Skip to content

About Prof David Raffo

As Managing Director and creative head at Raffo Design Associates, David led the multi award winning research and user focused new product development business with clients and partners worldwide along the way gaining two prestigious British Design Award for innovative product design.

A founding director of RPW, one of the world’s leading independent toy design groups, he helped create and develop over 250 products licensed worldwide, 12 selling in excess of one million units and one in excess of ten million. Awarded over 30 international design and industry awards including, ‘Best Toy’ Awards, Mother and Baby Gold Awards and The Good Toy Guide Gold Awards.

Working as Creative Director of icon concepts, a joint venture between design and Hong Kong manufacturers to create and market innovative home and houseware products, he was responsible for creation of brand and philosophy, all product concepts and design, manufacturing liaison in China and Hong Kong, packaging design direction, exhibitions and all brand design issues.

Prior to these roles David was Principle Designer with Rank Xerox Advanced Products Group in UK and USA and Senior Designer with Ogle Design, a consumer product and transport consultancy where he worked on a then little known film – Star Wars.

David has a long working relationship with the Design Council as design mentor [working with industry to build innovative businesses] and academia [to accelerate the commercialisation of research] and he has held roles such as strategy Board member for different by design and worked with the Design Strategy Group of Invest Northern Ireland over many years to develop design and entrepreneurship across Northern Ireland.

As an educator, I believe my role is to inspire and to support creative risk taking. In design management, I work with business and creatives to deliver innovation in product and communication and as a designer, I work with industry and with craftsmen to create and produce products that are elegant, witty, made with care and emotional connection. I photograph my physical and design journeys, making images for public exhibition.


David has always supported design education both as a visiting practitioner and as an advocate for the broader power of design as a catalyst of innovation including as - Campus Fellow: University of Salford, external examiner at University of Ulster and London South Bank, course advisor for Liverpool John Moores and Salford Universities and visiting lecturer at Coventry, Chelsea and Manchester Schools of Art and Manchester Business School.

He has held roles as the Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Sustainable DesignKeyworth Institute and School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds and Senior Lecturer at School of Architecture and Design, University of Ulster including the development of ‘designLab’ - bringing together academic enterprise, consultancy and research within a strategic direction to produce sustainable innovation and connections to research, business and local communities.

He joined the University of Chester in November 2015 as Professor of Design Thinking to help develop the new product design course and work with colleagues in new areas of innovative, cross discipline design research.


Throughout his professional practice research has been the key focus including the development of the ‘design futures’ approach, using research to identify and define opportunities for new and innovative products, his current research interests lie within approaches to craft and making and in academic research on:

An investigation of the information interface within responsive data driven product design considering the communication between users, objects and the Internet of Things.

Connecting: promoting new ‘design thinking’ approaches to ‘real’ world’ issues: how to connect students to this ‘bigger picture’ [within education] in ways that are both sustainable and flexible -and reflect the dynamic changes in the world and the emerging personal practice of the student.

Social Sustainability: how new products and new product systems offer the opportunity to create new ways of living and more sustainable lifestyles, understanding the creative drivers and managing of design processes for these products and systems -  The Third Age: new products and systems for an aging [but still young] population.

Past multi-discipline academic research includes:

4-year EPSRC funded multi-discipline, multi-centred project “Water for All” – development of waste treatment systems for third world peri-urban environments combining leading edge science with cultural research and user centred design system development – leading to an on-site [Africa] demonstration system. Glasgow/Galway/Cranfeld/Ulster/IDS/Newcastle/Sheffield [project £890K]

3-year EPSRC funded multi-discipline, multi-centred project ‘Transport Challenge’ –

“Understanding how commuters and communities engage with electrically assisted cycling’’. The issues for policy, design and research that could lead to higher uptake of e-bikes in the UK and thus a reduction in carbon emissions. Brighton/Ulster/UCL+TRL  [project £470K]


David was born and educated in Blackburn, then at Manchester School of Art and Design graduating in Three Dimensional Design: Wood, Metal and Ceramics, specialising in Furniture and at Manchester Polytechnic under Victor Paperknac in Industrial Design, gaining an HDD [MA]