Design and Policy: Current debates and future directions for research in the UK

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    I have a one page overview offering a perspective on design policy within a new report produced by the Design|Policy Research Network led by University of the Arts London and University of Manchester, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), showcases the significant role of design in shaping public policy and proposes an agenda for the future direction of research in the UK.

    The UK is a leader in the use of design in government and policy and there is a growing range of practice and research connecting design and public policymaking – such as service design, interaction design, communication design, urban design, and strategic design and the emerging fields of policy design and ‘design for policy’.

    Over an 18-month period, the collaborative, cross-disciplinary research network organised workshops and engagement sessions to consolidate and better articulate the emerging relations between research and practice in design and public policy processes producing a novel, evidence-based and contextual understanding of the potential for design in relation to policy. Network leads Professor Lucy Kimbell (Central Saint Martins, UAL) and Professor Liz Richardson (Department of Politics, University of Manchester) worked closely with the cross-government Policy Design Community, which includes over 75 local and central government organisations and over 500 individual members, to engage officials in the network’s activities.

    The organisers engaged several hundred people including policy makers in central and local government, design consultants alongside academics and doctoral students working across design and policy studies, including setting up a new LinkedIn group with over 700 members.

    The report outlines directions for future research and makes recommendations for those involved in research, knowledge exchange and policy ecosystems including UKRI and the Civil Service, to advance knowledge at the intersection between design and policymaking. It also includes the voices of 10 early career and established researchers whose practice and research engages across the contexts of policy making, including UAL doctoral student Daniella Jenkins (Central Saint Martins), developing feminist pensions policy, and Dr Lara Salinas (London College of Communication), who works with local government to support collaboration to address net zero.

    Co-authored by Professor Kimbell and Professor Richardson with Catherine Durose, Professor of Public Policy and Co-Director of the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place at the University of Liverpool and Ramia Mazé, Professor of Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability at London College of Communication, this report sets out a clear vision to underpin the further development of design in government and public policy.

    full citation: Kimbell, L., Durose, C., Mazé, R. and Richardson, L. (2023) Design and Policy: Current Debates and Future Directions for Research in the UK: Report of the AHRC Design|Policy Research Network. London: University of the Arts London
    ISBN: 978-1-3999-7069-3
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUniversity of the Arts London
    Commissioning bodyArts & Humanities Research Council
    Number of pages61
    ISBN (Electronic)9781399970693
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


    • design policy
    • social innovation
    • design strategy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities


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