Dr Laura Santamaria

Visiting Scholar, Institute for Design Innovation

Dr Laura Santamaria

Laura is a design scholar, activist and educator. She specialises in meaning innovation, sociocultural and human experience aspects of design.

Laura is Associate Professor and Deputy Head at Cambridge School of Arts. She 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

Prior to joining Cambridge School of Art, Laura was former Program Director of the MA Design and Culture at the Institute for Design Innovation. She has a PhD in Design 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 human perception in design innovation and its relation to value creation and social influence. 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.

In partnership with Citizens UK, she currently leads the Fair Energy Campaign Pilot and Community Action Heroes research projects, which investigate 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.

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

Interests and activities

Laura has an inactive interest in human development and nurturing talent to its highest potential. She champions enterprise, diversity and impact in research, focusing on developing knowledge exchange partnerships for place-based development with diverse stakeholders in our local community.

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

Laura is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Society of Arts, and member of the Design Research and Market Research societies. She is editor-in-chief of Sublime magazine and chairs the Fair Energy Campaign.

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