PhD Programme

The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design PhD programme aims to develop independent researchers in inclusive and people-centred design. 

Design research at PhD level is inclusive and interdisciplinary. We welcome proposals that explore inclusive design within the themes of people, place and technology. Candidates are jointly attached to the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and an associated RCA programme. We accept PhD research by project or thesis. Please see this link for more details on application. Enquiries regarding the HHCD PhD programme should be sent to

Current PhD candidates

Funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation

Laura Salisbury: Fashioning Stroke Rehabilitation (School of Design RCA)
This PhD research project deploys inclusive design methods in the area of Fashion Technology. It explores user-led design solutions to the challenges most frequently experienced by stroke survivors. It aims to: explore in detail the experience of post stroke rehabilitation with a focus on dressing as an ADL recognised by the World Health Organisation; test and develop the methods of user-led design practice; demonstrate the agency of new uses of materials and technologies; gather data on specificity of experiences of cross sensory modalities of touch, tactility, kinetic and proprioceptive experience.

Jointly with RCA Architecture 

Imogen Privett: Workspace Interrupted // The effects of co-working on workspace design practice
What effect has co-working and its associated cultures of community collaboration and co-creation had on existing models of workspace design practice?
Traditional corporate structures – both in terms of space and process – struggle to deliver the level of responsiveness required to compete in a globalised knowledge economy, tending to be internalised, inflexible and hierarchical.  In response to this changing landscape, this study uses the rise of co-working and the values associated with it as a lens through which to look at the broader workplace, with a particular focus on how people behave in these new working environments and how these designed spaces are briefed and commissioned. This PhD by Practice takes an ethnographic methodological approach and is centred on a new co-working space, the Birmingham Hub.

Supported by Haworth

LDoc-funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council

Will Renel: Sonic Inclusion: exploring the relationships between sound and social inclusion in creative urban environments (School of Communication RCA)
How can an inclusive design researcher work in collaboration with a creative urban environment (such as a theatre) to make their building more socially inclusive using sound?
Will’s research considers the proximal and distal effects of engaging communities in collective creative acts through technological means and questions if equal access to collective creative engagement, through an exploration of technological design methodologies, can develop and sustain more inclusive communities. His practice-led study aims to generate innovative models of inclusive community development through new understanding of technological interfaces for collective creative engagement.

Silke Hofmann:Re-Fashion: Designing post-mastectomy lingerie (School of Design RCA)
Silke is a womenswear designer and university professor at Mediadesign University of Applied Sciences, Germany. She holds a BA in Fashion Design (Magna Cum Laude), from the Fashion Institute of Technology and an MA in Fashion Knitwear (with Distinction), from Central Saint Martins. While working as a designer for international prêt-à-porter houses, Silke developed creative content which recognises that perception of beauty and femininity is highly personal and diverse. In her academic work Silke investigates the relationship between a garment and its wearer, looking at the psychological impact of clothing. Her work has been featured in I-D magazine, Wallpaper* magazine, Paris Vogue,, among others.

Jointly with RCA Information Experience Design:

Ben Dalton Designing for Digital Pseudonymity
This thesis argues that anonymous pseudonymity has a long and rich history within culture and society, that digital resources and identity governance are tending to strip away the potential for pseudonymity, that to remove pseudonymity we would have to remove anonymity with unexpected consequences, and that identity performance is a core aspect of everyday life. The research seeks to derive design guidelines grounded in 'interviews' and projects to inform strategies for design for digital pseudonymity.

John FassExternalising Instruments: Making sense of digital experience through design
John is exploring the ways people understand digital experiences. Using the examples of browser history, social networks and email this practice-led PhD allows for creative physical expressions of mental models. John's research consists of public-facing, collaborative project work, which has application in the fields of design research and human computer interaction.

Susannah HaslamKnowledge Mobilities: Object, exchange and circulation (by thesis)
Susannah is exploring the shifting positions and value of knowledge/s as a subject of inquiry, in a context of contemporary art theory, policy and governmental rhetoric around knowledge exchange, and the social/participatory aspect of digital humanities. The research considers the authenticity of conceiving of what knowledge mobility might be, through the critique and reconstitution of language, human relationships, things and ideas as conditions of work.

Benjamin Koslowski Staging Privacy: architectural representation, theatre and thresholds in digital public space 
Staging Privacy explores architectural representation as a tool to better understand individual privacy in digital space. Psychological notions of privacy have not yet been successfully adapted to the various overlapping sites of digital social interaction; this investigation uses the theatre and its related notions of actors and audiences to unpick the shifting qualities of interaction, and to help individuals better understand their own position with this.

Veronica RannerKnowledge Exchange in Bio-Digital Public Space
Veronica is researching the expanding domain of the bio­–digital, a converging knowledge space where digital and computational thinking meet biological matter. Her current doctoral work explores paradigm shifts in reality perception by coupling speculative (bio)material strategies and information experience through design research. Physical and immaterial manifestations of such collisions are examined and created based upon their polyphonic potential within the future of technology.     

Jimmy TideyHow can Local Government use Social Media to Inform Policy?
Jimmy’s research is considering the ‘digital footprint’ of communities, generated through locally-oriented digital public spaces (blogs, forums, Tweets and Facebook pages). By investigating the collection and processing of such data, this PhD aims to find out how it can be used to inform local policy, measure outcomes, and, importantly, improve communication among groups of people within UK society. 

Supported by the AHRC as part of The Creative Exchange project

Past PhD candidates

Jointly with RCA Innovation Design Engineering:

Katie Gaudion:  A Designer’s Approach: Exploring how Autistic Adults with Learning Disabilities Experience their Home Environment
Autistic adults with limited speech and additional learning disabilities are people whose perceptions and interactions with their environment are unique, but whose experiences are under-explored in design research. This PhD by Practice investigated how people with autism experience their home environment through collaboration with the autism charity Kingwood Trust, which gave the designer extensive access to a community of autistic adults that it supports. (Completed June 2015) 

Supported by The Kingwood Trust