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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

Nick is an award winning designer and published academic whose research and design consultancy impacts on global, industrial companies, international NGOs as well as governing bodies and civic communities in the UK and overseas. He has helped over 50 organisations develop their sustainability and social agendas through design research embodied within tangible products and platforms, spaces and places. He routinely delivers workshops and presentations of research internationally.

He is founder of the social and sustainable design research group Community21.org that delivers collaborative research projects, consultancy and design programmes with partners across the world.

Subjects and research themes include (not exhaustive):

Circular design, systems and economies in UK, Asia and ten countries in Africa. Prevention of waste, the elevation of the value and acceptability of waste materials and circular economies in fashion, design, the built environment and developing communities working with organisations including Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Vision Aid Overseas, The Marine Conservation Society, The Onassis Foundation, Emmaus, The NHS, The British Council, Veolia, PUMA, Interface, Tesco and The Design Council.  

Material innovation and sustainable design including propositional product, interior, exhibition and lighting research with Philips, ICI, Eastman, Absolut, New Balance, Habitat, Liberty's, Fender Guitars, The BBC, Vivienne Westwood, The Beatles and Apple Corps, The V&A and Natural History Museum.  

Design and nature, connecting people to nature and designing and making directly for species proliferation, habitat restoration and natural capital with UNESCO Biospshere, Bandung Institute of Technology Indonesia, Emmaus, Rewilding Sussex, The Hertiage Lottery, The Royal College of Art and Goldsmith's Citizen Nature Watch, The British Council. 

The role of technology and making in supporting youth and public engagement, inclusive, urban design and community planning with The Nominet Trust, U+I, The British Council, The Trust for Developing Communites, The Rural Community Council Network and this work has been presented by invitation to The House Lords, The Department of Communities and Local Government, The Cabinet Office and The Rural Commission.

The role of design, making and remaking in supporting health and well-being working working with East Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, The NHS and The UK Milk Bank.

This collaborative research constructively manifests through the creation of tangible tools, practical digital IT systems and three-diemsional products and engaging interiors, places and spaces, exhibitions, systems and services that are co-developed and utilised by industry, NGOs, charities, governing authorities and communities of diverse types. 

Nick has exhibited design research outputs at Tate Modern Exhange, The V&A Museum, The Natural History Museum, The Hayward Gallery in London and internationally in the US, across Europe, Asia and Australia. His work has featured in numerous features internationally including The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Sunday and Financial Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The Mail and New York Times online, ICON, Blueprint, Frame, World of Interiors, New Design, FX, IDFX, Channel 4 and BBC TV and Radio. 

Project funders, as principal or co-investigator, include (not exhaustive); The Arts and Humanties Research Council (2021, 2016, 2015, 2012), The British Council (2021, 2020) and Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2019), Co-op, Building Connections (2019), Interreg (2018, 2017, 2012), HEFCE (2017), U+I (2016), The Department of Energy and Climate Change (2012), The Nominet Trust (2013), Brighton and Hove City Council (2015, 17 & 18), The Dreamcatcher, South Africa and Utopia Foundation USA, (2016) Heritage Lottery (2015), Gulbenkian Foundation (2009), The National Lottery (2017, 2010 & 2005), UBM (2013), Tesco (2013), Forbo (2013), REED PLC (2006,07,08), IESE (2013), The Crafts Council (2004), The Design Council (2003). This work has led to innovation and policy change in a number of partner organisations and has helped provide significant income to support the work of charities and community partners in challenging economic times through co-produced and applied research.

He has delivered outputs to research census RAE 2000, REF 2008 and REF 2014 including inclusion in two impact cases studies in units D34 and D36 and REF 2020. He has fulfilled a role as Assistant Head of School for Research, Enterprise and Social Engagement, is a research mentor and sits on school research and enterprise committees as well as having peer reviewed for grant funders including AHRC (Peer review college member), EPSRC, Leverhulme Trust, international journals and conferences and book publishers such as Lawrence King, Thames and Hudson and Routledge. 

He teaches across a range of art, design and environment programmes, he co-wrote the University's MA in Sustainable Design and is a PHD supervisor and examiner with three completions and two current students. He has been external examiner and validated programmes for world leading institutions including Design Products at The Royal College of Art and MA Material Futures and MA Industrial Design at Central St Martins and MA Ecological Design Thinking at Schumacher College. 



Research interests

Engaging Design and Making Research:

Designed products, spaces, services and systems pervade every part of our lives. The world is awash with ‘stuff’  - Design has ‘made it’. However in times of ecological crisis, environmental pollution, social and political uncertainty and economic disparity design stands simultaneously as both disease and cure. 

I am interested in how designing and making contributes to positive, public persuasion, sustainable storytelling, community engagement, culture shift and behaviour change beyond delivering the next iteration of homogenous mobile phone. Design has agency and is being engaged as a tool and means to address issues of our time. Moreover design is about engagement – through potent, product propaganda, meaningful, material messaging and critical, craft campaigns, designers and makers are utilising the powerful language of materials, objects and products and the ubiquity of services and systems to change behaviour, provoke protest and empower people.

Designers and makers of diverse types are dispensing with disciplinary traditions and forming new alliances, promoting civic engagement, mass participation and clean growth, creating tools for accessible exploitation, community activism and more virtuous circular economies. Post disciplinary methods see the rethinking of material manipulation, techno-crafting, distributed manufacturing and open-sourcing. Some of our most pressing issues have re-awakened design with the critical concern and purpose that once defined it and artists, designers and makers can turn these issues into opportunities for positive intervention and  ethical economic development that integrates more symbiotically with our eco-system.

Supervisory Interests

I have supervised and examined students relating to social and sustainable design (and the link between them) utlising propositional and constrcutive methods. I welcome supporting projects that explore materials and making / materials and meaning making / material innovation, the valorisation of waste (through design and making) and circular economies. I lead research projects that engage design and making in the context of health and well-being and social empowerment, design and nature and environment as well as the co-design and use of technology as a tool in empowering disengaged and marginalised groups and communities.

Approach to teaching

My design work is trans-disciplinary and I teach across range of disciplines including visual communication, graphic design, 3D and product design, craft, interior design and architecture, planning and environment. I simultaneously integrate externally funded research into teaching providing students with ‘live’ opportunities to work at the cutting edge of issues of social, economic and environmental research in partnership with stakeholder organisations. 

Community21 as a social enterprise based within the University brokers authentic 'live' opportunities for students and collaborating companies, NGOs or communities. 

This has had a direct impact on student’s winning national and international awards, taking up leading professional roles with organisations such as Shelter, Forum for the Future, Nesta, UK Government, Nike, Adidas, Parley for the Oceans, Ikea etc and developing acclaimed graduate enterprises instigated by interaction with research-led student experiences. 


External positions

Board Member UNESCO Biosphere region

2021 → …

External Examiner MA Industrial Design , Central Saint Martins, UAL


External Examiner MA Intelligent Mobility, Royal College of Art


Member British Council Crafting Futures Network, British Council

2020 → …

External Validator / Expert MA Ecological Design Thinking

2020 → …

Steering Group Member Barclays Digital Eagle Labs

2015 → …

Peer reviewer , Leverhulme Trust

2014 → …

External Examiner MA Design Products, Royal College of Art


Judge The Countryside Awards


Peer Review College , Arts and Humanities Research Council





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