Emma Gieben-Gamal profile picture

Job title:

Lecturer, Design Cultures


Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (role-share)


Evolution House, Room 2.18

Office hours:

Tue, 9am - 5pm; Wed, 9am - 5pm; Thu, 9am - 5pm


My work is driven by an interest in the relationship between design and identity and is increasingly motivated by a commitment to social justice. My teaching and research engage the disciplines of design, material culture studies, anthropology, sociology and the health humanities and employs creative qualitative research practices. 

I am a part-time lecturer in Design Cultures within the School of Design and deliver a range of courses to students across all the Design programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level. I am also Joint Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for ECA. Prior to this I was Head of Design and Screen Cultures for four years, first for PGT and then for UG and PGT.

My training is in design history and material culture studies, which I studied at the Royal College of Art. I continue to bring a historical eye to my work but the focus of my teaching and research is now on the critically informed and politically motivated area of contemporary social design. Within this I have a particular interest in disability and ageing studies and design that seeks to generate inclusive and emancipatory approaches to the built and material environment.

I am a member of a number of research and knowledge exchange networks both within the University and outwith which reflect my interest in interdisciplinarity: Applied Ageing Research Network; Design & Screen Cultures; Design for Change; Materialities of Care; RAFT


I teach across all year groups from first year to PhD and across all the Design Programmes. The courses I teach on and course organise include:

  • First year: Modernism and After (deliver lectures on this team-taught course)
  • Second year: Design and Society (course organise and co-deliver)
  • Third year: Design for Ageing (Course organise and deliver)
  • Fourth year: Design Context 4 (dissertation tutor)
  • Taught Postgraduate:
    • Design and Material Culture (Course organise and deliver, not on offer 2019-20)
    • Disseminating Design Practices (deliver lectures on this team-taught course)
  • PhD Supervisor


My research is interdisciplinary in nature and spans design, material culture studies, sociology, anthropology and the health humanities. I am particularly interested in the theoretical perspectives drawn from, and across, these disciplines that engage with an understanding of how meaning is created through the entanglements between people, places and things and how design is enmeshed within this.

Drawing from this I have had a longstanding interest in the relationship between design, identity and interior environments which initially focussed on the gendered spaces of early twentieth century sites of consumption and leisure. More recently my research has turned to more contemporary design practices around social justice and identity politics with a particular interest in disability and ageing.

My current research, which I am pursuing as a part-time AHRC/SGSAH doctoral student, is concerned with how design can improve the experience of moving into a care home and facilitate strong place-attachment and a robust sense of self through a meaningful and ongoing engagement with personal possessions. Within this I am interested in the embodied practices that entwine the material culture of home and the ways in which design methods can be used to draw these out, communicate the findings and perhaps provide a means of support for these object-oriented practices of meaning making.

Alongside this, my research engages with issues around ethics and design and seeks to explore what critical and feminist epistemologies can bring to the ‘ethical turn’ in design and the attendant shift to participatory and situated research practices. This extends to a pedagogical interest in the design curriculum and the desire to create educational opportunities for design students to practice ‘alternative’ approaches to design in ways that connect them to communities that have historically been overlooked.

Current PhD students

Qri Kim

The study of Korean Comfort Women’s Haan through The Practice of Korean Monochrome

PhD Supervision Topics

Accepting applications
  • Socially responsible design practices
  • Design and disability / ageing studies
  • Material culture and identity
  • Participatory research
  • New materialism, phenomenology
  • Critical and feminist social research

Related links

Related programmes