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James Tooze

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  • James Tooze (FRSA) is Senior Tutor in Design Products at the Royal College of Art. He is a designer and researcher, with his research, both commercial and academic, focusing on three interwoven areas: open design, open fabrication and digital manufacturing. A graduate of the Design Products programme, he also trained as a furniture designer and cabinetmaker, and continues to practice. 

  • Biography

  • James Tooze studied 3D Design (Designer Maker) at the University of Plymouth, graduating in 2001. After studying, he trained and worked as a cabinetmaker and joiner for two years before starting Batch design. Batch specialised in the design and fabrication of furniture and site-specific installations.

    In 2009, James put his business into hibernation to study Design Products at the RCA. During his MA, he designed, built and installed a pop-up shop in Liberty London; project managed the first Design Products programme show at the Milan Furniture Fair and co-designed and built an innovation lab for Philips Lumiblade in Aachen, Germany. His graduation work focused on the design of products, where the information to make them is distributed openly and for free (Open Design). This work sought to bring together the opportunities afforded by the Internet for near free distribution of ideas and design, with issues of sustainable material use and skills for self-production.  

    From January 2012 to December 2013, James worked at Brunel University leading the Artefact Cafe Project, which explored opportunities for open design and digital manufacturing in site-specific locations, funded by Horizon, Digital Economy Research Hub. He also worked on the RCUK Digital Economy funded project, User Innovation Communities, investigating tools and techniques that might enable people to have rich and complex design conversations with brands, with Fairphone the project partner.

    In addition to his academic research, James works with From Now On, shaping concepts and research for the Central Research Laboratory (CRL). The CRL will be public-facing centres of design and manufacture, combining an innovation incubator with an open-fabrication workshop, advanced batch-manufacturing centre, pitch school, business mentoring and fulfilment support. This work was essential in securing £7.7m in investment from the Mayor of London’s Growing Places Fund and as part of Brunel University’s £3m application to the HEFCE Catalyst Initiative Fund for their part in the Hayes CRL.

    In 2012, James was invited to be team leader and lead designer on two inclusive design workshops by Julia Cassim, Senior Research Fellow at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, RCA. For the Extra-ordinary Design Project in Osijek, Croatia, James and team were tasked with developing a range of products to be produced by a charity supporting recovering substance abusers within a woodworking business. In the Inklusive Design Workshop in Skopje, Macedonia, the team created products that could be made by students within the workshops at the Partenija Zografski School for the Deaf in Skopje. Both projects were intensive weeklong challenges, involving design students and local practicioners, and culminating in a public exhibition of works. The Croatian project was winner of the award for best concept in a professional category at the 2013 Croatian Design Awards. The work was exhibited in Croatia, Macedonia and London.

    In addition to teaching at the RCA, James is currently a visiting tutor at Brunel University, teaching on Master’s and undergraduate design programmes. He is also a visiting tutor on BA Design Products & Interactions at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication.
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Research