Mr Ross MacLachlan

Senior Teaching Fellow

Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management


Personal statement

My core interest is multidisciplinary design engineering education. Qualified with an MEng in Product Design Engineering from the University of Strathclyde (2001), I facilitate modules in Electrical Concepts (module registrar) for 1st year Product Design students, Fluid Mechanics for 2nd year Sports Engineers, Design Engineering for 3rd year Product Design and Design Management topics for both 2nd year undergraduate and postgraduate students. I also provide tutor support across a number of studio based design classes, including Design Emotion and Experience. I supervise undergraduate and postgraduate student design and research projects as well as group industrial projects. I am currently the 1st year undergraduate advisor of studies, and the local coordinator for the Joint MSc in Global Innovation Management (GIM); a collaborative 2 year master’s programme in conjunction with Hamburg University of Technology and Aalborg University.  2008 – 2012 Editions of the GIM programme were supported under the European Commission’s flagship Erasmus Mundus scholarship programme.

I have participated in a number of funded (Sporting Chance Initiative and Medtech) product design projects with Industry; a tennis court pace measurement apparatus (Sportslabs), abdominal toning product (Kennedy Koncepts) and a transport, storage and cleansing system for Transoesophageal (TOE) Probes (Health Science Solutions).

I have published research activity in design creativity, design education and innovation management education.


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Chat-GPT : a clever search engine or a creative design assistant for students and industry?
Maclachlan Ross, Adams Richard, Lauro Veeti, Murray Michael, Magueijo Vitor, Flockhart Gordon, Hasty William
26th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (2024)
Towards a new standard for FEA methodology and presentation in product design portfolios
MacLachlan Ross
Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2022), London South Bank University in London, UK. 8th - 9th September 2022 24th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (2022)
Using linkography to compare creative methods for group ideation
Hatcher G, Ion W, MacLachlan R, Marlow M, Simpson B, Wilson N, Wodehouse A
Design Studies Vol 58, pp. 127-152 (2018)
A new approach for patent use in student design engineering projects
Maclachlan Ross, Wodehouse Andrew, Vasantha Gokula
Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, E&PDE 2018 20th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, E and PDE 2018, pp. 288-293 (2018)
Applied humour in creative product design
Hatcher Gillian, Ion William, MacLachlan Ross, Wodehouse Andrew, Simpson Barbara, Marlow Marion
Creativity and Humour (2018) (2018)
Evolving improvised ideation from humour constructs : a new method for collaborative divergence
Hatcher Gillian, Ion William, MacLachlan Ross, Sheridan Marion, Simpson Barbara, Wodehouse Andrew
Creativity and Innovation Management Vol 27, pp. 91-101 (2018)

More publications

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Research Interests

Creative Design Methods; Culture and design; the role of Open-source in design practice; Product acoustics; and; Innovation, Design and Engineering Education.

Professional Activities

International Symposium of Engineering Education (ISEE) 2022

More professional activities


KTP - Elite Bedding
Nair, Anup (Principal Investigator) MacLachlan, Ross (Co-investigator)
13-Jan-2020 - 23-Jan-2022
Embedding Design Improv
MacLachlan, Ross (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2021
New Engineering Design Processes through Constructs of Humour
Ion, William (Principal Investigator) MacLachlan, Ross (Co-investigator) Marlow, Marion (Co-investigator) Simpson, Barbara (Co-investigator) Wodehouse, Andrew (Co-investigator)
"This project aims to reinvigorate early phase concept design by developing new creative engineering design processes through constructs of humour.

Humour is a human faculty and a capacity for its generation and appreciation is detectable in most people. Humour therefore plays an inherent, often positive and unconsciously strategic, role in organisational culture, team dynamics, management and creativity. In humour and organisational studies there is significant support for the deliberate leveraging of positive humour cognitive mechanisms to further enhance creative and social processes.

Creative processes are critical to innovation through engineering design, particularly during early conceptual process phases. When engineering designers and teams engage in idea generation and other creative tasks, a lack of openness to others, engagement with the problem and willingness to take risks can inhibit the quality and volume of concepts produced. 'Brainstorming' is a group problem solving technique that can be applied to nearly any open-ended task. It has become a shorthand for any solution focused group discussion and in many cases does not take place in the open-minded, inventive, fluid atmosphere that is necessary for it to be effective. While other techniques such as morphological charts, TRIZ and the gallery method exist, they are similarly impaired by a lack of participant engagement.

A dominant theory of humour is that it is a process involving the set-up and resolution of 'incongruities'; the recipient feels emotions of surprise and satisfaction resulting in laughter. For engineering design, incongruous humour is a powerful analogy for creative design process explaining how novel, unexpected but appropriate solutions are recognised. One study suggests that a group of experienced comedians were more effective in product design idea generation than trained designers. However, the precise reasons for this are not fully understood, corresponding results have not been sought within real situated design processes, technical or otherwise, and there has been no formal attempt to package humour based processes for effective use in design practice.

Using prominent arguments in the literature in relation to incongruity, relief and superiority in humour, we have conducted a preliminary study that established the feasibility of incorporating stimuli to enhance concept design sessions Based on this, we have identified three exploratory themes based on aspects of humour with potential for further integration with creative design methods:
1. Humour to facilitate collaboration. Laughter can help free us from the shackles of day-to-day analytic thinking. This theme will explore the use of humorous material and comedy to generate group cohesion and structure sessions to achieve a positive, non-critical attitude towards the task in hand.
2. Humour to encourage immersion. Creative thinking benefits from a level of absorption or 'flow' discussed by and others to achieve depths of empathy and insight. This theme will explore the use of improvisational routines ('Yes, and...') and comedic exercises to increase the level of engagement by the group.
3. Humour to diversify the solution space. Incongruity, or the juxtaposition of dissimilar ideas, is fundamental to many jocular structures. This theme will explore the use of the properties of incongruity to encourage the group to strive for unusual ideas through the use of humorous narratives and unexpected perspectives.

This project will allow further integration of aspects of humour to enhance engagement, structure and novelty in idea generation; to assess effectiveness through a series of workshops; and to present enhanced guidelines as a basis for new methods and tools to enhance innovative working practices. This would represent a significant step forward in the academic fields of creativity, innovation and design methods."
12-Jan-2015 - 11-Jan-2017
Quantifying patent commercialisation to support engineering design
Wodehouse, Andrew (Principal Investigator) Corney, Jonathan (Co-investigator) MacLachlan, Ross (Co-investigator)
"This project will investigate if crowdsourcing can be used to aggregate the content of disparate, open-data sources across the internet to determine which patents underpin commercial products, and organise and present these according to technical criteria in a visual form appropriate for engineering design.

Patents are frequently used to quantify levels of innovation associated with specific regions or companies. However despite the development of sophisticated data mining tools to support the analysis of over 50 million online patent records, little is known about which patents are actually commercialized and how they are embodied in commercial products. Because of this patent informatics has been inherently limited to the study of the records, rather than the use, of Intellectual Property (IP). This information gap inevitably reduces the accuracy of academic and commercial analysis that use patent data for applications such as innovation research, fore-sighting, and IP portfolio valuations. Furthermore, the presentation of existing data maps is not in a form that is useful for engineering designers when conceptualising and embodying products: it is predominantly text-based (and often deliberately obfuscated) when more visual presentation with exemplars and appropriate technical taxonomic terms would greatly enhance utility when undertaking engineering design development.

Crowdsourcing utilises large networks of open people to compete discrete tasks. Virtual tools are used to co-ordinate the distribution, payment and co-ordination of results, resulting in a labour market that is open 24/7 and a diverse workforce available to perform tasks quickly and cheaply. The distributed network of human workers provide on-line, black-box reasoning capabilities that could far exceed the capabilities of current AI technologies (i.e. genetic algorithms, neural-nets, case-based reasoning) in terms of flexibility and scope.

This project proposes that crowdsourcing can be utilised to access open data sources such as user manuals, product labelling, court proceedings and company web pages to understand which patents are actively used in current products and how they have been embodied. With a more accurate representation of innovation commercialisation, technical metadata (labelling), and utilisation, we envisage patent searches not as a stage-gate check but as a revitalised source of design inspiration. Indeed, if crowdsourcing proves a cheap, scalable way of collating this information and applying appropriate taxonomic and visual engineering information, it could fundamentally alter the early phases of engineering design. To this end, the project will result in a visualization tool that can be used to both guide and inspire design conceptualisation and embodiment."
01-Jan-2015 - 31-Jan-2017
Health Science Solutions Ltd, Strathclyde MedTech
Hernandez, Jose Luis (Academic) MacLachlan, Ross (Academic)
Principal investigator for project aimed at developing concepts for a new medical device intended to enhance the in-use-life-cycle of Trans-Oesophageal Echocardiography (TOE) Transducers. This is a collaborative intervention supported by DMEM and the Medical Physics Department at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee. Outputs include: Documented design process, Product Design Specification, conceptual design and concept evaluation leading to the selection of a champion concept and the production of 3D renders of the embodied champion concept.
16-Jan-2013 - 24-Jan-2013

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Mr Ross MacLachlan
Senior Teaching Fellow
Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management

Tel: 548 2653