Academician of The Academy of Urbanism
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Arts
Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange
Selected recent publications

Rasouli, M. I. (2023). Decolonised Innovation: Designing Needs, Dreams, and Aspirations Under Resource Constraints. (PhD Thesis). Innovation Design Engineering, School of Design, Royal College of Art. London, United Kingdom

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

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

Rasouli, M. 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

Pride in Place (chair of session), Cambridge Arts Network (C.A.N Conference 2024: Creative Placemaking) Cambridge, UK, 2024

AI and Creativity (panellist), The Hopes and Fears Lab (Kavli Centre for Ethics, Science and the Public) Cambridge, UK, 2023

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 products, processes, and places that mitigate and respond to urban emergencies. He regularly collaborates with public and private sector businesses, civil society institutions, grassroots and professional associations, communities, and individuals to initiate design research projects, attract seed and grant funding, and drive design-led systems-change and develop ecologies of interventions with and for cities, organisations, and people affected by urban emergencies and the grand challenges of our time.