Co-production of new knowledge can enhance open and integrative research processes across the social and natural sciences and across research/science, practice and policy interrelationships. Thus, co-production is important in the conduct of research about and for transformations to sustainability. While co-design is an integral part of co-production, it often receives limited attention in the conduct of co-produced research. This paper reports on lessons learned from an early stage of the co-design process to develop research on deliberate practices for transformative change. Key lessons learned are the need to: (1) ensure co-design processes are themselves carefully designed; (2) encourage emergence of new ways of thinking about problem formulation through co-design; (3) carefully balance risks for the participants involved while also enhancing opportunities for intellectual risk taking; (4) facilitate personal transformations in co-design as a way to stimulate and encourage further creativity; and (5) for funders to carefully and constructively align criteria or incentives through which a project or future proposal will be judged to the goals of the co-design, including for instrumental outcomes and objectives for creativity and imagination. Given that co-design necessarily involves a reflective practice to iteratively guide emergence of new thinking about the practices of change, co-design can itself be considered an important deliberate practice for transforming the conduct of research and the contribution of that research to social transformations.