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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

Nick is a published and funded researcher and award winning designer whose research consultancy impacts on global, industrial companies, international NGOs as well as governing bodies and civic communities in the UK and overseas. 

He has developed practice–based and applied approaches to social and sustainable design and material innovation research and enterprise, working within the following subjects areas (not exhaustive):

The prevention of waste, the elevation of the value and acceptability waste materials and circular economies in fashion, design, the built environment and contemporary culture working with diverse organisations including Vision Aid Overseas, The Marine Conservation Society, The NHS, The British Council, Veolia, Biffa, PUMA, Interface, Tesco.  

Material innovation and sustainable design including working with Philips, ICI, Eastman, Absolut, New Balance, The BBC, Vivienne Westwood, The Beatles and Apple Corps, The V&A and Natural History Museum.  

The role of technology and making in supporting engagement, inclusive, community planning and sustainable development with The Nominet Trust, The British Council, The Rural Community Council Network and his 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 tangible, practical objects, products, spaces, exhibitions, systems and services that are co-developed and utilised by industry, NGOs, charities, governing authorities and communities of diverse types. 

He is founder of design-research-consultancy Community21.org

Funders as principal or co-investigator include (not exhaustive); The British Council (2019), Co-op, Building Connections (2019), Interreg (2018, 2017, 2012), The Arts and Humanities Research Council (2012, 2015 & 2016), HEFCE (2017), U+I (2016), 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), The Department of Energy and Climate Change (2012), The Nominet Trust (2013), 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.

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

He teaches across design and environment programmes, he co-wrote the acclaimed MA in Sustainable Design and is a PHD supervisor with completions and examinations. He has been external examiner for world leading institutions including Design Products at The Royal College of Art and MA Material Futures at Central St Martins. 



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’ that has been designed - 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, ethical 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.

Material matters and making matters. Through the prism of waste we explore both the behaviour of matter and matters of behaviour. Sustainability is both a social and a material issue and waste is a result of what we think and feel as well as what we do.

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

Supervisory Interests

  • Social and sustainable design (and the link between them).
  • Materials and making / materials and meaning making / material innovation.
  • The valorisation of waste (through design and making) and circular economies 
  • Design and making in the context of health and well-being and social empowerment
  • Design and nature and environment
  • Research that utilses design and making methodologies that generate knowledge
  • The co-design and use of technology as a tool in community engagement.

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. 


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Projects 2017 2022

Research Output 2004 2019

Buildings as material stores and material stories

Gant, N., Baker-Brown, D. & Woodard, R., 3 Mar 2019

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibitionResearch

plastic waste
material culture
architectural design

Sole-Searching - Shoes and Stories of Waste and Want / Valorisation Framework

Gant, N. & Dean, T., 23 Sep 2019

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibitionResearch

material culture

The Well-Maker-Space

Gant, N., Hackney, F. & Hill, K., 2 Aug 2018, In : Making Futures Journal.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access

Well-Making Catalyst report

Gant, N., Hackney, F. & Hill, K., 14 Apr 2018, 33 p.

Research output: Book/ReportProject reportResearch

research method

Mediating Matters

Gant, N., 8 May 2017, Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design . Chapman, J. (ed.). Routledge, p. 222-236

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


Activities 2018 2019

Ellen MacArthur Foundation and British Council - Making Matters programme

Nicholas Gant (Consultant)
18 Nov 201918 Apr 2020

Activity: Consultancy

Re-mapping Making in The Philippines

Nicholas Gant (Consultant)
1 Nov 20191 Nov 2020

Activity: Consultancy

The Waste Zone at FutureBuild 2019

Duncan Baker-Brown (Organiser), Nicholas Gant (Member of programme committee), Ryan Woodard (Participant), Ryan Southall (Participant)
5 Mar 20197 Mar 2019

Activity: EventsEvent


Envisioning the Living City 2030

Nicholas Gant (Consultant)
May 2018

Activity: Consultancy

Well-Making Catalyst Workshop

Nicholas Gant (Participant)
18 Apr 2018

Activity: EventsWorkshop