Dr Sarah Rhodes

Research Fellow Pharma-Factory Creative Lenses

University of the Arts London


Dr Sarah Rhodes is a design researcher and educator, currently working on two European Union funded research projects; Pharma-Factory and Creative Lenses. Pharma-Factory is a four-year, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research project with the overarching aim of European small and medium-sized enterprises to explore the development of commercially viable medical and veterinary products through Plant Molecular Farming from plant biotechnology.

Creative Lenses is a four-year action research project which aims to strengthen and develop the business capacity and sustainability of European cultural and arts organisations. She previously worked on the AHRC-funded Public Collaboration Lab, a design led collaborative research project exploring the potential and value of strategic collaboration between design education and local government to innovating public services and policymaking - co-creating place based solutions to local challenges.

Her AHRC-funded, practice based PhD was completed at Central Saint Martins (CSM) in 2015. It culminated in the research exhibition The Craft of Ubuntu: an exploration of collaboration through making, shown at both the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town and CSM, London, which was selected as a World Design Capital 2014 official project. Alongside this, Rhodes developed and delivered a national research symposium Bridging the Divide: developing and applying design methodologies for cross-cultural collaboration

Rhodes has extensive teaching experience at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, she supervises PhDs and is an experienced external examiner. She is an Associate Member of the Design Against Crime Research Centre, Central Saint Martins and a member of the Design Research Society and the Museums Association. 

She has contributed chapters on international design to two books: Cultural Threads: Transnational Textiles Today (Hemmings, 2014) and Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective (Skinner, 2013). Her jewellery has been exhibited international including at the London Design Festival and she was commissioned to design the SS09 collection for fair trade jewellery company Made, sold in Topshop, Whistles and House of Fraser. 

A background in art and design teaching led to working for many years in sub-Saharan Africa facilitating community engagement and social innovation for a variety of marginalised communities including San|Bushmen, people living with HIV/AIDS, disadvantaged women, street children and vulnerable youth. 

Research interests

Co-design, collaboration, making, design anthropology, participatory design, social innovation, culture, the agency of the craftsperson, craft and ubuntu. 

Research statement

Rhodes’ PhD research reframed collaboration between designers and African craft producers through the lens of design process, using a participatory design perspective rather than the usual paradigm of product design development. It looked to determine how craft and design practices can act as tools for communication and exchange, how to foster meaningful collaboration when the relationship of those involved is inequitable, and subsequently developed a co-creation methodology for practice, capitalising on the differing skills, experiences and cultures of those involved. It illustrated how co-creational agency, through equitable, creative change can engender successful outcomes.

Rhodes has a continuing research interest in participatory design process, particularly in its use to bridge the divide between marginalised groups and its utilisation for social innovation and sustainable practices.


Inbo Kang, Design-led Collaborative Practice in Public Sector Innovation: Investigating the role design practitioners/non-designers play in enabling and supporting collaboration within local government context in the UK

Project awards, and grants

2017 Museum and University Partnership Initiative, collaborative funding grant

2014 World Design Capital 2014, official project award

2013 AHRC Collaborative Skills Development Award

2013 Design Research Society, travel bursary

Selected research outputs