Despite the range of activities and interests pursued, we at the Lincoln School of Design argue there is a common theme that ties research, professional practice, outreach and business together and that is 'socially engaged creative practice'. What does that mean?
It means two things. The School of Design is committed to both involving others in our full range of activities and to improve the lives and life chances of those with whom we engage. This might be 'social design' research which actively encourages participation and co-creation in the design process; we seek to include those who will be affected by design in the design of those things that will affect them. For example, professor Anne Chick’s research focuses on designing a more inclusive experience for blind and visually impaired exhibition visitors. Socially engaged creative practice also involves outreach activities, for example, working directly with 'Design and Technology' secondary school teachers in order to build stronger paths for students to get to university to study design subjects. It includes inviting school children into the university to explore and experience creativity through, for example, the Saturday Club and the Big Draw events. And, of course the university emphasis on 'student as producer' has always fitted comfortably with what happens in a design school studio culture. Students are always the co-producers of the experience we create and of the designed 'things' which come from creative practice. Creativity is social and our activities reflect that.
Consequently, as academics and creative practitioners ourselves, we are always looking for connections between our various activities, especially our capacity to build research. We seek to build this research out of professional practice and professional practice from research, outreach from research and professional practice, enterprise from research and so on. As a result, much of our school's activity is driven by projects which include some combination of research, professional practice, outreach and enterprise. This then leads to clusters of activity around a theme, for example, creativity, creative industries and pedagogic research on creativity. Where the research around a theme develops particularly strongly and builds a compelling momentum, it is useful to form a research cluster to co-ordinate activities including bidding for research funding, building research impact beyond the university, and providing a focus for the esteem that research can generate. For example, we have a 'Critical Heritage and Place Consumption’ research cluster that does just that. Other themes of interest and activity may be better served by a looser grouping of contributing colleagues, as the topic in question leads to developments in professional practice, outreach, enterprise as well as research. For example, we have a number of colleagues researching social design, co-creation and community engagement.