Professor Nathan Crilly

Professor of Design, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge.

About me

Nathan conducts research into how products, systems and services are designed and developed, focussing on designers’ creativity and users’ experiences. Nathan combines a variety of research approaches in his work, including experimental and qualitative methods of empirical investigation, and scholarly methods for conceptual development. This work is interdisciplinary in nature, connecting ideas, methods and findings from different research traditions. In addition to his individual research, he has collaborated with researchers specialising in engineering, product design, psychology, computer science, complexity science, education, anthropology and philosophy.

He is a Fellow of the Design Research Society and serves on the Editorial Boards for Design Studies and the International Journal of Design Creativity & Innovation. Before joining Cambridge University, Nathan held technical roles in the aerospace, software and consulting industries. He continues to consult on product development and user research issues for multi-national organisations, SMEs and startups.

At Cambridge, Nathan has developed and delivered courses focussing on engineering design, user-centred design, systems thinking, creativity, problem solving, sketching, visual representation, and verbal communication. He is an external examiner for the ‘Innovation Design Engineering’ double Masters programme run jointly by Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. Nathan also delivers talks and training internationally on his research topics (e.g. creativity, problem-solving), the research methods he uses (e.g. interview techniques, literature review) and various aspects of research communication (e.g. writing, presenting)



Pilkington Prize winner 2023(Opens in a new window). Awarded by the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Cambridge.

Distinguished Paper Award from International Journal of Design Creativity and Innovation with Dr Maria Adriana Neroni and Dr Alfred Oti.

Early Career Fellowship, UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – EPSRC.

Crausaz Wordsworth Interdisciplinary Fellowship in Philosophy, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge.

Innovation Program Award (‘Listed’), Hursley Software Labs (US), IBM UK.


2021 Crilly, N. (2021). The Evolution of “Co-evolution” (Part I): Problem Solving, Problem Finding, and Their Interaction in Design and Other Creative Practices.(Opens in a new window) She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 7(3), 309–332 (24 pages).

2021 Crilly, N. (2021). The Evolution of “Co-evolution” (Part II): The Biological Analogy, Different Kinds of Co-evolution, and Proposals for Conceptual Expansion(Opens in a new window). She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 7(3), 333–355 (23 pages).

2021 Neroni, M. A., & Crilly, N. (2021). How to Guard Against Fixation? Demonstrating Individual Vulnerability is More Effective Than Warning of General Risk. The Journal of Creative Behavior(Opens in a new window), 55(2), 447–463 (17 pages).

2019 Crilly, N. (2019). Methodological diversity and theoretical integration:Research in design fixation as an example of fixation in research design?(Opens in a new window) Design Studies, 65, 78–106. (29 pages)

2019 Crilly, N. (2019). Creativity and fixation in the real world: A literature review of case study research(Opens in a new window). Design Studies, 64, 154–168. (15 pages)

2019 Crilly, N. & Moroşanu Firth, R. (2019). Creativity and fixation in the real world: Three case studies of invention, design and innovation. (Opens in a new window)Design Studies, 64, 169–212. (44 pages)

2019 Neroni, M.A., & Crilly, N. (2019). Whose ideas are most fixating, your own or other people’s? The effect of idea agency on subsequent design behaviour(Opens in a new window). Design Studies, 60, 180–212. (33 pages)

2018 Crilly, N. (2018). ‘Fixation’ and ‘the pivot’: balancing persistence with flexibility in design and entrepreneurship(Opens in a new window). International Journal of Design Creativity and Innovation, 6(1-2), 52–65. (14 pages)

2018 Töre Yargın, G., Moroşanu Firth, R., & Crilly, N. (2018). User requirements for analogical design support tools: Learning from practitioners of bioinspired design. (Opens in a new window)Design Studies, 58, 1–35. (35 pages)

2017 Crilly, N. & Cardoso, C. (2017). Where next for research on fixation, inspiration and creativity in design?(Opens in a new window) Design Studies, 50, 1–38. (38 pages)

2016 Chen, C.-C. & Crilly, N. (2016). Describing complex design practices with a cross-domain framework: learning from Synthetic Biology and Swarm Robotics. Research in Engineering Design. (Opens in a new window)(15 pages)

2016 Vasconcelos, L. A. & Crilly, N. (2016) Inspiration and fixation: Questions, methods, findings, and challenges,(Opens in a new window) Design Studies, 42, 1-32. (32 pages)

2015 Crilly, N. (2015). Fixation and creativity in concept development: the attitudes and practices of expert designers,(Opens in a new window) Design Studies, 38, 54-91. (38 pages)

2015 da Silva, O., Crilly, N., & Hekkert, P. (2015). How People’s Appreciation of Products Is Affected by Their Knowledge of the Designers’ Intentions.(Opens in a new window) International Journal of Design, 9(2), 21–33. (13 pages)

2011 Crilly, N. (2011) Do users know what designers are up to? Product experience and the inference of persuasive intentions. (Opens in a new window)International Journal of Design, 5(3), 1-15. (15pages)

2010 Crilly, N. (2010) ‘The structure of design revolutions: Kuhnian paradigm shifts in creative problem solving’ Design Issues, (Opens in a new window)26(1), 54-66 (13 pages).