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UAL Symposium on Practice Research in Social Design: line-up announced

Material samples hanging on a black metal frame. They are variously coloured with green tags labelling their properties
  • Written byCat Cooper
  • Published date 14 April 2022
Material samples hanging on a black metal frame. They are variously coloured with green tags labelling their properties
Samples from the Material and Product Collection at Central Saint Martins library © John Sturrock

UAL Social Design Institute invites the international social and sustainable design research community to a Symposium on Practice Research in Social Design: Definitions, Contexts, Futures, taking place online and in person at UAL’s Chelsea College of Arts on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 May 2022.

With growing urgency to bring creative design approaches to research to address climate justice and develop responses to social and public policy issues, it is timely to consider how ‘practice research’ in design helps generate both new ideas and new knowledge.

Welcoming wide-ranging scholarly dialogue in a format that reduces international travel, this event will include livestreamed panel discussions, video showcases of practice research by researchers and doctoral candidates at UAL, and complementary digital interactions.

New working paper on practice research in design

The symposium will also introduce a new working paper on practice research that offers a nuanced and up to date definition of what practice research means in design and the arts, authored by Institute Research Fellows Dr Patrycja Kaszynska and Dr Jocelyn Bailey and Institute Director, Professor Lucy Kimbell.

The paper and the programme form a dialogue with ongoing debates around practice research in our communities, including the March 2022 Practice Research Futures panel talk with UAL academics and PRAG UK as part of UAL Research Season; and What is the value in and of creative practice? panel event hosted by the Social Design Institute in December 2021.


Thursday 19 May 6-8pm

Introduction and welcoming remarks

Professor David Mba, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise, UAL

Opening Panel: Setting the Scene


Professor Harriet Hawkins, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University
Indy Johar, Dark Matter Labs
Professor Pratāp Rughani, London College of Communication, UAL.

Chair: Professor Lucy Kimbell, Social Design Institute, UAL

This session sets the scene by situating practice research in design in a broader context. It shares perspectives from academic fields and professional practice that use practice research to advance knowledge and develop responses to social and sustainability issues. What are the achievements and what has been learned from using this approach? What are the barriers and enablers to carrying out high quality practice research? What outcomes can practice researchers work towards?

Friday 20 May 9am-6pm

Introduction and welcoming remarks

Professor Lucy Kimbell, Director, UAL Social Design Institute

Panel 2: Definitions: Knowledge, boundaries, interventions, methodologies


Professor Emerita Anne Boddington, Kingston University 
Dr Kat Jungnickel, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK 
Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Social Design Institute, UAL, UK 
Dr Lesley-Ann Noel, North Carolina State University, United States 
Professor Cameron Tonkinwise, University of Technology Sydney, Australia  
Chair: Professor Alison Prendiville, London College of Communication, UAL

This session reviews competing definitions of practice research in design in relation to social and sustainability issues. In a context in which design research is increasingly oriented to ethics and care, what forms of practice research are emerging? What makes it distinctive? How can we make sense of the intersections with other forms of practice research such as in music or the social sciences?

Panel 3: Realities of doing design practice research


Dr Hena Ali, London College of Communication, UAL
Dr Fehér Bori, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (MOME), Hungary 
Dr Rosie Hornbuckle, Centre for Sustainable Design 
Professor Thomas Markussen, Southern Denmark University, Denmark 
Chair: Dr Rathna Ramanathan, Central Saint Martins, UAL

This session brings together people with different perspectives on the doing of practice research in design in relation to social and sustainability issues including doctoral students and early career researchers. What can be achieved through practice research in design, that can’t be achieved so effectively through other forms of knowledge production? How do practice researchers negotiate the different proximities that exist within research contexts? How do design researchers balance requirements to produce new knowledge as well as making contributions to practice or to a social situation or context?

Lunch and Browse

Panel 4: Contexts – infrastructures, drivers, narratives


Professor Yoko Akama, RMIT, Australia 
Professor Guy Julier, Department of Design, Aalto University, Finland 
Dr Eva Knutz, Southern Denmark University, Denmark 
Dr Lara Salinas, London College of Communication, UAL
Dr Tuukka Toivonen, Central Saint Martins, UAL
ChairProfessor Kate Goldsworthy, Centre for Circular Design, UAL

This session offers a critical assessment of the histories and genealogies of practice research in social design. Why has it emerged? How do differing institutional locations result in different agendas, forms of practice research and consequences? What logics and narratives is it tied up with? What inequalities and conditions does it reproduce?

Panel 5: Doctoral study in practice research in social design and design for sustainability


Kadian Gosler, PhD researcher, London College of Fashion UAL
Professor Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro-Vice Chancellor of UAL
Professor Laurene Vaughan, RMIT, Australia 
Dr Alex Wilkie, Department of Design, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Chair: Professor Sandy Black, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UAL

This session reflects on the possibilities and conditions associated with doctoral research in social design that uses or includes practice. What are the enablers and barriers to carrying out practice-based research in social design? What infrastructures and narratives are required for doctoral researchers working in this way to succeed? To what extent can we (re)imagine the publics for doctoral research through practice?

Panel 6: Futures for practice research in social design – opportunities, demands, challenges


Dr Ahmed Ansari, New York University
Dr Andrea Botero, Aalto University, Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia Professor Rachel Cooper, Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts Professor Claudia Mareis, Humboldt University of Berlin
Professor Joyce Yee, School of Design, Northumbria University, UK 
Chair: Professor Ramia Maze, London College of Communication, UAL

This session anticipates some of the future opportunities and challenges facing those carrying out, enabling or participating in practice research in social design. What are the significant factors inside and around universities that influence practice research and researchers in social design? What are the career paths and pipelines for those committed to practice research in relation to social issues and sustainability? How should university policies, infrastructure and training look from this perspective? What are relevant factors within national research and innovation systems, and how does the UK situation look compared to others in the EU and beyond? Looking ahead to 2030, what should change in and around universities to advance practice research in design?



Book your place to attend online or in-person (limited availability remaining) for all or part of the event.