Professor Ashley Hall


  • ashley hall
  • Area

    School of Design


    Professor of Design Innovation

  • Programme Research Leader

    • Innovation Design Engineering
  • Ashley Hall is Professor of Design Innovation and deputy head of the Innovation Design Engineering programme at the Royal College of Art where he directs the first year of the MA, IDE research, experimental design and the GoGlobal project. He is also a founding partner of Diplomat furniture and product design consultancy. He actively researches in a number of design and innovation fields from design thinking and experimental design to the future of making and translocated making. He has lectured internationally at universities in Australia, China, Ghana, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway, Mali and the USA, where he has developed collaborative cross-cultural design and innovation projects. 

  • Biography

  • Ashley studied furniture design at Nottingham Trent University and received his MA from the RCA, before going on to complete his doctorate in Experimental Industrial Design at the University of Technology in Sydney. In 1999 he formed Diplomat, a furniture and product design consultancy with Matthew Kavanagh, whose clients include some of the world's top furniture and product brands. Projects include designs for mass production and an experimental line of furniture using new materials and production techniques. Ashley’s doctoral research centred on exploring cultural transfer between diverse socio-spatial groups in a number of collaborative, practice-based, translocated experimental design projects. His research interests also include design thinking, the future of making, non-linear systems in design, experimental design, industrial design pedagogy, cultural transfer and design and geographically liberated difference. 

    He has initiated and developed academic consultancy projects, summer schools, student modules and interdisciplinary cross-cultural design projects through the GoGlobal programme in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, India, Israel-Palestine and Ghana, and workshops and projects in Mali, Norway and the USA. 
He now directs the Design Innovation research group and MPhil/PhD programme alongside the experimental design strand that was developed to explore fundamental innovations led by experimental design thinking. This work is applied to a wide range of outputs: from new materials and technologies and product applications, to the future of making, sustainability and social enterprises. Ashley also has a strong history of commercial engagements with consultancy projects, summer schools and student modules with Unilever; Procter & Gamble; new lighting solutions with Philips; communication technology mutations with O2 mobile; social innovations in telecommunication devices for Hutchison Whampoa/3 Mobile; vehicle interior innovations with Ford Europe; experimental aircraft fuselage designs with Airbus Industries; a Space Hotel with iGuzzini and Thales Alenia, and an integrated domestic transport energy systems with Sharp solar and McLaren.

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  • Practice

  • Diplomat is the design partnership of Ashley Hall and Matthew Kavanagh, who have designed furniture and products for some of the top brands in their sector including ArrMet, Covo, Artifort, Edra, Sintesi, Saporiti, Supporto and Zeritalia. Current work includes the development of product ranges for mass production and an experimental line of furniture using new materials, structures and technologies.

    Recent Diplomat product launches include Zilla and Ironman. Zilla is an experimental lounge chair made from a composite construction of materials that include glass, aluminium and epoxy. The design employs a ‘continuous craft’ process that leaves visible construction marks. It is part of a production approach that uses ‘making experience’ to produce limited edition collector pieces. Work using composites usually hides all the skill and craft behind a perfect, mould-made synthetic surface, but Zilla is made without moulds and turns the surface inside out, exposing the making process as part of the surface finish. Ironman is inspired by traditional West African tribal furniture, and replaces millennia of ad hoc wood carving with an equally ancient blend of hand carving and casting in iron. This results in each piece being a unique and individual artist creation. Despite the diminutive scale Ironman, like its African forebears, is robust and functional. The sitter has to adopt a crouching posture that is culturally unusual in the West and, therefore, demands a more conscious engagement with the product. Manufactured in East London from CS cast iron, Ironman forms a range of different furniture designs by Diplomat, that are entirely hand carved and therefore will vary with reproduction.    
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    • External collaborations

    • Ashley has run commercial and research collaborations with the following companies:

      Transport Systems Catapult, workshops on sentiment analysis on transportation systems, 2014

      Ford, developing economy transportation innovations, 2014

      Samsung, two-week intensive innovation consultancy developing new generation products, 2012

      Philips, ‘The Third Age of Lighting’, four-week sponsored commercial student module, 2012

      Ford Minivan, consultancy brainstorming at Dunton HQ, 2012

      Ford Younger Buyers, IDE four-week sponsored commercial module, 2012

      BBC, ‘Future of the Remote’, four-week sponsored commercial research project, 2011

      PRAMAC, Elmar Guzzini, Mars Rover, sponsored commercial module, 2011

      Ford Millenials, four-week sponsored commercial module, 2011

      Coca Cola, Olympic pavilion interaction, four-week commercial module and realisation, 2011

      Airbus Industries, ‘Future aircraft cabin 2030’, four-week commercial and IDE consultancy, 2010

      Guzzini, Bin 2 Bin, one-week commercial workshop, book and exhibition, 2010

      Bodo Sperlein, commercial furniture consultancy project, 2010

      Ford Smart Thinking, four-week sponsored commercial module, 2009

      Sharp Solar, McLaren, Swarovski, Sunny Delight, four-week sponsored commercial module, 2008

      Filup, commercial consultancy on water vending, 2008

      Unilever, ‘Cues for Success’, commercial consultancy for packaging, 2008

      Classical Opera Company, Mozart opera sets, four-week project with Jonathan Miller, 2007

      Hutchison Whampoa / 3 Mobile, four-week student module with book and exhibition output, 2007

      Inductive Learning, consultancy project for new educational product, 2007

      02 Mobile, ‘Mutations’, four-week IDE commercial project and book output, 2007

      TK Maxx, four-week sponsored commercial module for sustainable shopping trolley, 2007

      His international collaborations and workshops have included:

      GoGlobal Israel Palestine, Peace of Design collaboration with Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2014

      Future Making research workshop, Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2013

      Harambe Entrepreneurs Forum, Pontificate Council for Justice and Peace, Vatican, Rome, 2013

      GoGlobal Australia, collaborative sports innovation project with University of Technology Sydney, Australia, 2013

      KIDP Winter School, one-week workshop in Busan, South Korea, 2012

      GID Workshop, Thinking Through Making’, Pratt Institute, New York, with Keio (Tokyo), 2012

      GoGlobal South Korea, three-week project on social city software at KAIST, South Korea, 2011

      Foroba Yelen, Mali portable solar lighting for a social enterprise in remote Malian villages, 2011

      Urban Delights workshop, University of Technology Sydney, Australia, 2011

      Magic Teapots, experimental design workshop for KiDP in Daegu, South Korea, 2011

      GoGlobal India, four-week collaboration at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, on Craftology, 2011

      Shock and Awe workshop, University of Technology Sydney, 2010

      GoGlobal China, three-week project on rural-urban migration with students at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, 2010

      Guerilla Cities workshop, RMIT Melbourne, Australia, 2009

      GoGlobal Ghana, four-week project on eArtisans at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana with British Council, 2009

      Futuremakers, one-week workshop, KHiO, Oslo, Norway, 2009

      GoGlobal Japan 2008, three-week module on the future of food with Tsukuba University, Japan, 2009

      GoGlobal China, three-week collaborative project on post-consumerism at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, 2007

      GoGlobal Thailand, Massclusivity with Thai Creative Design Centre, 2006–7

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    • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

    • Tek-Jin, N. & Hall, A. (eds), (2013) Design Social City Experiences, MKC, South Korea

      Rogers, P., Hall, A., Winton, E., Land, E. & Aurisicchio, M., (2013) ‘Are We All Designers?’, in: Proceedings of International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

      Torrisi, S. & Hall, A., (2013) Missing Miscommunications in Interdisciplinary Design Practice, in: Proceedings of International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

      Hall, A., (2013), ‘Translocated making in collaborative experimental design projects’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Technology Sydney; also available here.

      Hall, A., Childs, P., Wuggetzer, I., & Mayer, T. (2013) Future aircraft cabins and design thinking Optimisation vs. Win-win scenarios, Propulsion and Power Research, Elsevier 

      Yan, Y., Childs, P. & Hall, A., (2013) An Assessment of Personality Traits and Their Implications for Creativity Amongst Innovation Design Engineering Masters Students Using the MBTI and KTS Instruments, in: Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED13), Seoul, Korea

      Hall, A., Childs, P. R., Chao, Z., and Liu, Z. (2012) GoGlobal  rural-urban, Beijing, Water Publishing

      Hall, A., Childs, P., Wuggetzer, I., and Mayer, T. (2012) ‘Future aircraft cabins and design thinking: Optimisation vs. Win-win scenarios’, in: Proceedings of the 4th international symposium on jet propulsion and power engineering, Sept 10-12 Xi'an, China ISJPP-2012

      Hall, A., Kulkarni, A., and Konate, B. (2012) ‘Foroba Yelen: Portable sustainable solar lighting for remote Mailan villages’, in: Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Artesis University College, Antwerp, Belgium 6th – 7th September 2012, London and Glasgow, The Institute of Engineering Designers/The Design Society

      Barker, T. and Hall, A. (2011) 'e-ARTISANS Contemporary design for the global Market', in: G. Adamson, G. Riello and S. Teasley (eds), Global Design History, New York and London, Routledge, 180–88

      Hall, A. and Barker, T. (2011) ‘Design and geographically liberated difference’, Design Principles and Practice: An International Journal 5(3), 507–16

      Yao, W. and Hall, A. (2011) ‘The transferal of cultural factors from traditional Chinese folk art into contemporary product designs’, Design Principles and Practice: An International Journal, 5(3), 313–26

      Hall, A. (2011) ‘Experimental design: Design experimentation’, Design Issues, 27(2), 17–26

      Barker, T. and Hall, A. (2010) ‘Design collectives in education: Evaluating the atelier format and the use of teaching narrative for collective cultural and creative learning, and the subsequent impact on professional practice’, in: Proceedings of Alternative Practices in Design: Past Present and Future, Melbourne, Australia, RMIT

      Hall, A. and Childs, P. (2009) ‘Innovation design engineering: Non-linear progressive education for diverse intakes’, in: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, 10–11 September, Brighton, University of Brighton, 312–17

      Hall, A. (2009) ‘Context and cohabitation of linear and non-linear systems in design’, in: Proceedings of International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference, Seoul, Korea

      Barker, T. and Hall, A. (2009) ‘GoGlobal: How can contemporary design collaboration and e-commerce models grow the creative industries in developing countries?’, in: Proceedings of International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference, Seoul, Korea

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    • Awards and Grants

    • AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, Mannequins for the 21st Century, V&A/RCA, 2014–17

      AHRC Network Grant, We Are all Designers, with Northumbria University, 2012

      British Council India, grant to support publication of GoGlobal book and travelling exhibition, 2011

      British Council Korea, grant to support GoGlobal exhibition, book publication and accommodation, 2012

      Seoul Design Foundation, grant to support exhibition and GoGlobal book publication, 2012

    Selected work


    Research interests

    Ashley Hall actively researches through practice-based design projects. He writes and publishes in the a range of areas, including experimental design, industrial design pedagogy, non-linear systems in design, cultural transfer, design in developing economies, design and geographically liberated difference and design thinking.

    Current and recent research

    Ashley’s practice-based design projects include ‘Translocated making’, which explores the concept of design and geographically liberated difference and its mediation between digital and analogue methods for creative cultural exchange between remote cultures of making. Recent fieldwork at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and in the Rann of Kutchchh in India developed a number of experimental engagement models with craftsmen in a variety of materials and techniques to explore emerging methods in how difference can be liberated from geography.

    He has been jointly awarded an AHRC grant ‘We are all designers’ with Northumbria University that seeks to explore the disciplinary landscape, activity range and boundaries of design as a behavioural phenomenon. The project is engaged in the process of mapping the complex inter-connected relationships between communities and practices of non-designers and designers characterised by fluid, evolving patterns of practice that regularly traverse, transcend and transfigure disciplinary and conceptual boundaries.

    He is also collaborating with fellow academics and commercial partners on a number of papers in the broad area of design thinking and the publication of two edited books on the IDE GoGlobal projects in India and Korea.


    Research students