Dr Laura Santamaria

Lecturer and Programme Director within the Institute for Design Innovation

Dr Laura Santamaria

Dr Laura Santamaria is a design scholar and educator based at the Institute for Design Innovation. She is Programme Director of the MA Design and Culture, and specialises in meaning-making, aesthetic and human experience aspects of design.

Laura has over 20 years' experience in branding, user experience, strategic communications and forecasting research, having worked extensively in the UK corporate and non-profit sectors, and as independent consultant through her own agency, SantamariaMedia.

She is co-founder of pioneering sustainable lifestyle magazine Sublime. Her expertise and insight in lifestyle aspects of sustainability have gained her recognition as a leading voice in the field, often representing the UK press at international level, taking part in expert panels, keynote speaking and competition judging.

Academic background

Laura holds a PhD in Sustainable Design Innovation from Loughborough University. She obtained a BA in Visual Communication Design and an MA in Branding and Strategic Design at the University of La Plata, Argentina. She has gained further qualifications in psychology, community development and public engagement. Her teaching portfolio includes a wide range of subjects from Design, Media, Marketing and Business, built across UK institutions including Central St Martins, London College of Communications, Winchester School of Art, Solent University and Loughborough Design School where she still delivers visiting lectures and on-demand input.

Current research and collaborations

Laura’s research focuses on the role of strategic design in shaping collective identities, mediating cultural and symbolic meanings in processes of social change, and enhancing creative capacity in grassroots activism practices and contexts. She builds on cultural, critical and communication theories to develop interdisciplinary approaches for activating, empowering and legitimising citizen-led paradigm change through social action, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Working in partnership with Grampus Heritage and Training since 2009, Laura has developed and led EU funded entrepreneurship programmes across rural villages in Europe to boost bottom-up socioeconomic development, based on design-driven cultural heritage and crafts innovation.

She currently leads the Fair Energy Campaign and Community Action Heroes research projects as principal investigator, and is co-investigator in AHRC funded Counter-Framing Design project.

Current PhD / research supervisions

  • Britta Boyer – PhD title: Intercultural dialogues on creativity and worldmaking. A design anthropological lens on creativity and the building of knowledge ecologies for design.
  • Talia Hussain – PhD title: Carousel of Consumption: Design and meaning of retail interfaces as platforms for value co-creation in circular fashion systems.
  • Sophie Declerck – PhD title: Touching design: Using discursive framings and cultural codes of touch to re-imagine everyday material objects.
  • Stephen Cho.

Interests and activities

Laura has an inactive interest in nurturing talent to its highest potential. At Loughborough University London, she champions enterprise and impact across the school, focusing on developing knowledge exchange partnerships for place-based development with diverse stakeholders in our local community.

Laura is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Visiting Fellow at Solent University since 2012, and member of the Design Research and Market Research societies. She is editor-in-chief of Sublime magazine and chairs the Fair Energy Campaign.

You can find Laura on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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