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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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Researcher Research
Lucy  Kimbell


Dr Lucy Kimbell is Director, Social Design Institute, and Professor of Contemporary Design Practices at University of the Arts London. She is also Associate Fellow at Said Business School, University of Oxford where she was on the faculty for five years. 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 spent much of her career on design’s fringes, intersecting with other disciplines and contexts including social innovation and policy. She has been involved in research, teaching and assessment within leading international universities for over a decade, with a particular focus on the role of design in society, services and innovation. Her leadership and facilitation skills are complemented by research in design thinking and service design and art 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 in 2005-10,. Lucy co-founded one of the UK’s first digital arts groups, worked as a journalist and went on to work in digital innovation consultancy before joining academia.

As an educator, she led the development the joint MBA between Central Saint Martins and Birkbeck College, University of London .She’s taught an MBA elective 'Designing Better Futures' at Said Business School, University of Oxford, since 2005. Lucy has also designed and delivered training in people-centred design for the UK Civil Service. 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. Her approach involves combining literature in design studies with strands of social research including organisation studies and science and technology studies.

She is currently co-investigator on two UKRI funded projects which are cross-disciplinary and co-produced with non-academic partners. One looks at the barriers to and implications of using AI in professional services firms, funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Another develops ‘smart’ regulation to reduce anti-microbial resistance in India, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Newton Bhabha Fund. Previously led the research in Creative Lenses, a four-year European collaboration project (2015-19), about business models in arts organisations, funded through Creative Europe. Previously Lucy was co-investigator on two projects exploring social design commissioned by the AHRC with Professor Guy Julier. Mapping Social Design (2013-4) explored the emergence of ‘social’ design and made recommendations for the future UK research infrastructure/process. ProtoPublics (2014-15) prototyped new ways of doing design-oriented research.

As well as presenting at conferences, she has co-convened niche events looking at the intersection of design and other areas. 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.

Lucy has an earlier background as an artist including making Air Pollution Toile, shown at Modern Art Oxford (2018), and Pindices, 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).

Grants and awards

(Figures indicate amount awarded to UAL)

  • Economic and Social Research Council, Smart Regulation of Antibiotic Use in India
  • Economic and Social Research Council, Smart Regulation of Antibiotic Use in India
  • Economic and Social Research Council, Next Generation Professional Services Firms
  • Creative Europe, Creative Lenses, £142,756.33, (2015-2019)
  • Creative Europe, Creative Lenses, £142,756.33, (2015-2019)
  • European Commission H2020, Organicity: Save Our Air: Using Local Data Stories to Mobilise Action Around Air Pollution, £4,716.53, (2017-2018)
  • European Commission H2020, EU Policy Lab JRC Tender
  • Arts Council England, Collaborative arts award
  • AHRC-EPSRC, Designing for the 21st Century Award
  • AHRC, Mapping Social Design Research and Practice
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council, Developing Participation in Social Design: Prototyping projects, Programmes and Policies
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council, Design Research Fellow, Policy Lab, Cabinet Office
  • Wellcome Trust, Sci-art award.
  • Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford., AHRB. Practice-based Research Fellowship

Research Outputs

Art/Design item


Conference, Symposium or Workshop item



Current research students

  • Hannah Franklyn Entwisle Chapuisat, Displacement and Climate Change: Is there space at the table for artists to influence international policy development? (Lead supervisor)
  • Daniella Jenkins, Using visualisation and design methods to explore stakeholders’ perceptions of pension options. (Lead supervisor)
  • Charlie Mealings, Public Policy and Design Thinking (Joint supervisor)
  • Yemima Safra, Interactive Realities: Harnessing collaborative interactive-documentary for upstream policydevelopment (Lead supervisor)


3D design and product design
Business & management, and science