Julian Malins

Director of Research, Associate Professor of Design Thinking and Innovation

  • TD1 3HF

    United Kingdom


Research activity per year

Personal profile


I hold a PhD from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University and have been in academia since 1993. I’ve been Principal Investigator for a number of large-scale projects including working on the development of a virtual learning environment to support creative subjects. I spent four years as the Director for the Centre of Design and Innovation based in Aberdeen. More recently, I was the UK PI for an EU project entitled ConCePT, which developed a new online platform to support professional product designers. Between these larger-scale projects I worked on smaller, funded projects looking at wearables for health/well-being, accessible interfaces for dyslexia, and the value of design in architecture. I established a limited company in 2016 developing collaborative, creative software platforms as a follow-on from ConCePT and returned to academia in 2018 to take the post of Associate Professor of Design Thinking and Innovation at Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design. I’ve previously held similar posts at Norwich University for the Arts and Robert Gordon University and have worked with numerous companies helping to develop innovation strategies using a design thinking approach. I subsequently became the Director of Research and Enterprise for Heriot-Watt, was promoted to Professor in 2022, and am now serving as the school’s Acting Executive Dean.

Key Research Words/Phrases

Design Thinking, Innovation Theory, Service Design, Accessible Interface Design, Ethnographic Design, Co-Design, Visualization, Research Methods for Design, Circular Economy, Sustainable Design

Roles & Responsibilities

Acting Executive Dean, School of Textiles and Design, Heriot-Watt University

Chair of Design Thinking and Innovation, School of Textiles and Design, Heriot-Watt University

Member of the Executive Development Board iNetz+ Global Research Institute

Member of the Executive Development Board Health and Care Technologies Global Research Institute

Profile Summary

I am the Chair of Design Thinking and Innovation at Heriot-Watt University, based at the School of Textiles and Design on the University’s Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels with the role of Acting Executive Dean for the School.


My current research interests include design for sustainability -- for example I am currently working with a team of colleagues on eliminating medical waste plastics. My key interest is using design thinking to tackle wicked problems. Additionally, my research has involved projects focused on designing for assisted living and the ageing community. I am on the development boards for two of the university’s Global Research Institutes, one of which is focused on NetZero and the other on developing technologies for Health Care. In this role, I am working with interdisciplinary teams of researchers to focus on challenges related to sustainability and health and well-being.

Research interests

I am a design technologist specialising in the application of Design Thinking to address human centred challenges. My research interests cover a wide range of topics with several consistent themes which include design for sustainability, human centred design for health and well-being, and using technology to support design pedagogy.


I am interested in the application of Design Thinking to the problem of achieving Net Zero. In this regard I am currently involved with developing proposals for several large-scale research projects related to this goal. These include reduction of waste plastics in the NHS and achieving a green transition across rural communities.


I am a member of Heriot-Watt’s Health and Care Technologies Development Board. My interest is in applying ethnographic research methods to understand and identify opportunities for innovation within the NHS. This also involves using Design Thinking methods to support the development of assisted living solutions.


The majority of my research is undertaken in collaboration with others; however, I am also interested in exploring the development of specialist applications for sensory impaired individuals. I am exploring this using various visualisation methods and video prototyping.


I am currently supervising several doctoral students looking at sustainable business models for the fashion industry, design pedagogy for fashion design and immersive technologies for learning.


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