The Design Lab emerged out of the Key Centre for Design Computing and Cognition (KCDCC), standing on the shoulders of over 50 years of research in design. Founding scholars at the Key Centre studied the work of designers in order to develop new models of creativity and ways of solving problems, as well as the potential of emerging computing technologies to change the way designers work.

In 2009, the KCDCC changed its name to the “Design Lab”, to reflect the diverse design research topics that its members engaged with. Researchers in the Design Lab continue to pursue cutting-edge research that investigates the way people experience and interact with new technologies. This research takes the form of speculative prototypes that aim to push the boundaries and inform industry practice. Research in the Design Lab also continues to examine and redefine the role of design as a way of thinking and driving change. By understanding how design methods can support innovation and create social, economic and environmental impact, our researchers are helping communities and organisations to tackle the challenges they face.

The Design Lab is the research arm of the Design Discipline, which is one of three disciplines in the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning. The Design Lab and the Discipline are led by the Head of Design, Dr Leigh-Anne Hepburn. Previous heads include (in reverse chronological order), Associate Professor Lian Loke, Professor Martin Tomitsch, Professor Rob Saunders, Professor Andy Dong, Dr Michael Rosenman, Professor John Gero.

A detailed account of the history of the Design Lab was published as a chapter in the School’s Centenary publication: 

Hill, G. (2018). The Seventies Science Wars: Cognitive Science, Computer Science and Counter Science. In Andrew Leach, Lee Stickells (Eds.), Sydney School: Formative Moments in Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, (pp. 153-164). Melbourne: Uro.

In the video below, Professor John Gero, who founded the KCDCC in 1993, and Professor Mary Lou Maher, who established the Bachelor of Design Computing in 2001, discuss the first 40 years of the Design Lab and its influence on design research.