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Dr Qian Sun


  • Dr Qian Sun is a Senior Tutor in Service Design at the Royal College of Art. Her current role includes developing and leading the growing research activities in Service Design. She supervises PhD and MPhil students as well as Master students. 

  • Biography

  • Before joining the RCA, Dr Sun was Program Leader in MSc Design Management at the University of Salford. She completed her PhD in 2006, fully funded by Overseas Research Scheme scholarship. Following her PhD, she worked on a range of research projects and developed her expertise in Design Management and Design Policy. She received her first degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Prior to commencing her academic career, she worked as an in-house product designer and for a number of design consultancies in China.    

  • External collaborations

  • Dr. Qian Sun is member of Peer Review College for AHRC and member of APDIG (All-Party Design & Innovation Group and Design Commission).

    She is regularly invited to review papers for conferences, book proposals and journals and has been External Examiner for a number of institutions, including Lancaster University, Staffordshire University, University of Arts London, and Loughborough University. 

    She has collaborated with a large number of international institutions, and has developed good work relationships with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tsinghua University, and Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts in China. 

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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Selected Publications

    Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

    Sun, Q. & Runcie, C. (2017) 'Is Service Design in Demand', Design Management Journal, Volume 11(1) pp. 67–78

    Sun, Q. & Park, H. (2017) 'The Map As An Object of Service Design' The Design Journal, Volume 20 (sup 1)

    Sun, Q. (2013), ‘The Conception of Branding in not-for-profit SMEs’, International Journal of Management Cases, 15(4), pp. 386–400.

    Sun, Q, Williams, A. and Evans, M. (2011) 'A Theoretical Design Management Framework ', The Design Journal, 14(1), pp. 112–131.

    Sun, Q. (2010), 'Embedding Employability in the Curriculum: A Comparative Study of Employer Engagement Models Adopted by Design Programmes in China and UK ', Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship, pp. 36–48 

    Articles in Magazines and Periodical Newsletters

    Sun, Q. (2012) ‘Design Education in the UK: The Students Speak’, DMI Review, Design Management Institution, December 2012, pp. 36–45

    Sun, Q. (2011) ‘What Policies Matter to Design’, SEE Bulletin, June 2011, pp. 2–7

    Sun, Q (2010) 'Design Industries and Policies in the UK and China: a Comparison', DMI Review, Design Management Institution, December 2010, pp.70–77 

    Book Sections

    Sun, Q. (2015) 'Research on Design Policy and Industry System', in X. Wang (Ed.) Blue Book of Industrial Design: Annual Report of the Development of China’s Industrial Design Sector. Beijing: Social Science Academic Press (China). 

    Williams, A., Cooper, R., Evans, M. and Sun, Q. (2009) ‘2020 Vision - The UK Design Industry Ten Years On', in T. Inns, ed., Designing for the 21st Century: Volume 2: Interdisciplinary Methods and Findings, Farnham: Gower Publishing, pp. 39–54.

    Papers in Peer-Reviewed Conference Proceedings

    Sun, Q. & Runcie, C. (2016) 'Is Service Design in Demand', The 20th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference Proceedings: Inflection Point: Design Research Meets Design Practice, 2016 Boston. The Design Management Institute.

    Sun, Q. (2016) 'Emerging Trends of Design Policy in the UK', Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, June 2016. 

    Sun, Q & D Lowe (2014), ‘Cultural Criminals: How Social Media Facilitated the Dilution of Subculture’, in 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference: Design Management in an Era of Disruption, London, September 2014

    Sun, Q. and Almeida, S. (2012) ‘Designing Experiences in Events – A study on event agencies in Portugal’, Leading Innovation through Design, International Design Management Research Conference, Boston, August 2012

    Sun, Q. (2012), ‘Embedding Learning-to-Learn into the Curriculum’, in Crossing Talents! Transversality in Design, Aalto University, Helsinki: School of Art, Design and Architecture, pp.117-125

    Sun, Q. (2011) ‘The Conception of Branding in not-for-profit SMEs’, The 8th International Conference for Marketing, Management, Finance, Consumer Behaviour, Tourism and Retailing Research for International Research in Consumers Location and their Environments (CIRCLE), April 2011

    Sun, Q., Zhang, L., Williams, A. and Pieniazek, M. (2009), ‘Engaging Employers in Delivering Design Programmes: A Comparative Study of Student Employability between China & UK’, in DesignEd Asia 2009, Hong Kong: Hong Kong Polytechnic

    Sun, Q., Sridhar, N. and O'Brien, M. (2009), ‘Consumer Perception of Product Stimuli: an Investigation into Indian Consumer Psychology and its Implications for NPD Process and Strategy’, D2B2 Tsinghua International Design Management Symposium 2009, Beijing: Adelphi Research Institute for Creative Arts and Design

    Williams, A. and Sun, Q. (2009). ‘Managing The Design Businesses Of The Future: Implications For The UK Design Industry’, D2B2 Tsinghua International Design Management Symposium 2009, Beijing: Adelphi Research Institute for Creative Arts and Design

    Sun, Q., Williams, A. and Evans, M. (2008), ‘The Development of a Model of Relations within the UK Design Industry, & its Implications for the Management of Design Businesses’, 15th International Product Development Management Conference, Hamburg: European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM)

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  • Awards and Grants

  • Key Projects

    2016–2020 Project Partner, Blue Green Infrastructure through Social Innovation, 6.5Million Euro, EU Commission

    2014–2015 Principal Investigator, UK-China Design Policy Network,  £45,000, AHRC

    2010 Principal Investigator, Design for the UK and Chinese Consumer Markets, £12,000, Research Council, UK

    2008–2009 Researcher, UK Chinese Collaborative Partnership for Employability, Entrepreneurship and Global Citizenship, Prime Minister’s Initiative Round 2, British Council, UK

    2007–2008 Researcher, 2020 Vision: The UK Design Industry in 2020, Designing for the 21st Century, EPSRC and AHRC

    2004–2006 Researcher, Sino-European Design Management Network , Asia-link, EU Commission    


Research interests

Dr. Sun’s research interests cover: Service Design, Design Management, and Design Policy.

Her research in Design Management started from doing an ORS-funded PhD (completed in 2006), focusing on the exploration of marketing and branding issues in relation to new project development (NPD). She has developed her expertise in this area through working on a number of research projects (including Asia-link: Design Management Network funded by the EU and Design 2020 by AHRC & ESRC), as well as teaching on this subject (being Program Leader for MSC. Design Management at the University of Salford.

Design Policy explores the value of design at a national level and how government promote its wider usage. Developing from the research in Design Management, especially with a focus on design industry, she has established a research track record in Design Policy. Her recent work includes leading the development of a UK-China network funded by AHRC to promote collaborative research on this topic.  The findings of the project have been disseminated through a range of scholarly activities and publications, including co-chairing a SIG track on Design Management and Policy in the Design Research Society conference 2016, book chapters, and peer reviewed papers.

Service Design is considered as a growing practice in design. Given the growing interest it attracts from both industry and academia, it is criticised for lack of shared view about its definition, core practice, boundaries, and theoretical foundation. Dr Sun is interested in developing ‘foundational research’ about Service Design, to develop a rigorous and robust academic framework, to contextualise its value and limitations, and to facilitate multidisciplinary discussion and collaboration.  For example, she has launched the Service Design Seminars at the RCA to facilitate dialogues and collaborations across disciplines, and between practice and theory. In developing these seminars, Dr Sun has collaborated with many practitioners and thinkers in various subject areas. These subject areas include Service Science, Service Innovation, Social Innovation, Organisational Change, Systems Thinking, Policy Design, Behavioural Science, Digital Platform and Circular Economy.    

Current and recent research


2016–2020 Blue Green Infrastructure through Social Innovation

Role: Project Partner
6.5Million Euro funded by EU Commission

The overall objective of the project Blue Green Infrastructure through Social Innovation project (BEGIN) is to demonstrate improved climate change adaptation solutions through blue-green infrastructure (BGI) in urban areas, to capture and sustain BGI’s multiple benefits by using social innovation, and to mainstream BGI into urban planning and operation by developing financially feasible business cases and overcoming governance barriers.

BEGIN project website:
RCA’s project website:

2014–2015 UK-China Design Policy Network

Role: Principal Investigator
£45k funded by AHRC

The study aims to develop a UK-China network in design policy to facilitate interactions between UK and China, and between researchers and policy makers. This network is aimed at professional, educational, and government organizations which might contribute to the development and management of initiatives to either grow business or design capability and capacity. Through a series of workshops and seminars, the project will develop partnerships to share good practices in design policy development and to stimulate discussions on this topic. This project will also help build capacity in design policy research, and will inform the future development of the research networking theme. The project will conclude by undertaking a mapping exercise to understand the focuses and principles of policy making in each country; and from this, identify differences and similarities in the approaches taken by each country in supporting design innovation. This will in turn provide the basis for a generic model of design policy which will be disseminated at a final event to be held in London, and will be used to inform national and regional policies supporting the design sector.



Research students