Professor of Product and Spatial Design
Central Saint Martins
Design Against Crime as Socially Responsive Design (SRVD), using design to address social issues linked to products, public spaces and/or public services. 3D/industrial design, Graphic Design/Packaging, Co-Design/User-centred (interaction) design focusing on abusers and mis-users as well as sustainability issues. Fashion-Product Crossover design; Crime; designing products, places and systems against crime, disorder, drug abuse and terrorism; Gender, and representation; visual communication, consumer culture in the post-modern context.
My first degree (BA) was in the field of cultural studies (at Middlesex University) and I later completed an MA in Women’s Studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury with a film and cultural studies focus before enrolling to deliver a PhD on shoplifting at Middlesex in 1999. This included the oral history of a woman whose main income was derived from shoplifting which in-turn engendered a focus and abiding interest in oral history and ethnographic research methods as well as a spin off book Gone Shopping: The Story of Shirley Pitts, Queen of Thieves (Penguin, 1997). This was reissued by Bloomsbury in 2012 with my new afterword; in 2012 Tiger Aspect bought an option to acquire the TV/Film rights for the book.
I have always had an interest in design, gender and visual culture and this came to the fore when teaching contextual studies primarily to product, graphic, ceramic, innovation and industrial design students for over twenty-five years at Middlesex, Goldsmiths and Central Saint Martins. Indeed, I have written numerous books and articles that discuss the significance of design, gender and representation on diverse topics; for example, from soap powder packaging (2001) to gangster suits in the TV series The Sopranos for the Fashion in Film Festival (2011), such as article If Looks Could Kill.
I am Professor of Design at Central Saint Martins and the Director of the award-winning Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC), which I founded in 1999. I am regarded as an expert in the way I have addressed social issues through actual design practice by interpreting offender techniques and delivering design against crime interventions. I have contributed to building both operational and innovative capacity of designers in the national and international context by developing socially responsive design methods that give agency to designers who wish to address real world issues via ‘socially responsive design’. I have co-catalysed and/or curated at least twenty national and international exhibitions, delivered design benchmarks and design resources and papers that advise others how best to design against crime, some co authored with colleagues from the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at University College London, with whom we have developed several research projects. From 2007 to 2011 I was appointed as a business advisor and member of the Home Office/Design Council’s ‘Design Technology Alliance’.
Since 2002 I have also served as Vice Chair of the professional body, the Designing Out Crime Association (DOCA). Additionally, I am visiting professor at the University of Technology Sydney, where I have advised the Asst Attorney General of New South Wales regarding the setting up of the Designing Out Crime Research Centre, and regularly visited Sydney (with Adam Thorpe) between 2009-2012 to contribute to live action research projects. I have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Design Academy, Seoul, who hosted a keynote presentation by myself and Adam Thorpe in November 2012 and with whom DACRC are developing a research relationship.
During the last fourteen years, as well as delivering research, papers and outputs funded by various research councils, I have been able to co-create several national design challenge competition briefs for the Design Council, the Royal Society of Arts and also the Audi Design Foundation. Additionally, in partnership with designers from the school of Communication, Product and Spatial Design at Central Saint Martins, I have catalysed several anti-crime product ranges including ‘Stop Thief Chairs’ which developed iteratively through field-testing with Starbucks UK and have been purchased for the permanent collection and exhibited by MOMA, in New York. With the designers Adam Thorpe (and Joe Hunter) I have developed Karrysafe ‘anti theft bags’ and ‘M’ anti theft bike stands, that were delivered to market in partnership with Broxap in 2008. I have also made the case that crime is not carbon neutral (Armitage and Gamman, 2009) and argued that sustainability agendas need to include address to the significance of the negative consequences of crime.
My work with the Design Against Crime Research Centre and also as Vice Chair of the Designing Out Crime Association (2002-13) has sought to contextualise crime issues through the lens of design. It does this by asking what society needs more of as well as what it needs less of (e.g. crime), whilst also making the case that ‘secure design should not look criminal’. Recently, I have delivered numerous socially responsive or social innovation designs for sustainability projects linked to my work with Adam Thorpe and the UAL DESIS Lab. Our DESIS projects argue amongst other things that by design, sociable cities can lead to safer cities.
Current students & thesis titles
Alistair Steele, Through the Hole in the Wall: the ATM as Tool of Users or Criminals in Digital/Public Space.
Lucie Russell, WHAT I SEE I OWN? Can fashion/media body images via the process of drawing be re-appropriated to positive effect as part of the creation of a social innovation design tool that can be accessed or shared with groups to question negative body image/s and to build well-being and “body confidence”?