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Professor Lucy Kimbell

Director of the Social Design Institute and Professor of Contemporary Design Practices
Central Saint Martins
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Lucy  Kimbell


Dr Lucy Kimbell is Professor of Contemporary Design Practices at University of the Arts London. Her research looks at the emergence and development of ‘design thinking’ and the use of design expertise to address organisational, social and public policy issues.

Lucy is an experienced researcher, postgraduate educator, and strategic design consultant. She has been involved in research, teaching and assessment within leading international universities for over 15 years. Her leadership and facilitation skills are complemented by research in design thinking and service design and experiments in visualising data.

Before joining UAL Lucy was AHRC Research Fellow in Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office (2014-15) and principal research fellow at the University of Brighton. Previously Lucy was Clark Fellow in Design Leadership at Said Business School, University of Oxford (2005-10). Lucy co-founded one of the UK’s first digital arts groups, Soda, worked as a BBC radio business journalist and went on to work in digital innovation consultancy before joining academia. She has been a volunteer teaching English in Sudan and Palestine.

As an educator, she led the development the joint MBA between Central Saint Martins and Birkbeck College, University of London launched in 2017. She taught an MBA elective 'Designing Better Futures' at Said Business School, University of Oxford between 2005-2019. Her book Service Innovation Handbook (2014, 3rd reprinting) brought together design, services management and ethnography, shifting the emergent field of service design away from users and methods to practices and organisational capabilities.

Lucy’s research explores emerging fields including design for service, design for social innovation and design for policy. She is currently principal investigator leading a new network bringing together design researchers, designers, policy researchers and public servants exploring the overlaps between Design and Public Policy, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Previously she was co-investigator on two UKRI funded projects. One looked at the barriers to and implications of using AI in professional services firms, funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Another investigated ‘smart’ regulation to reduce anti-microbial resistance in India, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Newton Bhabha Fund. Previously Lucy led the research in Creative Lenses, a four-year European collaboration project (2015-19), about business models in arts organisations, funded through Creative Europe. She was the director of UAL's Social Design Institute between 2019-2022, which brought together and amplified UAL's varied expertise in design for society through capacity building, joint research bids, new publications and public events. She currently leads UAL's collaboration with Kings College London through four funded PhD studentships at the intersection of design for policy.

As well as presenting at conferences, she has co-convened niche events looking at the intersection of design and other areas. The Practice Research in Design Symposium organised by UAL's Social Design Institute (2022) brought together perspectives on practice research. The Strategic Design and Public Policy symposium (2010) co-organised with the UN Institute for Disarmament Research brought together specialists in international relations and security with anthropologists and design researchers. The Social Design Talks series (2012-14) provided a critical space to reflect on the emergence of socially-oriented design practices. The Oxford Futures Forum (2014, 2017) brought together specialists in scenario planning and people in design and other disciplines. Keynotes include Researching Systems Design (2017), IIT’s Design Research Conference (2013), International Association of Societies of Design Research (2011), Service Design Network Conference (2010), Design Management Conference (2010), Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (2008) and TEDx Oxbridge (2012).

Lucy's artworks include Air Pollution Toile, a concept for wallpaper that changes in response to air pollution, shown at Modern Art Oxford (2018), and Pindices, taking the form of physical bar charts, a collaboration with sociologist Andrew Barry, shown about 10 times internationally after originally being commissioned by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel for Making Things Public, ZKM Karlsruhe (2005). Other experiments in materialising data including The Lix Index for Channel 4/Arts Council’s identinet (2002), Audit published by Bookworks (2002) and group exhibitions Soda at Lux Gallery (1998), Making Things Public at ZKM Karlsruhe (2005), Declining Democracy at Palazzo Strozzi (2011).