PhD Research


Current PhD research taking place in the Design department:


Danah Abdulla

Thesis title: Towards a locally-centric design education curricula in Amman, Jordan (provisional)

Supervised by Kay Stables and Terry Rosenberg

My PhD research examines what philosophies, theories, practices, models of curriculum, and pedagogy are appropriate references for a locally-centric design education curricula in Jordan. Locally-centric for this research is not defined as an emphasis on difference such as East/West or modern/non-modern, but rather, an understanding of and relevance to milieu, place and context. The study investigates design education in higher education in Jordan, which includes all design disciplines, and aims to provide an overview of the contemporary design culture in Jordan, largely undocumented internationally, within the Arab region, and locally. The research paints a picture of how various power structures affect learning and teaching methods utilised in education to shape citizens, one largely dependent on rote learning and borrowed curricula. It considers the possibilities of transforming design education curricula through participation and engagement with the people that have most at stake in design education: designers, design educators and design students. Grounded in a participative worldview, the research utilises three methods in the data collection: interviews with designers and design educators, focus groups with design students, and design charrettes with all three participants. 

Katarina Dimitrijevic

Thesis title: Transgressing Value for Plastic Waste

Supervised by Mathilda Tham and Juliet Sprake

My PhD is a self-reflective practice-led research, creating a research to mobilise fragmented insights around the general public perception and individual relations towards plastic disposal and re-use in UK. Research praxis, KraalD, aims to engage self, things and others in promoting plastic minimization of London's future landfill. As my practice is embedded in a social narrative; public exposition and engagement is essential, both for generating insights from a multitude of stakeholders and for further successful dissemination of this research. The manifesto I operate from, which was formulated during my MRes in Design at Goldsmiths University, Designedisposal by KraalD (Dimitrijevic, 2001-2013) strives to synergize design activism, designedisposal aesthetics, craft making, public exposition and engagement; to facilitate rather than dictate, using the Designtransposal workshop, exhibition and installation as the research methods. This thesis will represent a depository of the speculative, conceptual, ontological and materiality beliefs and explorations of my craft activism with plastic disposal, through do-it-yourself (DIY) and do-it-with-others (DIWO) technologies. Self-incepted in 2011, KraalD, the design praxis supporting material change, strives in a sporadic mode to socially probe, interact and temporarily negotiate micro spaces of resistance, in order to gain insights for future strategies, scenarios and speculative vision.

AHRC Design Star funded.

Gionata Gatto (Loughborough University)

Thesis Title: Plant-Bots, the co-crafting of scenarios and the shaped publics: A research on plant-driven technologies probing public engagement with 'Plant Intelligence’

Supervised by Alex Wilkie and John McCardle (Loughborough University)

AHRC funded.

Nicola Gray

Thesis title: Design Graduates in Transition: first role as a graduate in a design agency

Supervised by Juliet Sprake and Kay Stables

The research explores the process of graduate transition from higher education into the design industry in the United Kingdom. Her work focuses on identifying the processes of learning that occur during the first roles for graduates and in conjunction to determine how work-based learning is supported and developed by design agencies. During the course of her PhD, Nicola will be exploring the two interrelated aspects of her research and aims to ascertain why it can be a difficult time for graduates during the transition period into design agencies and how design agencies can facilitate, support and develop workplace learning and early career development for recent design graduates.

Liam Healy

Thesis title: Empirical speculation and urban disasters: Prototyping futures in the Jungle

Supervised by Alex Wilkie, Michael Guggenheim (Department of Sociology) and Laura Potter.

AHRC Design Star funded.

This practice-led research concerns the role of design (and by implication designers) in the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. By designing and deploying research devices, this project develops a speculative method to explore how design might be mobilised and enacted to “design unlikely futures” in crisis, given the political, material, technological and social constraints placed on those who experience it first hand. In doing so it attempts to address a series of speculative questions: what is something (designers, objects, refugees, collaborators, cameras, bicycles, devices, and so on) capable of, both in terms of knowledge production and in acting in the worlds being engaged with and studied. This is done by engaging empirically in a number of sites, including the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais, France, the island of Lesvos in Greece and the more immediate and mundane sites of design practice such as, the workshop, studio and exhibition space.

Tom Keene

Thesis title: The housing database made visible: Regenerative politics, participation and design

Supervised by Alex Wilkie and Graham Harwood (Department of Cultural Studies).

AHRC Design Star funded.

Kwanghoon Lee

Thesis title: Affective Information Visualization

Supervised by Terry Rosenberg and Martin Conreen

My research aims to reveal the affective influence of information visualization.  Since I intend to investigate this topic in socio-cultural context, I focus on the cases of visualization of Fukushima disaster in Japan, regarding the event as a hyperobject.
In the analytical part of the research, I explore the patterns of visualizations of the event: the ontological perspectives and the types of the visual syntax of the cases which have been produced in the world and how they have been combined in the visualizations.
In the productive part, I look into how the information visualizations (in particular, the combinations of their main themes and types) of the event have provoked people’s affective dimension in time and space. I also use my own artworks in this phase: the alternative versions to be compared to their original cases.
The essential process of this research is to investigate the dynamics of the tripartite: affective subject, representation (visualization), and the event (Fukushima disaster).

Tim Miller

Thesis title: Re-scripting organisations: Inventing the designer-in-residence

Supervised by Alex Wilkie and Michael Guggenheim (Department of Sociology).

AHRC Design Star funded.

Liliana Ovalle

Thesis title: Material Dialogues: Ludic engagement with indigenous communities through craft practices

Supervised by Bill Gaver and Ann Light (University of Sussex)

Sarah Pennington

Thesis title: Curating issues of concern: mediating critically engaged design

Supervised by Alex Wilkie and Janis Jeffries.

AHRC Design Star funded.

Matthew Plummer-Fernandez

Thesis title: Making Algorithms Public: Rendering Visible The Operations and Politics Of Algorithmic Systems Through Critical Design

Supervised by Alex Wilkie and Bill Gaver.

AHRC Design Star funded.

Maria Portugal

Thesis title: The designer as an 'insider'. An auto-ethnographic study on how the designer navigates through a multidisciplinary cancer research project

Supervised by Bill Gaver and Rebecca Coleman (Department of Sociology)

Maria began her doctoral studies in the Design Department at Goldsmiths, exploring how designers approach collaborative and multidisciplinary projects. Her practice-based research is an analysis of the position of the designer as a participant within a cancer research project, mediating the tensions between different fields of research, languages, and voices within the medical and sociological spheres. This auto-ethnographic research is based on two years of experience as the lead designer for the project Knowing disease: Patients first (2008-2016) - carried out at the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology at the University of Porto (Ipatimup) and funded by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Tobias Revell

Thesis title: Mythologies of Connected Objects: Designing animate things

Supervised by Matt Ward and Juliet Sprake

The project studies how design responds to and reinforces narratives of what connected, smart, networked devices actually are. Objects like smart watches and phones, robot vacuum cleaners, connected toys and autonomous vehicles exist in a networked across multiple times and spaces and have the ability to display apparent agency and autonomy. Despite this wholly new type of object, they’re still treated as and designed as their anachronistic selves, black boxing the true nature of their functionality and often purpose. This project uses critical techniques to taxonomies and challenge the politics of a design vocabulary that fails to respond adequately to the tenicological landscape.

Scott Robinson

Thesis title: Locating Stories: Designing participatory, locative and embodied experiences with people, objects and sounds.

Supervised by Juliet Sprake and Roberto Feo

Scott Robinson

My practice-based PhD explores how simple and repeatable interactions with sounds, objects, stories and technology can be used in the design of playful enactive spaces to enhance locative audio storytelling and build emotional and embodied connections with others in a variety of public platforms. Locative audio storytelling usually refers to experiences such as museum tours or urban soundwalks where users can listen to content site-specifically where location refers to the geographical position of the user mediated through tools and technology. What if instead, audio could be located in more embodied ways, with or within specific actions or gestures? How might physical actions of stepping towards or turning around be responded to with audio? How could physical, spatial and rhythmical bodily interactions change the design, content and experience of locative audio storytelling? I investigate the complex relationship between the agency of embodied prototyping and its mediating effect on the experiences found in rendered output (installations and workshops) particularly when enactive spaces are created through a co-collaboration between participants. I explore the role of empathy and power as the interplay of sounds, people, spaces and objects is observed. Finally, and considering the unique characteristics of locative storytelling, I raise the question of responsibility, our emotional identification and our connectedness as a society.

AHRC Design Star funded.

Claude Saint-Arroman

Thesis title: Space for boundary – space as place: An investigation into the design of architectural boundaries in residential mass housing, in the context of urban sustainability

Supervised by Juliet Sprake and Alex Wilkie.

This theory-based research challenges a perceived paradox between the propositions of self sufficiency and of self containment in mass housing in London. It focuses on institutional and physical boundaries between private and public space that posit each as separate from the other in statutory and legal frameworks specific to the UK, and in architectural formulas for high density housing. It challenges conceptions about public/private relationships that support hermeticity:  protection of privacy and of propriety, from neighbours, from damage and from climate change. In the construction industries, sustainability is also increasingly assigned to the building's 'performance' rather than to its users' concomitant participation in that performance during the building's lifetime. Through material evidence found in the urban fabric, the research explores privacy/publicity dynamics in architecture and asks whether a reassertion of residential boundaries could provide future paradigms for the collective project of urban sustainability.

Rose Sinclair

Thesis title: Dorcas Stories (Practice-led design research)

Supervised by Dr Mathilda Tham and John Backwell

Rose Sinclair is Convenor of the BA Design, Creativity and Learning and Lecturer in the Department of Design.

Across 2016, and 2017 Rose undertook a range of highly successful engagement activities as part of her practice led research into the development of the Dorcas Clubs and Societies set up by Caribbean women on their arrival in the UK in the 1950s and 60s, the aim of which was exploring black women’s crafting and making practices through female textile networks, alongside the use of such networks as a catalyst for social and economic change. Rose’s work uses life stories and oral histories and the archive to unpick how the textiles created by these networks embody both material culture and diasporic tales. It asks how understanding this history provides new ways of thinking about networks and their place in textile design and innovation, as well as the rise of ‘safe making spaces’.

Rose’s practice based research is made up of various public engagement events, which include installations in retail spaces such as Lewisham Shopping Centre,  and museum spaces such as the Bruce Castle Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the National Archives at Kew.


Mike Thompson

Thesis title: The act of making: Research theatre and public forms of knowing

Supervised by Tobie Kerridge and Bill Gaver

This research responds to prior practice based experiences within the biohack community, which, in spite of opening up the ‘messy practice’ of scientific research to citizens, often presents ‘ready made science’ activities as opposed to ‘science in the making’. I contend that “live” acts of hands-on creative research, hereby referred to as “research theatre”, energize the public as cultural participants, employing the acts of science and design ‘in the making’ as means of interrogation to foster inclusive forms of knowledge.

Using participatory and performative design methods, I interrogate the feasibility of designing effective public participatory event’s for knowledge creation, reflection and (credible) data generation, as well as the forms, compositions, and structures necessary to facilitate such exchanges.

AHRC Design Star funded.

Alison Thomson

Thesis title: Re-doing patient experience through design-led research: considering the multiplicity and ontological politics of MS

Supervised by Alex Wilkie and Bill Gaver.

Anna Williams

Thesis title: Designing the future? How can speculation play a role in improving foresight for science and technology policy making? 

Supervised by Alex Wilkie and Michael Guggenheim (Department of Sociology)

AHRC Design Star funded.

This project investigates how speculative methods arising from design and sociology can be developed and applied to inform the domain of foresight for science and technology policy in order to understand and improve future-making practices. As the popularity of techniques which seek to determine the future are increasingly being employed by governments and policy related organisations, this project addresses the growing need to critically analyse and improve foresight through design discourse and practice.
The research examines the conditions under which foresight takes place and the particular constraints that are present, through a combination of participant observation, interviews and practitioner workshops. The research will seek to draw and expand upon recent interest in  design and the social sciences into speculative methodology. The evaluation of ethnography and workshop outcomes will act as a tool to establish how speculative methods could practically improve foresight.
Find Anna Williams on Twitter and Linkedin.

Paulina Yurman

Thesis title: Designing for Ambivalence: Mothers, Transitional Objects and Smartphones

Supervised by Bill Gaver and Janis Jefferies

For many women, the first few years of motherhood demand the complex negotiation of maternal and work related or non-maternal identities. The accommodation of multiple roles evolves in parallel with the gradual development of the child’s own identity as a separate being. Toys and objects can play a significant role during this time, with smartphones also forming part of their material world. In their versatility, functioning for both work and play, smartphones add complexity to the blurring of boundaries. The device is often used for work while doing childcare, and at other times to keep children quiet or entertained. Transforming from tool into toy, it becomes an object of competition for parental attention, but equally turns the mother into a rival since its use is often shared. As a result, the smartphone offers multiple and competing discourses, creating tensions that my practice based research investigates. 

Through experimental designs, I explore the role of smartphones during childcare to articulate ambivalent attitudes towards the device. With these proposals, I am giving materiality to narratives around the complex behaviours brought by the phone, exposing maternal and child subjectivities, while exploring the possibilities for design to reshape our relationship with technologies in family life.



Visiting PhD Researchers:

Enza Migliore- Design and Innovation, DIcDEA, Second University of Naples

Enza’s research – entitled ‘Porositivity: From Porous Material to Porosity Process Through Design-Driven Materials Innovation’ – investigates the relationship between design and materials science. Her research focuses on the properties and capacities of materials in terms of porosity and how design can inform both the development of future applications as well as scientific knowledge associated with material science. Here, Enza’s research aims to link materials science with social and cultural research, including approaches to the understanding of everyday life. Her approach is practice-based, including mixed methods (including, but not limited to user-centered design, experiments with material properties and dissemination). Enza is collaborating with Hypucem, a spin-off of the Italian National Research Council, which is investigating foams and composite materials through chemistry and engineering. Enza came to the Design Department at Goldsmiths having attended the PhD by Design conference in 2014. Here, she became aware of the richness of dialogue centering on practice research in design as well as the research expertise of the department. Notably, Martin Conreen, a Senior Lecturer in Design, has provided Enza with guidance as well as the opportunity to engage with the Institute of Making and its Materials Library.

Justin Westgate- Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER), University of Wollongong

Justin is a designer, cultural researcher and educator with expertise in social issues, sustainability, culture and the arts. His research interests bridge design and socio-cultural issues, and have included social and sustainable design, global brand politics, cultural politics of place, and more recently how imaginative and creative practices help us consider post-natural futures. Justin's design practice focuses on social design – that is applying design to strategically achieve socially beneficial outcomes.  He has worked in New Zealand, the UK, Ireland and Australia for social design studios, large NGOs and more recently through his own consultancy. Clients have included local government and government agencies, NGOs such as Greenpeace, OXFAM, Amnesty, health promotion agencies, education sector, union and political sector, and arts and culture organisations. He has also been involved with social change and sustainability networks, including: Intersect NZ, 350 Aotearoa, Critical Mass, GE-Free NZ. More recently Justin has served as projects advisor to CoDesign Studio, a community design studio in Melbourne. Over the last ten years he has held a number of lecturing positions as both a resident and non-resident lecturer in design – AUT University (NZ), Whitecliffe College of Arts (NZ), Swinburne University (Aus) – responsible for course development, supervision of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and examination assessment.