join our mailing list

DAC as an approach to social innovation emerged at Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London between 1999-2009. The philosophy behind DAC at CSM is linked to a practice-led socially responsive (1) design research agenda that posits crime as a theme that can be addressed by methodologies generated by ‘social design’ (2) (also referred to as ‘Socially Useful Design’ or ‘Design for Society’) (3). The approach comprehends that, because crime is not carbon neutral, any design address also demands attention to multiple drivers, including those used to measure sustainability (4). The Centre’s focus is based on the understanding that design thinking, as well as design practice, can and should address security issues without compromising functionality and other aspects of performance, or aesthetics. In everyday language, secure design has to be user-friendly whilst abuser-unfriendly, but it doesn’t have to look criminal or even ugly.

DAC aims to:

1. Demonstrate why ‘secure design doesn’t have to look criminal’ via practice-led design and social innovation benchmarks aimed at public space and the public realm.

2. Reduce the incidence and adverse consequences of crime through the design of products, services, communications and environments that are ‘fit for purpose’ and contextually appropriate.

3. Equip design practitioners with the cognitive and practical tools and resources to design out crime.

4. Address ‘environmental complicity’ with crime in the built environment to reduce crime and increase the wellbeing of individuals and build sustainable communities.

5. Prove and promote the social and commercial benefits of designing out crime to manufacturing and service industries, as well as to those concerned with the ‘social economy’.

6. Transfer successful practice and the DAC methodology, which have a strong evidence base of success, to other social issues to be addressed by design (such as health, ageing, climate change and finance) via our Socially Responsive Design and Innovation Hub (SRVD). Also to encourage PhD research on these issues.

Academic Remit
DACRC is an independent Research Centre and is concerned with:

  • Conducting original and necessary practice-led research into the causes of crime and the resources criminals bring to bear in their perpetrator techniques;
  • Evolving and developing products, services and environments via an iterative process related to the problem-oriented approach in crime prevention and user-focused approaches in design, extended to encompass abusers and/or misusers;
  • Conducting applied research-led design practice within the interdisciplinary traditions of the humanities, in particular with social science and design studies, to develop social design methodologies – conceptual as well as innovation frameworks, intellectual and practical resources to enable crime to be designed out of products, services and environments – which are moreover transferable to other social design themes;
  • Establishing exemplars of good practice as well as case studies to promote DAC as an area of academic enquiry within its source disciplines;
  • Informing the curriculum of taught undergraduate and postgraduate design students and providing an academic environment for study at doctoral level, as well as for business via Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs);
  • Providing an academic focus and infrastructure within which to conduct practice-based design-led research;
  • Facilitating the capture and sharing of innovation management, as well as crime prevention knowledge, in ways which combine rigour and creativity via a structured ‘frameworks’ approach (including the 5Is and Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity frameworks);
  • Facilitating the capture and sharing of crime prevention knowledge in ways which make it accessible and useful to educational, crime prevention and design stakeholders and practitioners via the creation and dissemination of ‘design resources’;
  • Contributing to the evidence base for ‘what works’ in crime prevention, the development of design standards such as CEN (European Committee for Standardisation), and the evolution of techniques for crime proofing and crime impact assessment.


1. DACRC exemplifies a ‘socially responsive design’ approach, that is, it delivers ‘design that takes as its primary driver social issues, its main consideration social impact and its main objective social change.’                                               Gamman, L. and Thorpe, A. (2006). What is Socially Responsive Design? – A Theory and Practice Review. In: Friedman, K. et al (Eds) Proceedings of Wonderground, Design Research Society International Conference 2006, Lisbon, 1–4 November 2006.
2. Social design was defined over 30 years ago by Victor Papanek In Design For the Real World (1971). Papanek argued that given ‘Design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environments (and, by extension, society and himself)’, that designers need to be socially responsible. His account has been interpreted differently by different movements. He did not advocate engagement with the market place whereas DESIGN 21: Social Design Network (an online community that brings together socially conscious designers, non-profits, individuals and organisations to promote design for the greater good) does have a market led account too. It is co-founded by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and like our own model of ‘socially responsive design’
sees different possibilities for change agendas. John Thackara similarly construes social design in terms of change management. He argues that sustainable design in the 21st century involves ‘complex systems that are shaped by all the people who use them, and in this new era of collaborative innovation, designers are having to evolve from solely being the individual authors of objects or buildings, to acknowledge their role as being the facilitators of change among large groups of people.’                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thackara, J. (2005). In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
For a definitive account see: Whiteley, N. (1993). Design for Society. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.
Gamman, L. and Thorpe, A. (2009). Less is More: What Design Against Crime can Contribute to Sustainability. In: Armitage, A. and Gamman, L. (Eds) Sustainability via Security: A New Look, Built Environment, Vol 35 (3), Alexandrine Press, pp403-418.