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Value and valuation through design

Value and valuation is one of the Social Design Institute's key focus areas.

The Social Design Institute is creating new insights into how value is perceived and assessed by designers and users.

Value judgements are a fundamental part of our daily lives and have major implications for how design proposals and interventions are assessed. We are exploring this through collaborative research drawing on traditions in the humanities and social sciences.

We aim to give designers, policy makers and organisations new ways to think about value and new tools to understand and communicate value within their professional practice.

Exterior of Make space with people on ladders
Make @ Story Garden (photo: Adam Razvi)


Design Economy 2021

SDI, along with BOP Consulting, have been working with the UK Design Council to develop a research methodology for Design Economy 2021. A series of working papers outlining a proposed approach to research were produced as part of the first phase of the project. Phase two involved developing an Impact Framework for capturing, holistically, the social, environmental, democratic and financial-economic value created by the design economy as a whole. This has been tested and developed both with design practitioners (from undergraduate students to senior industry leaders) and with experts in social and environmental impact.

The latest programme of research will explore not only the economic, but the social and environmental value of design. And it will for the first time capture detailed information about design practice in the public sector, and public attitudes to design.

Cork Structure with Plants installation
Cork Structure with Plants, image courtesy of UAL

Accounting for the value of culture and heritage in policy decisions

Senior Research Fellow Dr Patrycja Kaszynska has been leading a cross-disciplinary research project commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). The project responds to the ambition set by the DCMS Culture and Heritage Capital (CHC) Programme to develop a comprehensive and integrated set of evidence and guidance for the purpose of valuing culture and heritage assets in the context of decision making. Read more about the project here.

The study will produce a report published on DCMS’s Culture and Heritage Capital portal outlining the work and methodology and presenting an operational agenda to support the implementation of the CHC framework.

Visitors reading comic books during the Manga Show at British Museum.
Visitors reading comic books during the Manga Show at British Museum. Credit: Alastair Fyfe

Examining the role of research in the UK City of Culture programme

Senior Research Fellow Dr Patrycja Kaszynska has co-authored the report on the UK City of Culture programme, entitled ‘The UK Cities of Culture Project: Towards a research-informed approach’. Commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and led by the University of Warwick's UK Cities of Culture Project, the review sets out why and how the UK City of Culture programme should be informed by arts and humanities research. A series of related papers will be published in the Autumn with Graeme Evans, Professor Emeritus of Creative and Cultural Economy at London College of Fashion, joining Dr Kaszynska on the project team.

A cityscape saturated in colour
Gratte Ciel: The Awakening. Jamie Gray. Performed in Broadgate, Coventry, UK.

(E)valuation of MAKE @ Story Garden

SDI Senior Research Fellow Patrycja Kaszynska led the evaluation of UAL's MAKE @ Story Garden community creative space in Somers Town, central London. The final report, co-authored with Professor Adam Thorpe (CSM) and Samuel Mitchell (CSM), ​demonstrates how MAKE created lasting opportunities for residents to participate in the arts and making activities, building relationship networks which in turn enabled the community to address local goals and challenges.

Read more about this story, or view the full report and our working papers on the theme of value and evaluation.

People talking
Make @ Story Garden (photo: Adam Razvi)

Supporting community businesses

Funded by the charitable trust Power to Change, SDI associates Dr Bethany Rex and Dr Katrina Foxton have researched what being 'locally rooted' means to community businesses and how being locally rooted works in practice.

Drawing on workshops and interviews conducted with community business staff working in Grimsby, Bristol and Leicester, the research examines the multiple meanings and practices attached to being ‘locally rooted’ by community businesses delivering services from transferred assets (community asset transfers known as CATs).

The aim is to support community businesses to develop sustainable approaches that work ethically and practically.

Read the full research report: The ‘Locally Rooted’ Community Business: Meanings, practices, challenges and the role of community assets

Student setting up an exhibition
Student setting up an exhibition, photographed by Kristy Noble


When people talk about the value of design, they often mean impact - that is, an amount of change attributed to design, as measured in terms of the accepted policy registers. This detracts from asking more interesting questions, such as how design produces change and how its impact should be valued.

Dr Patrycja Kaszynska , Senior Research Fellow
Value is related to identity and how we perceive ourselves in the world. Through practices of designing, considerations relating to myriad aspects of value are interwoven in the creation not only of products and services, but in making meaning and a sense of our interdependent selves.

Professor Dilys Williams , Director, Centre for Sustainable Fashion

More themes

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    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.

  • 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.