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RCA Announces New Head of Design Products Professor Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen

Professor Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen will join the School of Design as Head of Programme for the Design Products programme from January 2018.

Professor Ahmed-Kristensen joins the RCA from Imperial College London, where she was Professor of Design Engineering and Design Methodology, Deputy Head of the Dyson School of Design, led the Engineering Design Research theme and was joint Head of Programme for Global Innovation Design – a dual MA/MSc programme with the RCA. In addition to leading the Design Products programme, she will lead development of Design Futures at the College.   

Professor Ahmed-Kristensen holds a first class (Hons) degree from Brunel University in Product Design and a PhD from the Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge, where she served as Engineering fellow of Murray Edwards College. She has taught and researched at the Technical University of Denmark in the Department of Management Engineering, where she established and led the Design Engineering and Innovation group of around 37 researchers and was the Head of the Masters in Design and Innovation.

Discussing her new role as Head of Design Products, Professor Ahmed-Kristensen said: ‘I am delighted to join the faculty of the School of Design at the RCA. The hybridity of practice and research, cross-fertilisation with industry and the prolific, multidisciplinary research culture of the College present opportunities that are, I believe, unique in academia. I look forward to leading the MA Design Products programme and encouraging a research-led environment that drives innovation across our taught MA and research programmes.’

Professor Ahmed-Kristensen’s research is internationally recognised in the field of engineering design. It focuses on improvements to products and processes through developing scientific understanding. She has over 100 reviewed publications, and works in close collaboration with industry to impact on practice, from aerospace, oil drilling equipment and medical devices, to consumer products such as headsets. Professor Ahmed-Kristensen has given numerous keynotes at design conferences and is on the editorial board of a number of design journals. Her research necessities a multidisciplinary approach incorporating computer science, engineering, and psychology, and she actively contributes to the development of rigorous research methods including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods.

Examples of recent research include the development of data-driven processes and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to quantify the intangible, where her work is at the forefront of transforming the field of user experience from a qualitative to quantified approach. Recent work includes using data-driven approaches to customise headsets for assessing comfort, which are now embedded within GN Netcom and have contributed to awards for comfort; developing approaches to assess user perception of emotional responses that are embedded in generative design tools; and using physiological sensors to model wellbeing. She has also developed fundamental models and new theories of creativity – which include understanding analogies, reasoning and the use of bioinspired design – and human-centred approaches to structuring data and information to improve the design of complex products.

Professor Paul Anderson, Dean of the School of Design, commented on this appointment: ‘This is an exciting time for the School of Design, as we expand our research and embrace a STEAM agenda. The future of design demands engagement with new technologies and diverse methodologies, in order to design for human behaviour and interactions, and develop virtual, material or systems based products. We are delighted to be welcoming Professor Ahmed-Kristensen as Head of Design Products, where her experience, both as a product designer and as a researcher engaging with approaches across disciplines makes her excellently placed to help us define the future of Design Products.’ 

Professor Naren Barfield, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost said: ‘Professor Ahmed-Kristensen brings not only a wealth of professional knowledge, but also a dynamic approach to problem solving and innovation through design and engineering-based research. Design Products at the RCA is about interdisciplinary design-led innovation that encourages experimental, groundbreaking work, and a critical approach applicable to a wide range of challenges and fields. As Head of Programme Professor Ahmed-Kristensen will be ideally positioned to guide the next generation of designers as they define their own professional direction.’