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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr Harriet Atkinson is a historian of design and culture with a particular interest in the uses of design for propaganda, nation-building, diplomacy and resistance, from the 1930s to the present day. From February 2019 to January 2023 Harriet is on research leave as AHRC Leadership Fellow and Principal Investigator on the project '"The Materialisation of Persuasion": Modernist Exhibitions in Britain for Propaganda and Resistance, 1933 to 1953'. This builds on her recent University of Brighton Rising Stars Award (2017-18), for a project entitled 'Information, Persuasion, Citizenship: Public Exhibitions 1914 to now'. 

Scholarly biography

Harriet is currently co-editing an essay collection entitled Exhibitions and Transnational Exchange: Art and Design, Borders and Boundaries from 1945 for Bloomsbury Academic (forthcoming, 2020) and preparing a monograph entitled The Materialisation of Persuasion. This research will also result in a documentary film made in collaboration with filmmakers Four Corners (for launch in 2022). While a Faculty Fellow based in the University of Brighton Design Archives from 2010 to 2013, Harriet wrote a number of essays, reviews and her first monograph The Festival of Britain: A Land and its People (I.B. Tauris, 2012). Harriet was awarded her doctorate from the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum's joint history of design programme in 2007. She studied for a BA (Hons) in English and Related Literature with History of Art at University of York and for a MA in Art Museum Studies at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. Harriet is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. 

Harriet has previously held research awards from the AHRC (Doctoral Award), British Academy (Small Grant) and Wingate Foundation (Wingate Scholarship). She is a member of the Management Board of University of Brighton's Centre for Design History and since 2015 has been Trustee and Research Grants Officer of the Design History Society

Harriet is on the Advisory Board for the Bloomsbury Design Library. She regularly undertakes peer reviews: for journals + publishers including Journal of Design HistoryThe Sculpture Journal, Literature & History, Contemporary British History and Bloomsbury Academic, Berg, Palgrave Macmillan, Manchester University Press; for academic conferences including DHS, International Conferences on Design History and Studies (ICDHS), Design Research Society (DRS), International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR); for academic grant applications + awards including Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Icelandic Research Fund. 

Harriet teaches across all years and pathways of the BA (Hons) History of Art & Design (History of Art & Design; Visual Culture; Fashion & Dress History; Philosophy Politics Art); as well as Critical & Cultural Studies to BA (Hons) Graphic Design and BA (Hons) Illustration. Previously she has also taught on the BA (Hons) Design and Craft and the BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles. In 2018-19 she was Admissions Tutor for the four History of Art & Design pathways. She has a PGCert in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education and is Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Before studying for a PhD Harriet worked in cultural policy and funding for various organisations including as Policy Adviser at Department for Culture Media & Sport, Grants Officer at Heritage Lottery Fund and Culture and Regeneration Manager at Association of London Government.

Supervisory Interests

Harriet is interested in supervising PhDs on the history of visual communication for propaganda or protest; government engagements with design, design politics and policy; design as the focus for diplomatic exchange or displays of 'soft power'; relationships between design history and design practice; and the design of exhibitions and displays, particularly beyond museums and galleries.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Royal College of Art

Master, Courtauld Institute of Art

Bachelor, University of York

External positions

Fellow, Higher Education Academy, Higher Education Academy, UK

Jul 2019 → …

External Examiner, University of Reading

Jun 2019Jun 2022

Elected Fellow, Royal Historical Society, Royal Historical Society

2019 → …

External Examiner, Birkbeck University of London

Jul 2016Sep 2019

Executive Trustee, Design History Society, Design History Society



  • NC Drawing Design Illustration
  • NX Arts in general
  • N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
  • NA Architecture

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Harriet Atkinson is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

theory-practice Social Sciences
research planning Social Sciences
history Social Sciences
event Social Sciences
anniversary Social Sciences
best practice Social Sciences
historian Social Sciences
dialogue Social Sciences

Projects 2019 2023

Research Output 2007 2020

Exhibitions and Transnational Exchange: Art and Design, Borders and Boundaries from 1945

Clarkson, V. (ed.), Atkinson, H. & Lichtman, S. (ed.), 2020, (Accepted/In press) Bloomsbury Academic.

Research output: Book/ReportBook - edited

Festival of Britain
Victorian Era

Artists, Refugees and the Festival of Britain

Atkinson, H., 1 Mar 2019, Insiders/Outsiders: Refugees from Nazi Europe and Their Contribution to British Visual Culture. Bohm-Duchen, M. (ed.). London: Lund Humphries

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter

Design and Culture journal on 'Design as an object of diplomacy post-1945'

Atkinson, H. (ed.) & Clarkson, V. (ed.), 31 Jul 2017, In : Design and Culture. 9, 2, p. 117-262 146 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

Open Access
Design Education
Cultural Diplomacy
Furniture Design

The Festival of Britain

Atkinson, H., 1 Oct 2017, Designs on Britain. Birrell, R. (ed.). London: Jewish Museum London, p. 93-102 10 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter

Open Access

Activities 2014 2019

RCA Professional Practice Seminar

Harriet Atkinson (Presenter)
20 Nov 2019

Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk

The Cost of Design

Harriet Atkinson (Chair)
5 Sep 20197 Sep 2019

Activity: EventsConference

Journal of design history (Journal)

Harriet Atkinson (Reviewer)
10 Jul 2019

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPublication Peer-review

Presentation on Rising Stars at Research & Enterprise Conference 2019

Harriet Atkinson (Presenter)
5 Jul 2019

Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk