Professor Alastair Macdonald

Job Title:

Senior Researcher, School of Design


School of Design



Professor Alastair Macdonald
image - HAVARIN project

Professor Alastair Macdonald


Professor Alastair Macdonald

Professor Alastair Macdonald is Senior Researcher in the School of Design.

I head a small team of researchers and doctoral students with a focus dedicated to design-led research for age, health and care, operating at the interface between design, health and care practice, and people’s experience of products and services, using an evidence-based approach.

I am the design research lead for a number of inter-disciplinary projects encompassing healthcare service design innovation. My portfolio encompasses work in spinal cord injury, stroke rehabilitation, hospital nutrition, end-of-life care for dementia, and hospital associated infections. This research is funded through UK research council grants (EPSRC, ESRC, AHRC and MRC), the National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR) and charitable trusts.

Programmes of research
Two long-term programmes of research have involved adopting participative design, visualisation and iterative prototyping approaches to bring synergy to the different research disciplines and stakeholders, and to co-develop and evaluate interventions: stroke rehabilitation and infection prevention and control.

Stroke rehabilitation
In the area of stroke rehabilitation, a programme of inter-disciplinary research led, in the envisage project, to the trial of a therapeutic intervention, a visual tool which showed, in real time, the deficits or achievements in the physical movements of stroke survivors undergoing rehabilitation, thereby improving communication and understanding between therapists and their patients. Further details can be found here.

Stroke is a common health problem often leaving people with disabilities requiring specialist stroke unit care. Patients and carers regard inpatient therapy and rehabilitation as the most important elements of treatment after stroke. The CREATE study (Collaborative Rehabilitation Environments in Acute STrokE), funded by an NIHR grant, uses co-production methods to improve patient, carer and staff experiences.

Infection prevention and control
In the area of infection prevention and control, a series of Arts and Humanities Research Council grants have funded the development and evaluation of interactive digital training tools, using behavioural and microbial data as their basis.

The visionOn project produced a proof-of-concept tablet-based tool for hospital staff to improve awareness and understanding of the location, persistence and transmission of pathogens in the hospital ward environment.

The AMRSim (a microbial reality simulator) project is currently exploring similar territory in the small veterinary animal hospital environment.

HAIVAIRN (Healthcare Associated Infection Visualisation and Ideation Research Network), a network grant, explored how the use of visualisation-based approaches used in the arts and humanities, along with those used in other disciplines, might contribute to better prevention and control of healthcare associated infections. The HAIVAIRN report is downloadable from the project website:

Research supervision
As Primary Supervisor my interest is in supervising PhD students largely researching and developing the application of design-led approaches within the ageing, health and care fields.
• Yoonjung Lim: Modes of expression for 360 degree A/V content production in terms of user satisfaction and sense of presence using digital synaesthesia. PhD candidate. (Commenced 2017). Principal supervisor.
• Sondos M. Rawas: An Ethnographic Approach to a Design-led Enquiry into Cross Cultural Inhabitation (Commenced 2016). Principal supervisor.
• Gemma Wheeler: The use of design methods to improve confidence, resourcefulness, and self-determination in spinal cord injury survivors. AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit, Glasgow. PhD. (Completed 2018). Principal supervisor.
• Gayle Rice: A practical exploration into the use and affect of visual communication tools in social work practice. PhD. (Completed 2016). Principal supervisor.
• Sandra Neves: Enjoy your meal: design tools and strategies to improve the post-stroke mealtime experience in rehabilitation. PhD. (Completed 2014). Principal supervisor.
• Ji-Wei Wu: Improving the understanding of the innate abilities and coping strategies of visually impaired people (VIP): an analysis and modelling of the variables and their spatial navigational abilities. PhD. (Completed 2014). Principal supervisor.
• Andy McDonald: Craft customisation: an investigation into the use of generative systems and physical interfaces to develop co-design experiences that enhance the value of digitally printed textile products. PhD. (Completed 2013). Principal supervisor.
• David Loudon: Towards a design tool for visualizing the functional demand placed on older adults by everyday living tasks. PhD. (Completed 2010). Principal supervisor.
• Chris Lim: Age and generation effects: handling complex user interfaces and implications for inclusive design. PhD. (Completed 2008). Principal supervisor.

Research Examination
I have been external examiner for academic programmes and PhDs at Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Dundee, the Royal College of Art, Loughborough University, TU Delft (the Netherlands), Umea Institute of Design (Sweden), Aarhus University (Denmark), and the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden).

Peer recognition
I was awarded a Personal Professorship by the University of Glasgow in 2000, a Japan Foundation Research Fellowship in 2004 and was made a Design Research Society Fellow in 2015. I have been invited to join a number of advisory groups for research networks in the UK and Sweden, and to provide keynote and guest lectures in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. In 2011, I won (jointly with Dr David Loudon) the Nexxus Life Sciences Award (West) for Innovation. I currently sit on the cross-council Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Advisory Group and am a member of the AHRC’s Peer Review College.

In 2018, I was awarded the ‘Best Research’ category in the inaugural AHRC / Wellcome Health Humanities Medal awards.

Teaching programmes
A product designer by training and part of the founding team for GSA’s award-winning MEng/BEng Product Design Engineering (PDE) programme, I was its Head of Department from 1996-2006 and was a primary contributor to the development of the product design engineering programme in 1996 at The Swinburne University of Technology modelled on the Glasgow PDE programme.

Profile and research outputs
Further details: