skip to main content

Essential coronavirus info
Your safety is our first priority.

Public and social innovation

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

Our staff and students have ongoing relationships with key partners, including London Borough of Camden, UK Policy Lab and EU Policy Lab.

Through practically-oriented projects, researchers are finding new ways of framing issues, public policy responses and organisational action, as well as developing a critical understanding of the conditions in which these outcomes result.

Learn about the cross-disciplinary Centre for Sustainable Fashion and read highlights and insights from projects across UAL.

Student at a grad show
Image courtesy of UAL


  • Furniture design as part of workshop to alleviate overcrowded housing
    Overcrowded Housing Project. Photo: Liliya Galabova, Barbara Guoth, Elora Pierre, Zoe Kahane, Giorgia Rossi, Yin Wang
    Generating new ideas and solutions with local communities  

    The Public Collaboration Lab brings local residents, community groups and local government officers together with UAL students to develop new insights and product and service concepts.

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

    Improving future government with expertise in design

    UAL supported the EU Policy Lab, part of the EU’s Joint Research Centre, in using design expertise to explore the future of government, leading to projects in 6 countries.

  • A row of satellites
    ALMA from drone © Liam Young
    | Photograph: Liam Young
    Exploring the ethics of design research

    Design Against Crime Research Centre and the Design Museum brought together speakers to discuss Professor Lorraine Gamman's 'Tricky Design' - a collection exploring the ethical implications of design research.

  • Close up fashion shot
    Dress For Our Time in Venice
    Engaging the public in social innovation

    Professor Helen Storey's project Dress for Our Time uses the power of fashion to communicate climate change and the mass displacement of people.


Simply put, designers - along with those using design approaches, methods and tools - aim to intervene into people’s lives, organisations, communities, and society as a whole, by creating new products, services, systems, policies, and solutions that resolve or address problems (while also generating new ones). Therefore, all designing is already “social” in the sense that it is informed by (mis)understandings of the concerns of the people targeted by designers, and of organisations and society.

Professor Lucy Kimbell, Director, Social Design Institute
In a world where so much is possible, but for so few, designers everywhere have a responsibility to better understand the privilege of their power to reimagine: We need to open up space for others to build the futures they need and want; face injustice with courage and deeper care; set about to dismantle the dominant narratives of the past; and give away control.

Ella Britton, Course Lead, MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, LCC


Read all publications

The designer as trickster

Watch Professor Gramman discuss social design and ethics

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.