Context: Community and consumer involvement in health professions education (HPE) is of growing interest among researchers and educators, particularly in preparing health care graduates to effectively learn from, and collaborate with, people with lived experience of health issues. However, to date there has been limited direction on methodological approaches to engage health care consumers in the research and co-design of HPE. Approach: In this paper, we describe the background to our work with health care consumers including the five core principles for successful co-design (inclusive; respectful; participative; iterative; outcomes focused) and how they can be applied as a research approach in HPE. We introduce the use of arts and humanities-based teaching methodologies including engagement, meaning-making and translational education strategies to illustrate how this research approach has been applied to reframe mental health education and practice in Australia. Furthermore, we share some reflective insights on the opportunities and challenges inherent in using a co-design research approach in HPE. Conclusions: For the consumer voice to be embedded across HPE, there needs to be a collective commitment to curriculum redesign. This paper advances our understandings of the educational research potential of working with health care consumers to co-design rich and authentic learning experiences in HPE. Co-design research approaches that partner with and legitimise health care consumers as experts by experience may better align education and health professional practice with consumers’ actual needs, an important first step in transforming hierarchical health care relationships towards more humanistic models of care.