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Design Against Crime

Design Against Crime (DAC) is a socially responsive, practice-based research initiative, which uses the processes and products of design to reduce crime and promote community safety whilst improving quality-of-life.

Designing out crime poses many challenges for the design profession. Designers need to be far more creative than criminals. The design dilemma is HOW to design objects, services, and environments that address both users and abusers, without making them look 'criminal'. DAC is a relatively new, interdisciplinary area of enquiry developed through innovative national and international research collaborations, with three overarching aims:

  • To reduce the incidences, impact and fear of crime through the design of products, services and environments that are 'fit for the purpose' in all other respects.
  • To equip design practitioners with the cognitive and practical tools and resources necessary to achieve the above.
  • To promote the social and commercial benefits of designing out crime to manufacturing and service industries, local and national government, and society at large.

In so-doing, and in context of the design methodology offered,  DAC takes its place alongside other established thematic movements such as eco-design and inclusive design.

Philosophy and framework

The philosophy behind DAC, as a practice-based design research agenda, is linked to the understanding that design should address security issues without compromising functionality, aesthetics or other forms of performance, i.e. the simple idea that "secure design doesn't have to look criminal or ugly".

The research projects attempt to think abuser, as well as user, and to "... help designers keep up with the adaptive criminal in a changing world" (Ekblom 1997). It's research methodology is based on the user focus of interaction design, but significantly addresses misuse as well as abuse.

In order to achieve this at the research stages, DAC coalesces the conceptual frameworks, methodologies and practices of situational crime prevention, social anthropology, cognitive psychology and user-centred design. It develops hybrid approaches to the quantitative and qualitative specification and evaluation of products, services and environments which inherently reduce the incidence, impact and fear of crime.

The centre is concerned with:

  • Fundamental research into the causal factors underlying crime and the means by which criminal acts can be understood.
  • Applied research in the traditions of both the social sciences and design practice to develop conceptual frameworks, intellectual and practical resources to enable crime to be designed out of products, services and environments.
  • Evolving and developing products, services and environments through application and development, via an iterative design practice.
  • Establishing exemplars of good practice to promote DAC as an area of academic enquiry within its source disciplines.
  • Informing the curriculum of taught undergraduate and postgraduate design students and providing an academic environment for study at doctoral level as well as for business via KTP (knowledge transfer partnerships)
  • Providing an academic focus and infrastructure within which to conduct practice based research.

Current projects include:

  • Makeright is a collection of anti-theft bags designed by inmates from HMP Thameside, London and produced by inmates from HMP Kilmarnock, near Glasgow. The Makeright Design Academy is a design education initiative led by the Design Against Crime Research Centre.
  • Bike Off! Bike Parking Research, externally funded by Transport for London.
  • Design Against Drug Related Retail Crime, externally funded by the Home office.
  • Design Against ATM Crime animation, part of the Design Against ATM Crime Exhibition at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design 16/06/2011 to 21/06/2011.

Recently completed research projects include:

  • Karrysafe - anti theft bags and accessories funded by the Design Council
  • Grippa - anti theft clips funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board
  • In the Bag - a design resource funded by The Design Council
  • Stop Thief - anti theft furniture funded by the Home Office

And many others; Anti-stalking Initiative, Anti-Burglary Project, Design for Use, Misuses and Abuse and Safer Cities.


Professor Lorraine Gamman | Professor Adam Thorpe | Marcus Willcocks | Gamze Toylan | Mark Simpkins

Current PhD Students

Alaistair Steele | Lucy Russell