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Policy contexts and implications

Policy contexts and implications is one of the Social Design Institute's 3 focus areas.

Insights and ideas produced through design often have policy implications. Governments and public bodies are increasingly interested in experimentation and new forms of engagement with citizens and stakeholders.

We are exploring this through collaborative research drawing on traditions in design and the social sciences.

We aim to give designers, policy makers and organisations a better understanding of the relations between policy and design.

People sat around a blackboard
Make @ Story Garden (photo: Adam Razvi)


Using arts in policy development

From September 2020 to March 2021, the Social Design Institute supported policy maker and artist Stephen Bennett to carry out a practice-based research project exploring the potential for the arts to be involved in policy development, funded by the Clore Leadership Foundation and AHRC.

Stephen's findings and the resources he produced during the course of his research can be viewed on his website, alongside a series of blog posts including 'What is policy and why does it matter (to artists)?

Stephen Bennett next to his installation
Installation by Stephen Bennett shortlisted for the MullenLowe NOVA

Using social design methods to enhance workforce development policies in Northern Ireland

A cross-UAL team, led by the SDI, worked with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) to support the design of three new sector-wide initiatives proposed by the NI Department of Health to enhance the career development of social care workers. The team headed up by SDI Research Fellow Jocelyn Bailey, included Phillippa Rose (Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication), SDI Associate Hannah Zeilig (Senior Research Fellow at London College of Fashion and students Laura Duarte (MA Service Design) and Bobbie Galvin (BA Graphic Communication Design). Together they coached the NISCC team in applying a social design approach to create content for the three policy proposals, starting from a workforce-centred point of view; and to visualise the proposals to clearly communicate NISCC’s thinking and intent.

Alongside the policy development project, UAL students studying graphic communication design at CSM, led by platform leader David Preston, researched and generated innovative approaches to communicate the value of social care as a career option to young people aged 18-25. This work has gone on to inform NISCC’s communications strategy.

Visualistion of social care career development pathway
A visualisation of the social care career development pathway in Northen Irelnd. Created for SDI by Bobbie Galvin.

Regulation of antibiotic use in India

With funding from ESRC and the Newton Fund, the Social Design Institute is investigating how anti-microbial resistance (AMR) in India can be tackled through ‘smart’ regulation, in collaboration with UK and international researchers from various disciplines, including pharmacology, law, public health, animal health and health policy.

Girl in a science exhibition
Cosmetic Science exhibition, Fashion Business School Summit, Kingly Court

Exploring the future of government

UAL supported the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre team developing the EU Policy Lab to explore the use of design thinking in policy development, in a project about the role of citizens and business and the future of government 2030.

Black and white storyboard imaging the future of the government in 2030.

PhD studentships

The Social Design Institute hosts 4 PhD students (Hannah Entwisle Chapuisat, Daniella Jenkins, Charlie Mealings and Yemima Safra) jointly funded and supervised by UAL and the Department of Political Economy, Kings College London linking research in design, public policy and political science.

Daniella Jenkins
Daniella Jenkins, one of the PhD students hosted by the Social Design Institute


Many designers want to change the world. That might enable changing what public policy attends to and how public policy is made.

Professor Lucy Kimbell, Director, Social Design Institute
Designers and design expertise are increasingly visible in government and in the development of public policy. Studying and contextualising the expanding role of design is necessary to help us better understand contemporary governance and democratic practices.

Professor Ramia Mazé, London College of Communication

How should design intervene in the public sphere?

Social Design Institute Director Lucy Kimbell’s introduction on the ways in which design can intervene in policy and the public sphere at the Tricky Design Symposium 2019.

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.

  • 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.

  • People at a flower market
    Columbia Road Flower Market by Jo Mansfield
    Place and community

    Researchers at UAL use design to engage, inspire and support communities and places.

  • 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.