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Place and community

UAL has deep and evolving connections with the places and communities its Colleges are part of.

Design research offers a powerful way to forge new relationships and initiatives that bring together the creative expertise of staff and students with the resources, needs and perspectives of local residents, businesses, community groups and local government.

Through practice-based design research, we generate insights and co-create solutions in close collaboration with local partners.

Read highlights and insights from projects across UAL.

People at a flower market
Columbia Road Flower Market by Jo Mansfield


  • Man and baby coming out of Make space
    Make @ Story Garden photographed by Adam Razvi
    Community resilience in lockdown  

    During lockdown, MAKE@StoryGarden shifted to working with local residents in the Somers Town area of London, supporting them to connect, collaborate and become more resilient.

  • A group of people putting their hand in the centre
    Image courtesy of UAL
    Supporting young changemakers in regenerated areas

    The Codesign Your Place project at London College of Communication brought together young adults from UAL, Denmark and Poland living in regenerated areas to create social impact through innovation.

  • Student writing on board
    Alys Tomlinson,
    Tackling overcrowding and waste recycling  

    The Public Collaboration Lab has delivered 21 projects with local residents and communities - addressing issues such as overcrowded living, recycling and youth services.

  • A group picture of participants
    Dr Francesco Mazzarella and the participants in the Forest Coats programme, photographed by Adam Razvi
    Making for Change: Waltham Forest  

    This Centre for Sustainable Fashion project used fashion and making as catalysts for positive change in the borough. It looked at local issues including skills shortages and high unemployment rates.


The Public Collaboration Lab... frames the idea of design education as a social resource and the community context as a learning environment.

Professor Adam Thorpe, Leader of the Public Collaboration Lab and Creative Director of the Design Against Crime Research Centre
'Making for Change: Waltham Forest' contributed to raising people’s awareness of fashion sustainability and empowering them through building capabilities and making them start paving their own career pathways, as well as enhancing community engagement and partnership building.

Dr Francesco Mazzarella, Research Fellow in Fashion and Design for Social Change, Centre for Sustainable Fashion

Presentation by Adam Thorpe

Watch Professor Thorpe discuss social and political design

More themes

  • Exterior of Make space with people on ladders
    Make @ Story Garden (photo: Adam Razvi)
    Value and valuation through design

    Exploring how value is created and understood through design and use.

  • Woman reading London underground map
    Braille tube map by Ziyue Wang, photographed by David Poultney
    Systems and design

    Improving the ways in which designers can develop a better understanding of the contexts they design for and in.

  • People sat around a blackboard
    Make @ Story Garden (photo: Adam Razvi)
    Policy contexts and implications

    Developing a better understanding of policymaking, design and public policy.

  • Three images of model wearing various materials
    Image courtesy of UAL
    Circular design

    Circular design aims to support people and planet through emerging technology, systems design, new materials, social innovation and more.

  • A person holding a flower pot made out of seaweed
    Seaweed flower pots by Diana Tso
    Design for sustainability

    Find out about how our researchers are using design to build up knowledge and develop new approaches on how to address the challenges of sustainability.

  • Farmers having a discussion in a workshop
    A co-design session with dairy farmers, image courtesy of Alison Prendiville
    Health and wellbeing

    Working with external partners in the life and medical sciences to produce insights and new, actionable ideas, based on people’s lived experiences.

  • Student at a grad show
    Image courtesy of UAL
    Public and social innovation

    UAL researchers use approaches from design to intervene in public sector, government and social innovation contexts.

  • A group of people wearing anti-theft bags
    Caption Young people with anti-theft bags by Design Against Crime Research Centre, photographed by Tom Willcocks
    Social action and criminal justice

    UAL's ground-breaking work using design research to address issues in the criminal justice system and to facilitate social action.