Design Researchers in Residence

Design Researchers in Residence is Future Observatory’s programme for design researchers hosted at the Design Museum. The residency supports thinkers at the start of their careers to spend a year developing a new research project in response to a theme.

Design Researchers in Residence 2021/22: Restore

Samuel Iliffe

Samuel is a design engineer who is researching the use of algae to remove harmful pollutants from freshwater bodies.

Sanne Visser

Sanne is a maker and design researcher whose work looks at hair as both a local waste stream and material resource.

Supported by mentors within the learning and curatorial team at the museum, as well as the Future Observatory leadership and wider AHRC networks, the researchers take part in an intensive 12-month programme of seminars, crits and symposia to develop new design thinking to address the climate crisis.

The residency hosts international practitioners and researchers in the fields of architecture, design, digital culture and more. Proposals are invited through an international open call and selected by a jury of curators and leaders in the field of design research.

The researchers are supported with mentorship, studio space and a stipend, and their research is shared through public events, an exhibition and a publication curated and edited by the Design Museum


The theme of this year's residency is Restore.

Climate change is the defining crisis of our time. As human impact continues to place pressure on our natural ecosystems and biodiversity, the future of our planet is uncertain. Deforestation, fossil fuels and intensive agriculture caused by unsustainable consumption has created food shortages, environmental degradation, and displacement across the globe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the structural frailties and inequalities that exist in our governance models and supply chains have been exposed. We must radically rethink the tools and systems needed to reduce consumption and protect our planet for all lifeforms now and in years to come.

As the museum's new exhibition, 'Waste Age: What can design do?', demonstrates, design plays a crucial role in helping us navigate this landscape. Innovations in material culture, manufacturing and consumer experience are proposing new systemic ways of making and consuming that are more respectful to the environment. Moreover, designers today are demonstrating the value of transforming waste into new resources, to begin the transition to a circular economy.

The focus of this year’s Future Observatory, within which this residency sits, is net zero+: not only the reduction and/or offsetting of carbon emissions, but also circularising local and national economies, reducing waste, and embedding environmental sustainability at strategic, socio-technical and product/service innovation levels.

Through Future Observatory, a new collaborative programme between the Design Museum, the Arts and the Humanities Research Council, the museum is exploring how design can enable the UK to meet its environmental targets, whether on air and water pollution, carbon footprints and waste management or biodiversity. It advocates for solutions that help to deliver Net Zero by 2050, and that go beyond to protect our communities and restore our natural world now. How can we have an inclusive transition to a greener economy?