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Associate Professor Douglas Tomkin


Advice provided on the following topics from 1995 - 2009

  • Legal cases concerning accidents related to design
    folding chairs
    restaurant furniture
    office chairs
    corrective services bed bunks
    wheelchair design
    exercising equipment
  • Legal cases concerning design imitation and misrepresentation
    domestic sofas
    coffee making equipment
  • Sustainable design
    cosmetic packaging
    domestic products
    domestic furniture

Image of Douglas Tomkin
Development Director, Designing Out Crime Research Centre
DipDesign (RMIT), MDes (RCA)
+61 2 9514 8990


Muir, J.G., Masens, C.D., Tomkin, D.F. & Cortie, M.B. 2004, 'The NanohouseTM - An Australian initiative for the future of energy efficient housing' in al, P.J.M.B.E. (ed), Nanotechnology in Construction, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, pp. 291-304.
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Nanotechnology encompasses an array of technologies, all sharing the common attribute of arising from the science of the scale of nanometres. At this scale many materials exhibit physical properties different from those observable in larger quantities of the same materials. This presents a vast number of opportWlities to develop new materials and systems leading to a corresponding array of new products and processes. There is great interest in exploring how these new materials can be applied in existing and new buildings. A multidisciplinary team led by The Institute for Nanoscale Technology at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), that includes people from a number other institutions within Australia such as the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSlRO) are developing the Nanohouse The Nanohouse is at the time of writing a concept house, existing in the fonn of architectural drawings, mathematical models and as a 3D computer simulation. The Nanohouse is being designed to illustrate what uses various nanotechnologies (and other recent innovations) have to offer within the context of a domestic dwelling and also to note the wider applications of these technologies in commercial structures. It is naturally a dynamic project, with the design being modified as new technologies and materials become available. In this paper we describe the methodology used to create the Nanohouse, and evaluate some aspects of its perfonnance. The aspects that touched on include the architectural design and the Nanohouses overall energy efficiency.


munro, T., tomkin, D., lulham, R., bradley, K. & kashyap, K. 2015, 'Evaluating a new high security teaching environment', The Pen, the Hammer or the Mouse: Addressing recidivism through education.' Australasian Corrections Education Association Conference, Australasian Corrections Education Association, Hobart.
Tomkin, D.F. 2015, 'Countering Terrorism in the City', State of Australian Cities Conference 2015: Refereed Proceedings, State of Australian Cities National Conference 2015, State of Australian Cities Research Network, Gold Coast.
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Seen through the eyes of a determined terrorist the city is full of opportunities. Car bombs, hidden explosives, toxic gases, handheld weapons; they can all be used to devastating effect on a crowded city street. While intelligence gathering, surveillance and police presence are key counter terrorism tools the last line of protecting potential targets are typically barriers and security checks. These additions to the cityscape can be an inconvenience, add little to local aesthetics and constantly remind us of the ever-present danger of terrorism. The Designing Out Crime Research Centre undertake projects which aim to protect Sydney from such attacks in ways which are sympathetic to the local environment and to the untrained eye have little connection to protection against terrorism. This paper outlines the threats to the city and countermeasures illustrated by case studies including projects for Sydney Rail, and the Sydney Opera House.
Tomkin, D.F. 2015, 'Design, crime and social disadvantage', Proceedings of the IASDR Conference 2015: Interplay, 2–5 November., The International Association of Societies of Design Research, International Association of Societies of Design Research, Brisbane, pp. 2049-2069.
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A methodical approach to understanding how designers design began in earnest in the 1960's. Chris Jones, L. Bruce Archer and others applied scientific principles to the design process resulting in a coherent linear approach to creating new products. More recently these and other methods employed by designers in problem solving have been termed 'design thinking and appropriated elsewhere, in particular in the business and financial sectors. This paper demonstrates that complex social problems can also benefit from a design thinking approach. Since 2009 the Designing Out Crime Research Centre (DOC) has utilised a new design thinking method to resolve issues varying in context from struggling communities with high crime rates to alcohol related violence in the night time economy. The method has been utilised and refined in 100+ projects over a five-year period. The paper explains the new process in the context of two very different projects. The first is improving the writing and numeracy skills of high security prisoners and the second enhancing pedestrian safety in a disadvantaged, crime prone community. Evaluation of the new method has been principally through client and stakeholder feedback, which has been positive. A number of long-term appraisal studies are in progress.
Lulham, R.A., Tomkin, D., Grant, L. & Jewkes, Y. 2015, 'Risk, design and innovation in correctional practice', 17th Annual International Corrections and Prisons Association "Managing risk in contemporay correctional systems", Melbourne.
Tomkin, D.F. & Watson, R. 2013, 'A New Visual Aid for Designing', Consilience and Innovation in Design, proceedings and Program vol. 2, 5th IASDR 2013 TOKYO: 5th International Congress of the International Association of Societies of Design Research, IASDR, Shibaura Institute of Technology Tokyo, pp. 3558-3567.
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In 2002 the American Design consultancy IDEO developed a set of method cards to assist designers and others in selecting the appropriate process on a design project. The Designing Out Crime Research Centre (DOC) has customized the concept of design process cards basing the form and content on a new design thinking philosophy. Originally designed to assist the Centre's consultancy stream working on crime related issues the new cards have also been shown to aid design students gain insight into design process in general and in selecting the appropriate tool for the specific design task they are undertaking. The new design thinking approach, which forms the framework for the cards, was developed by Kees Dorst following an investigative process including the review of many DOC design projects and extensive with leading designers. The approach contains nine steps - archaeology, paradox, context, field, themes, frames, futures, transformation, and integration (Dorst 2013). The cards serve a number of purposes. While assisting the design team in planning new assignments the cards also help the team engage with clients in both determining the tools to employ and the sequence in which they occur. The playful nature of the cards and the informative details contained on the backside assist in demystifying the process to those less familiar with designing. This paper describes the cards and how they relate to the new thinking philosophy. Also included is a demonstration on how the cards can be used in a variety of design projects.
Dorst, K. & Tomkin, D.F. 2011, 'Themes as bridges between problem and solution', Proceedings of IASDR2011, 4th World Conference on Design Research, IASDR2011, The International Association of Societies of Design Research, Delft, The Netherlands.
The ability to reframe is widely seen as a key design skill, and central to the claim that design thinking can contribute to radical innovation. Yet there are few studies that seek to describe and understand this process in detail. In this paper we will use four case studies of complex design projects to study the art of frame creation. We find that designers use deliberate strategies to explore the wider problem area, and create new frames based on those explorations. The notion of âthemeâ is adopted from hermeneutic phenomenology to describe and understand the subtle ways in which designers navigate the area between problem and solution space during framing.
Tomkin, D.F., Thomas, L.E., Day, M.B., Burke, P.F., Franklin, J., Smith, G., Louviere, J.J. & Street, D. 2007, 'Solar Light for rooms without windows', Sustainable Innovation 07, Farnham, Surrey, UK.
Tomkin, D.F. 2005, 'Sustainable Design in the Information Age', Interaction Design and Children (ACM) - New Design Paradigms, Interaction Design and Children (ACM), International Association of Societies of Design Research, Yunlin, Taiwan, pp. 35-35.
This paper is about using information technology to advance environment sustainability, particularly in relation to design. A number of Universities in Australia have been exploring the link between IT and environment concerns. The result has been a series of innovative proposals worthy of wider dissemination. From an education view some valuable insights into teaching sustainable design at University level have emerged following an analysis of the project. A major initiative by the Victorian State Government to encourage innovation in digital design included a University based project entitled Digital Eco-Sense: Sustainability and ITC organised by Professor Chris Ryan of RMIT. This was a collaborative project for design students involving three Universities; the aim was to cultivate a situation where students could explore the use of information technology to reduce environmental damage. The exercise resulted in proposals diverse as river regeneration, community recycling, virtual tourism, and a global sustainable consumer product service. On conclusion the project was examined from an educational perspective. Indicators such as student satisfaction, knowledge uptake, and assessment measures were compared with more traditional approaches to teaching sustainable design employing lectures and seminars along with redesign exercises. On virtually every count the innovative project approach proved to be the most successful in engaging students in sustainable design issues and in understanding the techniques used by practitioners. The project will enter a new phase in 2006 when the exercise goes global as European and Asian Universities participate. Coordination and management procedures will be upgraded to cope with the increased increase in complexity.
Tomkin, D.F. 2005, 'Towards Sustainable Design - a new web based tool for design practitioners and students', 6th Asia Pacific roundtable for sustainable consumption and production.
Tomkin, D.F., Muir, J.G. & Cortie, M.B. 2003, 'Customized Sustainable Housing', Sustainable Innovation 03, Sustainable Innovation 03, Stockholm, Sweden.
Tomkin, D.F., Muir, J.G., Cortie, M.B., Masens, C. & Smith, G. 2003, 'The Nanohouse- Australian initiative to develop the home of the future', Nanotechnology, Nanotechnology, Nanotechnology, Scotland.
Conference presentation

Journal articles

Lulham, R.A., Tomkin, Grant, L. & Jewkes, Y. 2016, 'The risk of 'a cold conservatism' in correctional facility design: the case for design innovation', Advancing Corrections, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-12.
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This paper examines the relationship between physical design and risk within modern correctional practice. It seeks to identify the potential risks and paradoxes of the current emphasis on considering correctional design primarily as a means of reducing security risks. We suggest that innovation in correctional design is required that embeds meanings that both support the goals of security risk management, but also the goals of reducing reoffending risk and promoting desistance. Drawing on a case study of the design and evaluation of a correctional education facility, we contend that innovative correctional design more broadly can be a stronger force for managing risk to promote desistance in corrections.


Watson, N.R. 2016, Estuarine Pot Theft: Solutions Workshop 2014, pp. 0-24, Sydney.
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A report on an industry workshop exploring options to prevent the theft of mud crabs from estuarine pots.
Lulham, R.A., Tomkin & wong University of Technology Sydney 2015, Learn to Work: Work to Learn Report, University of Technology - Corrective Services NSW partnership project, no. 2, pp. 1-46, University of Technology Sydney.
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The L2W-W2L initiative is an exciting development within CSNSW that further integrates and establishes the role of industry and education staff around the Justice Department's vision for 'a just and safe society'. This project report seeks to articulate the key components required to support the L2W-W2L initiative in three pilot industries sites. The document is the result of an extensive process of research, collaboration and refinement with CSNSW oversees, educators, inmate employees and managers. It draws on the experience and knowledge within the organization and in the broader literature to articulate key themes and strategies to establish the L2W-W2L initiative in the three pilot centre industries. These themes and strategies were further refined and endorsed by staff from each centre, and by CSNSW management, through a full day workshop and document review. This report includes an implementation framework building on the discussion in the workshop. Regardless of the quality of the strategies, the desired outcomes for the initiative are unlikely to be achieved without appropriate implementation planning and resourcing. With the current momentum and energy around the project, it is important that this planning and implementation of the project occurs is as soon as practicable to build on this progress
Lulham, R.A., Munro, Bradley, K., Tomkin, D., Wong, J. & Kashyap, K. University of Technology Sydney 2015, Intensive Learning Centre building evaluation, University of Technology Sydney & Corrective Services NSW partnership project, no. 3, pp. 1-63, University of Technology Sydney.
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This building evaluation assesses the performance and quality of the Intensive Learning Centre (ILC) at Mid-North Coast Correctional Centre (MNCCC) as a space for intensive 21st century learning in a maximum-security prison. The MNCCC Intensive Learning Centre is an education facility consisting of four classrooms, a library, amenity area, staff office and landscaped grounds including multi-level timber decking, a yarn circle, walking track and gardens. Most of the furniture and buildings were constructed by Correctional Service Industries. It is designed to operate with forty inmate learners, five educators, a correctional officer and an education manager. This report focuses on the evaluation of the ILC facility against relevant functional performance criteria and the original design intentions, with recommendations for the design of the current and future Intensive Learning Centre facilities. We include summaries of the assessment of technical and process performance as appendices.
tomkin, D., wong, J. & kaldor, L. Designing Out Crime research centre, University of Technology Sydney 2015, Safe Places: Vehicle Management, pp. 1-44, Sydney.
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As the nature of public security continues to evolve in respect to terrorism and criminal activity, so too must our response. We investigated the challenges of safety both for people and infrastructure in heavily populated places, and particularly the ways in which vehicles could threaten public buildings and pedestrian safety. Our report outlines protective measures that can be integrated in public and private spaces to reduce the threat of vehicles being used as weapons.
Bradley, K., Munro, T., Lulham, R., Tomkin, D., Klippan & McGregor, F. University of Technology Sydney 2012, Intensive Learning Centre Concept Report, University of Technology and Corrective Services NSW partnership project, no. 1, pp. 1-37, Designing out Crime research centre, University of Technology Sydney.
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NSW Corrective Services (CSNSW) engaged the Designing Out Crime (DOC) research centre to research and develop design concept for the development, design and construction of Intensive Learning Centres (ILC) for their correctional facilities. DOC compiled a UTS design team with expertise in architecture, industrial design, design thinking, environmental psychology and correctional environments. The central task for the design team is to respond to the design brief with a design concept that embodies the program principles and can be delivered by corrective services within the project parameters.