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Elizabeth (Liz) Sanders, Ph.D.

Elizabeth (Liz) Sanders, Ph.D.

Elizabeth (Liz) Sanders, Ph.D.

Associate Professor


230 Hayes Hall
108 North Oval Mall
Columbus OHIO 43210

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Areas of Expertise

  • Design Research
  • Participatory Design
  • Co-Design
  • Design Futures
  • Speculative Design
  • Collective Creativity
  • Collective Dreaming
  • Transdisciplinarity


  • PhD, Experimental and Quantitative Psychology, The Ohio State University, 1981
  • MA, Experimental Psychology, The Ohio State University, 1977
  • BA, Psychology, Miami University 1975
  • BA, Anthropology, Miami University, 1975

Select Recognition

  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
  • Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society
  • University Fellowship, The Ohio State University, 1975 to 1979

Current CV [pdf] Google Scholar

Liz Sanders is a social scientist. She was hired in the early 1980’s by a leading design consultancy as an “experiment” to begin to explore the integration of social science and design. The experiment is ongoing. The aim of Liz’s research today is to democratize design so that all the people who will be affected by design decisions can make creative contributions and play a role in determining their future ways of living. Her research is focused on the exploration, development and dissemination of a transdisciplinary, co-design language that can be used to generate and describe relevant transformation and sustainable innovation. 

Liz is the founder of MakeTools, LLC where she explores new spaces in the emerging co-design landscapes. As a practitioner, Liz introduced many of the methods and tools being used today to drive and/or inspire design from a human-centered perspective. Her industrial career has been focused on generating, developing and using participatory design research methods in the design and development of products, services, systems and spaces. Some of her clients have included Apple, AT&T, Coca Cola, Compaq, GE, Honda, IBM, Intel, Kodak, Microsoft, Motorola, Procter & Gamble, Roche Diagnostics, Steelcase, Thermos, 3M, and Xerox. 

Liz joined the Design Department at The Ohio State University as an Associate Professor in 2011 while continuing her work with MakeTools. Her many publications, presentations, design awards, patents, as well as success in the marketplace have established Liz as a global leader in the field of design research. She co-authored Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design, that is recognized as the textbook for students of co-designing in academia as well as practice. Today Liz speaks and conducts workshops about co-design research, collective creativity and transdisciplinarity with clients, colleagues and students all over the world. Her work has significantly influenced the integration of the processes, methods and tools used today in driving human-centered design.

Liz's work emphasizes the shift from user-centered to participatory design approaches, advocating for practices that involve designing with people rather than simply for them. She believes that the next step in the evolution of design is the move toward collective dreaming, where everyone can collaboratively imagine, create and enact their own personal and collective futures. The emergence of VR, AR and AI and their disruption of the design landscape is accelerating this transformation.

Active Community and University Service and Leadership

  • University: Member of the Reimagining Teaching and Learning Initiative, Student Experience and Success subcommittee
  • Department: Promotion and Tenure Committee
  • Department: Procedures Oversight Designee
  • Department: Strategic Plan Committee, Faculty Eminence and Funding Subcommittee
  • Department: Events Committee
  • Faculty Advisor for Paranormal Investigations at The Ohio State University (An Undergraduate Student Organization)

Selected Publications

  • Sanders, E. B.-N. (2020) Staging co-design within healthcare: Lessons from practice. In Dorland, J., Pedersen, S. and Vinck, D. (Editors) Staging collaborative design and innovation: An action-oriented participatory approach, Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc., UK.
  • Sanders, E.B.-N (2017), Design research at the crossroads of education and practice, She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp. 3-15. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405872616300636
  • Sanders, L. and Stappers, P.J. (2014) From designing to co-designing to collective dreaming: Three slices in time. ACM Interactions. http://interactions.acm.org/about
  • Sanders, E.B.-N. and Stappers, P.J. (2014) Probes, toolkits and prototypes: Three approaches to making in co-designing. In CoDesign: International Journal of Co-Creation in Design and the Arts. Special Issue on Making.
  • Sanders, E.B.-N. and Stappers, P.J. (2012) Convivial toolbox: Generative research for the front end of design. BIS Publishers, NL. (Book)
  • Brandt, E., Binder, T. and Sanders, E.B.-N. (2012) Tools and techniques: Ways to engage telling, making and enacting. In Handbook of participatory design. Routledge.
  • Sanders, E.B.-N. and Stappers, P.J. (2008) Co-creation and the new landscapes of design, CoDesign: International Journal of Co-Creation in Design and the Arts, 4(1).
  • Sanders, E.B.-N. (2008) An evolving map of design practice and design research. Interactions, November/December, 2008.
  • Sleeswijk Visser, F., Stappers, P.J., van der Lugt, R. and Sanders, E.B.N. (2005) Contextmapping: Experiences from practice. CoDesign: International Journal of Co-Creation in Design and the Arts, 1(2).
  • Sanders, E.B.-N. (2002) From user-centered to participatory design approaches. In Design and the social sciences. J. Frascara (Ed.), Taylor and Francis, Books Limited.
  • Sanders, E.B.-N. (2000) Generative tools for Co-designing in Collaborative Design, Scrivener, Ball and Woodcock (Eds.) Springer-Verlag, London.

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