Professor John Wood

Staff details

PositionEmeritus Professor in Design
Department Design
Email j.wood (
Phone+44 (0)20 7919 7777

My main focus, at present, is the development of a new approach to design practice that we are calling 'metadesign'. My first job at Goldsmiths was Deputy Head of the Fine Art Department (from 1978-1988). After ten years I co-wrote, and ran, an unusually broad, reflective and ethically oriented BA(Hons) degree in design. This programme helped to launch the current Department of Design. Ten years later I wrote, launched and ran the current MA Design Futures programme.

Having studied art in the late 1960's I invented and marketed several energy conservation systems, created some of the first animated holograms, developed electronic toys and invented an authoring software application (IDEAbase). As a solo and collaborating artist my work has been shown in 21 countries including the Australian Biennale (1988). My site-specific installations include a full size fake peep show built in Soho, London (1986). As a performer I recorded four albums and still, on occasion, play in public as a founder member of the cult band 'Deaf School'.


MA Design Futures, MPhil/PhD

Areas of supervision

I currently supervise five doctoral students and have been involved in the successful completion of more than a dozen others. Many of the research topics within my supervision have explored new ways to broaden the practice of design, and to render it as a more ecological and ethical discipline. This breadth, and depth, of concern corresponds to my own research in 'metadesign'. It represents widely differing approaches, ranging from the food industry, networks of commercial innovation, to explorations of evolutionary theory, creativity and co-authorship – all within the practice of design.

Research Interests

I have published over 100 papers and articles on ethics and design in the age of over consumption. My first book, 'The Virtual Embodied' (Routledge, 1998) explored the ethical implications of different types of situated practice. My most recent book "The Design of Micro-Utopias; thinking beyond the possible" (Ashgate, 2007) suggests that we can govern ourselves better using 'design thinking'. Just after the new millennium I co-founded the Attainable Utopias Network that seeks an alternative to the visionless, choice-based society that designers have helped to develop. I am also co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice (Intellect Books). This international publication grew from our development of the Writing-PAD Network, which currently includes around 50 participating universities. It also reflects my abiding interest in how best to help designers to inform their practice.