Department of Engineering / News / Professor P. John Clarkson receives the Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education

Department of Engineering

Professor P. John Clarkson receives the Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education

Professor P. John Clarkson receives the Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education

The 40th Anniversary Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education has been awarded to Professor P. John Clarkson, Professor of Engineering Design. 

I'm truly delighted to be chosen as the recipient of the 2018 Sir Misha Black Medal and honoured to follow in the footsteps of so many eminent Medallists. As an engineer who is passionate about the process of design, I'm driven to understand how we design well and then apply such insight to design challenges in the real world.

Professor Clarkson

He received the Medal at a Ceremony held at the Royal College of Art, London, where he delivered a short address on his philosophy on design education and the demands facing design and engineering educators in a rapidly changing society. 

Born in Oswestry, Shropshire, in 1961, John Clarkson graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in 1984 and a PhD in 1988. He spent seven years working in industry, delivering design solutions to a wide range of commercial and government organisations, before returning to Cambridge in 1995 as University Lecturer in Engineering Design. He was appointed Director of the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre in January 1997, promoted to University Reader in October 2001 and to University Professor of Engineering Design in 2004. His stated primary aim is to enthuse students about design. All his courses make extensive use of real design case studies and new research ideas are regularly introduced to the students.

Professor Clarkson’s research has delivered real outcomes of value to designers, design managers and improvement specialists and has also led directly to a significant level of training and education, particularly in the fields of Process Management, Change Management, Healthcare Design and Inclusive Design. He is a world leader in all his chosen areas of work and is ranked one of the top engineering design academics in the world. 

John Clarkson

Credit: Rhys Morgan (@rhys_raeng on Twitter).

Professor Geoffrey A Kirk, who represents the Royal Academy of Engineering on the Award’s Committee and formerly Rolls-Royce Chief Engineer for Civil Aerospace, said: “Professor John Clarkson’s dedicated work in embedding a clear understanding of the design process in university teaching across engineering and design courses has raised the standards in both education and professional practice. His work has also led to an appreciation and application of advanced design processes across a wide range of industry and services, and particularly in the health service – vital for the future of all. He advocates the same principles championed by Sir Misha Black more than 40 years ago and projects them into a new era. John Clarkson is indeed a worthy recipient of the Sir Misha Black Medal.” 

Professor Clarkson said: “I'm truly delighted to be chosen as the recipient of the 2018 Sir Misha Black Medal and honoured to follow in the footsteps of so many eminent Medallists. As an engineer who is passionate about the process of design, I'm driven to understand how we design well and then apply such insight to design challenges in the real world. This combination of research and teaching spans many boundarie, but inevitably converges on how we encourage creativity and instil rigour in the delivery of design. From school children to accomplished designers and healthcare professionals, the focus remains the same; how do we facilitate the design of a better world for all? 

"I've had the privilege to work with many outstanding researchers and designers in the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre over the years, who have enabled and inspired me to change the way we think about design and how we are able to deliver such thinking into practice. It is all the more humbling that this simple pursuit of ‘better design’ has led to this award, thank you.” 

About the Sir Misha Black Medal

The Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education was instituted in 1978 as a memorial to Sir Misha Black, designer and teacher, following his death in 1977. The first Medal was presented to Sir William Coldstream in Buckingham Palace by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Four bodies with whom Sir Misha Black was closely associated set it up – the Royal College of Art, the RSA Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, The Design and Industries Association and The Chartered Society of Designers. In 1996, The Royal Academy of Engineering joined in recognition of the growth of design studies in engineering universities. Previous recipients of the Medal include:

  • 1978 Sir William Coldstream
  • 1980 Serge Ivan Chermayeff Hon RDI
  • 1982 Max Bill
  • 1985 Ashoke Chatterjee
  • 1986 Frank Height
  • 1988 Peter Reyner Banham
  • 1991 David Pye
  • 1993 Dr Marianne Straub RDI Arthur Pulos
  • 1995 Kenji Ekuan
  • 1997 Dr Alexander Moulton RDI
  • 1998 William H. Walsh
  • 1999 Ettore Sottsass Hon RDI
  • 2000 Professor Richard Guyatt Robert Goodden RDI
  • 2001 Yuri Soloviev
  • 2002 Dr Santiago Calatrava
  • 2003 Professor Sir Christopher Frayling
  • 2004 Professor David Hamilton (Honorary) Elaine Ostroff
  • 2005 Professor David Kelley
  • 2006 Professor Geoffrey Kirk RDI
  • 2007 Alison Chitty RDI
  • 2008 Professor Gonzalo Tassier
  • 2009 Judy Frater
  • 2011 Professor Kumar Vyas
  • 2012 Professor Ezio Manzini
  • 2013 Professor Santiago Aránguiz Sánchez
  • 2014 Professor Michael Twyman
  • 2015 Ravi Naidoo
  • 2016 Margaret Calvert OBE RDI

Sir Misha Black was an industrial designer who, with his partner Milner Gray, founded DRU (Design Research Unit) in the late 1940s. It became one of the first international, interdisciplinary design practices with major clients in industrial design, architecture and graphics. In 1959, Misha Black was appointed the first Professor of Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art, a post he held until his retirement in 1975. He was the most influential design teacher of his time, involved in international design affairs as well as being a gifted speaker and writer on design matters.

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