Sarah Kettley profile picture

Job title:

Chair of Material and Design Innovation, School of Design


Postgraduate Research Director PhD/MPhil Degrees, School of Design


Room 2.22, School of Design, 2nd Floor, Evolution House, 78 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2LE


BA (Hons), MSc, PhD, FHEA 

Sarah is Chair of Material and Design Innovation, working across making traditions, new technologies, and the humanities. She is currently the PGR Director for the School of Design, and was Head of the School of Design (2017-2020). Between 2019 and 2022, she was seconded to the Edinburgh Futures Institute as an academic fellow. 

She holds an MSc in Interactive Systems, and gained her PhD in Craft as a Methodology for the Design of Wearable Computing in 2007 from Edinburgh Napier University. Her undergraduate degree was in Jewellery and Silversmithing, from Glasgow School of Art, and before joining Edinburgh, she taught in Product Design at Nottingham Trent University.


Sarah teaches on various optional courses in the School of Design, including Design Identities, Introduction to Body Studies, Design for Ageing, Objects of Desire and Film Medicine, and supports MA students in Design Informatics as a dissertation tutor. She has designed, managed and delivered a range of courses and programmes in design education, and specialises in curating learning for students across disciplinary boundaries. She supervises and examines PhD candidates in craft, participatory and service design, design philosophy, smart textiles, and HCI, and as PGR Director, leads Design Research Thinking, the research methods course for PhD students in the Design subject area. She authored the Bloomsbury Required Reading teaching title, Designing with Smart Textiles, and was a sub-editor on the award-winning Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design. Sarah is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Sarah welcomes enquiries from prospective PhD students.


There are two major strands to my research: the development of design methodology through making; and the application of relational approaches to designing for care. Occasionally, these strands come together. You can listen to me trying to explain what I do in this podcast:  

5 Women 5 Questions – University of Edinburgh podcast series, Celebrating Women’s History Month March 2022:

I regularly review for academic conferences in HCI and Design research, and: 

  • co-chair the ECA RAFT research group with Dr Jessamy Kelly, in which members discuss the development of craft and making 
  • am a member of the Arcintex steering group, a ‘research-through-design friendly network’ concerned with the commonalities of architecture, interaction design and smart textiles, led by the University of Boras in Sweden 
  • convene the Design Research Society special interest group on tangible, embedded and networked technologies (tentSIG) 

Much of my work is collaborative and cross-disciplinary, and sometimes it generates physical and/or interactive things that can be exhibited. Venues for this kind of work have included: the RCA at the London Design Festival; the Lakeside Gallery, and Bonington Gallery, Nottingham; the House of Lords, London; the British Council in Milan; MIT Media Lab, Boston USA; Dundee Contemporary Arts; the CCA, Glasgow; InSpace Gallery in Edinburgh; the Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland; NiMK, and de Waag in Amsterdam; Leonardo Education Forum, Dallas; the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; the Museum of Culture in Kyoto, Japan; Futuresonic, Manchester; ISEA, Ireland; the Travelling Gallery, Scotland; and ElectroFringe, Australia.

Selected projects:

Healthier Working Lives - co-design to support older workers in the care sector 

2021 – 2023 (CoI)  

ESRC, with Kings College London, Care Scotland, Codebase, Creative Venue, and Legal & General

An Internet of Soft Things - participatory design of e-textile networks for mental health and wellbeing 

2014 – 2016 (PI)  

EPSRC, with the Nottinghamshire Mind Network

Electric Corset - historical costume archives informing design processes for wearables 

2015 – 2017 (PI) 

Nottingham Trent University QR funding

Aeolia - embedding stretch sensors in textiles 

2008-2014 (PI) 

alt-w, with support from Nottingham Trent University

ensemble - computationally networked jewellery with sound output 

2006 – 2007 (PI) 

AHRC, with support from the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh

Friendship Jewellery - computationally networked jewellery  

2002-2007 (doctoral research) 

Edinburgh Napier University doctoral scholarship, with support from Edinburgh College of Art and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh

Selected recent publications:

Townsend, K., Kettley, S., and Walker, S. (2022). The Electric Corset and other Future Histories. In Townsend, K., Briggs-Goode, A. & Solomon, R. (Eds.), Crafting Anatomies. London: Bloomsbury. 

Kettley, S. (2021). Wearables design and development in a shifting public health domain: towards the ‘fifth wave’. In A. Godfrey and S. Stuart (Eds.), Digital Health: Exploring Use and Integration of Wearables. Elsevier, pp319-344. 

Kettley, S. (2021). Lifelines: users and designers as persons in relation. Airea Journal: Arts and Interdisciplinary Research, No 3 Interdisciplinary relationships within spaces and bodies of collaboration. 

Kettley, S. and Lucas, R. (2019). Design in Mental Health: a literature review of design thinking in UK and European mental health. In R. Cain and A. Petermans (Eds.), Design for Wellbeing. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Kettley, S. and Kettley, R. (2017). Conceptualising Radically Careful Design. In Rodgers, P., G. Innella, C. Bremner & I. Coxon (2017), Does Design Care - An International Workshop of Design Thought and Action. Working Paper. Lancaster University, UK, 12-13 September 2017. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.24043.64805. 

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