Marcus Willcocks

Research Fellow Design Against Crime Centre

Central Saint Martins


Willcocks' design-led action research, spanning 2 decades, is focused upon people-centred urban engagements and interactions in public spaces, afforded through spatial, socially responsive and co-design practices.

Willcocks’ outputs reflect research activities and their dissemination in the UK and internationally. He has delivered and co-delivered best practice, award-winning and published projects to investigate and develop opportunities regarding sociable safe places; creative wellbeing and urban play; community-led design and spatial engagement, and cycling, walking and sharing spaces. Recent projects include: Market Road Gallery bookable and street art wall that responds to public opinion (with Attic Self Storage, London Borough of Islington and Better Leisure); Confident Vibrant Oslo street furniture design and evaluation (with Institute of Transport Economics, Centre for Transport Research, Oslo); Social Safer Victoria, co-created redesigns for giving and for engaging with homelessness and begging (with Victoria Business Improvement District); Makeright - making bags to make good, inmate created anti-theft bags (with HMP Thameside, Abel & Cole and other partners); Graffolution EU FP7 consortium research project on graffiti and street art; Urban Lexicons street workshops and cultural probes (with Gunpowder Park and Landscape and Arts Network Services); and Rantzausgade safer street experience redesigns (with COST TU1203 and Nørrebro Renewal, Copenhagen).

Willcocks is a Design Council Cabe Built Environment Expert (BEE). His work is also incorporated within the Government of South Australia Atlas of Urban Excellence, as well as Design Council’s DesigningOut Crime: A Designers’ Guide. Two of his co-created designs are located in the permanent collection at MoMA, New York.

Papers Willcocks has published and presented across his research topics additionally support his teaching at Central Saint Martins (UAL), and engagements as Visiting Lecturer including at the Royal College of Art, ELISAVA Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, and Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Italy. 

Research interests

Social, Spatial and Co-Design Practices; Socially Responsive Design; Design Against Crime; Public Space; Public Sphere Conflicts; Urban Interactions, Engagements and Collaborations; Informal Appropriations; Socialised/Unsocialised Spaces; Design Affordance; Sociable Safe Places; Urban Creativity; Visual Voices; Social Wellbeing and Urban Play; Cycling, Walking and Sharing Spaces; Design for Agonism; Design for Publics

Research statement

My practice-led research activities within UAL are allied to the Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC), Socially Responsive Design and Innovation hub, Public Collaboration Lab and the UK Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability (DESIS) Lab, headed by Professor Lorraine Gamman and Professor Adam Thorpe, respectively.

I completed my funded research (2014-16) with DACRC (UAL) as UK partner on the ‘Graffolution’ EU FP7 project, and currently (2017-19) I am expanding the ‘Visual Voices’ umbrella of research. This embraces a number of active and forthcoming research initiatives, pilots and prototypes. Together these works interrogate new opportunities for design to help evidence and better inform actions and decisions to enable, manage, or promote uncommissioned practices such as informal urban play and urban creativity, as forms of agonism in shared places. This seeks more creative, more cost-effective and more community-sensitive responses to the diverse impacts and values associated to such practices (see Willcocks and Toylan, 2016; McAuliffe, 2014). To achieve this, the research under-way means to better hear from and more adequately represent diverse publics - through (i) practice-oriented debate (in-person and remote); (ii) research actions in street and urban contexts, and (iii) new data and resources to inform designed systems and policy decisions.

In parallel, I continue to develop and apply research into new areas with Professor Gamman, Professor Thorpe and team, to further explore how the tools and practices of design might serve, agitate or afford among communities and contexts not previously served (for example, through the Makeright and Public Collaboration Lab projects).

Projects, awards and grants

MyMural (GLA), 2017-18. Project lead.

Makeright: making bags to make good (AHRC; Abel & Cole; Camden Kala) 2016-18. Researcher and designer.

Social Safer Victoria 2017. Senior designer and researcher.

Market Road Gallery (Attic Self Storage, London Borough of Islington, CSM Publics Local Encounters Fund) 2016-17. Project lead.

Graffolution - EU FP7 consortium project 608152 (Synyo, Sine, Eticas, UAL) 2014-16. UK co-lead and senior researcher.

Confident Vibrant Oslo (TØI), 2014-16.

Selected research outputs

  • Makeright: making bags to make good

    Willcocks, Marcus and Gamman, Lorraine and Thorpe, Adam, Design Against Crime Research Centre, Makeright Design Academy (2017) Makeright: making bags to make good. [Show/Exhibition]

  • Market Road Gallery

    Willcocks, Marcus (2017) Market Road Gallery. UNSPECIFIED.

  • Less Crime, More Vibrancy, by Design

    Willcocks, Marcus and Ekblom, Paul (2017) Less Crime, More Vibrancy, by Design. In: Rebuilding Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Crime Science Series . Routledge/Taylor & Francis, Abingdon. ISBN 9781138919631

  • Graffolution D2.1 - Graffiti vandalism in public areas and transport report and categorisation model

    Willcocks, Marcus and Malpass, Matt and Toylan, Gamze (2014) Graffolution D2.1 - Graffiti vandalism in public areas and transport report and categorisation model. Technical Report. SYNYO Gmbh, Online.

  • Building Social? More like Designing to Afford Contestation

    Willcocks, Marcus (2016) Building Social? More like Designing to Afford Contestation. City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action. ISSN 1360-4813

  • London Urban Creativity

    Willcocks, Marcus (2014) London Urban Creativity. In: Urban Creativity Experience. Lemo Editorial, Barcelona.

  • Graffiti Impact

    Willcocks, Marcus and Sabina, Andron (2013) Graffiti Impact. In: Graffiti Impact, 30 October 2013, London.

  • Olympic Park Interpretation Plan

    Willcocks, Marcus and Houghton, H. and Swindell, P. and Thefft, P. and Vitiello, Rosanna (2012) Olympic Park Interpretation Plan. UNSPECIFIED.

  • Reducing bag theft in bars

    Ekblom, Paul and Bowers, Kate J. and Gamman, Lorraine and Sidebottom, Aiden and Thomas, Chris and Thorpe, Adam and Willcocks, Marcus (2012) Reducing bag theft in bars. In: Design Against Crime: Crime Proofing Everyday Objects. Crime Prevention Studies, 27. Lynne Rienner, Boulder, Col. ISBN 9781588268136

  • Unravelling the urban lexicons of our everyday environments

    Willcocks, Marcus and Vitiello, Rosanna (2011) Unravelling the urban lexicons of our everyday environments. Lulu Publishing, Raleigh, NC, USA.