Design Against Crime Research Centre at the University of the Arts London
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of the Arts London
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeLegal
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Information Systems
Studies In Human Society: Criminology, Policy and Administration
Summary of the impact
The Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC) undertakes practice-led
socially responsive design research, including visualisation of crime
problems and innovative responses for design education, government and
industry. Research outcomes deliver crime prevention by design, addressing
bag theft, bike theft, ATM crime, shoplifting, graffiti and
counter-terrorism. Outputs include products, resources, conferences,
exhibitions, competitions and papers. Research has been applied by
national/international bodies undertaking practice, policy, and guidance
in design and crime prevention. The Centre's work has been recognised by
the Sir Misha Black Award (2006), was described by an AHRC Impact case
study (2008) as `pioneering', and shortlisted in the Environmental Impact
category of the UK Impact Awards (2009).
Originating as a research initiative in 1999, the Centre received
designation as a Research Centre at University of the Arts London in 2005.
Projects have developed a strong visual language and an open and
collaborative `twin track' methodology integrating practice-based/led
design research and knowledge exchange. Design exemplars developed by the
Centre build operational capacity, including Stop Thief Chairs
(2000), Karrysafe Bags (2002), Grippa Clips (2004 and
2010) and caMden Bike Stands (2006) and related communication
designs. The centre's research has been widely exhibited including the Stop
Thief Chairs at Don't Tempt Me a world's first Design
Against Crime expo in Milan (2001), and at MOMA, NY (2005/6 and 2009).
Resources such as designagainstcrime.com (2005), inthebag.org.uk
(2001, 2009), bikeoff.org (2006), grippaclip.com (2010)
and graffitidialogues.com (2010) help build innovative capacity,
aiding new ways of delivering crime prevention through design. The
underpinning research was produced at UAL by Professors Lorraine Gamman
and Paul Ekblom and Adam Thorpe (Reader) with projects such as Grippa
(2004-2010) on bag theft and Bikeoff (2004-2008) on bike theft,
delivering key insights as follows:
Understanding user, misuser and abuser behaviours relative to systems
of people, products, services and spaces (the contexts of crime events)
and the complex relationship between crime opportunities and crime
prevention. Research applies both ethnographic and quantitative
design research methods and crime science frameworks within a context that
understands people, products, services and spaces as complex networks of
interaction that create and/or deny opportunities for crime besides
legitimate use. These understandings inform design interventions adopted
by local authorities and industry, facilitating legitimate use while
reducing criminal opportunity.
Understanding the role of design in combating crime and the context
dependent nature of `what works' in crime prevention. The Centre
utilises processes involving stakeholders, users, misusers and abusers to
share insights and create design briefs that are fit-for-purpose and
context. Given the context dependence of crime, technological and social
change and offender adaptation, this approach recognises the limits of a
finite set of secure designs and gives designers the design resources
needed to generate solutions in any given context.
Understanding the role of visualisation in crime prevention. The
Centre has pioneered a visual vocabulary as a tool to show, as well as
tell, about crime and its prevention. In building innovative capacity,
visualisation of perpetrator techniques (how crimes are committed in
context) it helps diverse audiences and participants to see the problem
collectively, facilitating generation of effective design interventions.
Prototyping design interventions that are tested and evaluated in real
situations. Crime problems are complex and the understandings and
methods developed by the Centre to tackle them have proved useful in
addressing multiple drivers in non-crime contexts. Working collaboratively
with multiple disciplines and stakeholders, the Centre iteratively applies
research to practice. Utilising crime science methodology coupled with
user-centred design processes, the rigorous evaluation of design
prototypes' effectiveness are undertaken. Transference of understandings
about multiple drivers to the area known as design for social
innovation and sustainability (DESIS) has developed out of the
References to the research
Underpinning research emerged from Ekblom, Gamman, and Thorpe who
collectively produced over £500,000 of contract research since 2001, plus
AHRC/EPSRC awards totalling £750,000. Two of these major funding awards
involved researchers from the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at
University College London who contributed crime science analysis to the
design research. Outputs indicative of the overall body of work are given
1. Ekblom, P. (2010) Crime Prevention, Security and Community Safety
using the 5Is Framework. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan [Book].
Listed in REF2.
2. Ekblom, P. ed. (2012) Design Against Crime: Crime Proofing
Everyday Objects. Crime Prevention Studies, 27. Boulder: Lynne
Rienner [Edited book of essays contributed by all DACRC team members].
Listed in REF2.
3. Gamman, L. (2001) Don't Tempt Me at I Saloni, Milan and Spring/
Primavera, Barcelona. [Exhibition of DAC benchmarks curated by Gamman].
UAL on request.
4. Gamman, L. and Thorpe, A. (2010) Criminality and Creativity: what's at
stake in designing against crime? In: Clarke, A. ed. Design
Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century pp.52-67. New
York/Vienna: Springer. [Book chapter]. Listed in REF2.
5. Thorpe, A. and Gamman, L. et al (2009) Bike Off 2 — catalysing anti
theft bike, bike parking and information design for the 21st century: an
open innovation research approach. In: Inns, T. ed. Designing for the
21st century. Volume 2: Interdisciplinary methods and findings pp.
238-258. Farnham: Gower [Book chapter]. Listed in REF2.
6. Thorpe, A. and Gamman, L. (2011) Design with society: why socially
responsive design is good enough. In: CoDesign International Journal
of CoCreation in Design and the Arts. Special Issue on Socially
Responsive Design. Vol.7, Nos 3-4 [Journal article]. Listed in REF2.
Associated research council awards listed below:
• UAL, PI: Thorpe, A. Bike Off 1-Design review & visual
documentation of bicycle parking provision to catalyse future crime
prevention design (05/2004 - 04/2005), £5,000, AHRC.
• UAL/UCL, PI: Thorpe, A. Bike Off 2 — Catalysing Anti Theft Bike,
Bike Parking and Information Design for the 21st Century, with
Professor Lorraine Gamman (Co-I), Dr Shane Johnson (Co-I at UCL), (11/2006
- 10/2008), £323,098. AHRC/EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century.
• UAL, PI: Gamman, L. Grippa 1: Concept proofing and testing of
anti-theft furniture accessories and design process documentation
(04/2004 - 03/2005), £52,476. AHRC.
• UAL, PI: Ekblom, P, Co-I: Gamman, L. Grippa 2: Turning the tables
on crime: Boosting evidence of impact of Design Against Crime and the
strategic capacity to deliver practical design solutions and assess the
usability of the latest DAC bag hanging Grippa design prototypes;
evaluation (11/2006 - 02/2010), £363,060. AHRC.
Details of the impact
The Centre's research has benefited the design community, public bodies
and industry, and since 2008 work has been undertaken with clients
including Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI),
National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO), LINK, NCR, Royal Bank
of Scotland, Transport for London and local councils on projects ranging
from tackling ATM crime to shoplifting. Work has been undertaken with six
Metropolitan Police boroughs and five other police forces, plus the
Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), and with partners including
Broxap, Design Council, Designing Out Crime Association (DOCA) and Design
and Technology Alliance Against Crime (Home Office).
Evidence of both reach and significance is given by the role played in
developing international understanding and capacity building for `design
against crime' as both a concept and tool. The Designing Out Crime
Research Centre (DOCRC) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) was
established by the Attorney General of New South Wales (NSW) after his
department identified the UAL Centre as a `shining example' of best
practice. Given governmental support in 2007, and becoming established
during the REF impact period, DOCRC has worked closely with the UAL Centre
who have helped to deliver some of DOCRC's first projects, given
workshops, and collaborated on the first Design + Crime International
Conference and Exhibition (2012); a meeting of professionals and
academics exploring new ways of preventing crime. DOCRC have now delivered
over 90 projects, including the invention, production and installation of
the Counter Terrorism rubbish bins at stations in NSW. In 2010 the
incoming Mayor of Seoul, Park Wok Soon, visited the UAL Centre and,
inspired by its work, implemented two `design against crime' projects when
he was appointed. Positive results have engendered plans to operate
similar programs at three more sites. In 2012 a Memorandum of
Understanding was signed between DACRC (UAL), the Seoul Design Foundation
The Centre's design benchmarks have attracted significant media coverage
bringing `design against crime' into the public domain, exploiting
the Centre's strong visual language. Examples include: BBC Business News'
coverage of DACRC's ATM Crime Expo (2011), BBC Scotland's
programme on DACRC for Designed World (2009), and Design Week
naming DACRC in its Hot 50 (2009). Designs have been shown by the Design
Council/Home Office (2011), at University of Technology Sydney (2012)
funded by the Attorney General's Office, and have featured in 12
additional exhibitions since 2008 raising awareness of `design against
The Centre has worked to gain support for `design against crime'
within business and professional communities. There have been five
ATM exhibitions with the 2011 ATM crime exhibition being funded by
NCR Corp (the world's largest ATM manufacturer), LINK (the UK ATM network)
and Royal Bank of Scotland. The Covent Garden ATM event (2012) was
reported by the Metropolitan Police to have facilitated crime awareness
training with 12,800 people. The significance of this work to business is
evidenced by the RBS-funded evaluation of DACRC's ATM designs in 2013, and
a significant investment by LINK to fund a research studentship at the
The Centre's design resources have reached new audiences via exhibitions
and competitions, catalysing commercial and cultural innovation.
Resources have been used for national competitions authored by DACRC
including for the RSA (2008/2009), Design Council (2010) and Nesta (2012).
This builds innovative capacity and catalyses new product development such
as bike parking furniture from UK design companies including Cycle Hoop,
established in 2008, who state on their website: `Our cycle parking
products are designed to reduce the risk of bike theft and are based on
the research and studies carried out by BikeOff.' Engagement with
the Centre and its resources by UAL students has resulted in success in
national design competitions such as Audi Design Foundation's Sustain our
Nation (2009) and D&AD Student Awards (2008).
Focusing on the visual to alert and empower has generated tested
and evaluated communication products by the Centre (Hang it Up
posters, Anti-bike theft stickers and leaflets and Hang your
bag flyers). Clients since 2008 include Transport for London,
Nottinghamshire Police, Brighton and Hove Council, and the Metropolitan
Police. During the impact period 586,500 items were ordered. Examples of
additional design outcomes include: CPNI-commissioned toolkit for
Controlling Hostile Reconnaissance, co-researched with Huddersfield,
designed/delivered by the Centre, and tested through CPNI, being made
available to CPNI/NaCTSO members charged with protecting sites of UK
critical infrastructure (power and chemicals stations, major transport
hubs; major retail sites, and sporting and events venues); and Bikeoff's
M-stand licensed to Broxap (UK's largest cycle parking manufacturer)
which, since 2008, have sold to clients including the London Borough of
Camden, Brighton and Hove City Council, Cambridge Cycling City and South
Examples of the significant impact of DACRC research on public bodies is
evidenced by inclusion in published guidance and information.
Examples include Designing Out Crime: A Designer's Guide, Design
Council (2011) using examples of DACRC's work (Grippa, Bikeoff
and ATM Crime), as well as including DACRC research processes and
Tactics and Strategies for designers (Ekblom). Case studies
published on the Design Council website also showcase three of the
Centre's projects. Contributions on secure cycle parking
information are evident in the ACPO's Secured by Design Schools Design
Guide (2010), and have fed into the Home Office's bike theft
prevention communications. Thorpe and Gamman contributed to the US Centre
for Problem-Oriented Policing practitioner guides Bicycle Theft
(2008) and Theft of customers' personal property from cafes and bars
(2010). There have been over 65,000 downloads of these two publications.
Research has informed the understanding of policymakers, public
bodies and professionals. In May 2008 Boris Johnson said `The
caMden stand is a great example of the type of innovative solution to
crime that can be made reality given the right support...I've asked
Transport for London to do all they can to support such initiatives.'
Ekblom, Gamman and Thorpe were expert witnesses for the State of Victoria,
Australia Parliamentary Drugs and Crime Committee Inquiry into the
application of safer design principles and crime prevention through
environmental design (2012), and are quoted extensively in the final
report (June 2013). Ekblom was commissioned to review guidance literature
on counter-terrorism designs for the Australian Government
Attorney-General's Department (2011). Gamman was a member of Home Office's
Design & Technology Alliance Against Crime (2007-2012), leading its
business crime stream, and is a board member of the Designing Out Crime
Association (DOCA). Thorpe has advised policy forums on cycle parking and
security including as part of Transport for London's Anti-Bike Theft
Partnership (2007-2008) and Brighton and Hove City Council Cycle Theft
Steering Group (2006-2009). In 2011 Ekblom and Gamman participated and
presented at a Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team workshop on theft
in retail and leisure environments and mobile phone theft. The Behavioural
Insights Team, often called the `Nudge Unit', applies insights from
academic research to public policy and services. DACRC's initiation of the
Graffiti Dialogues Network has led to advising on strategies for
Sources to corroborate the impact
Evidence of role in building international understanding and capacity
- Mayor of Seoul Park Won Soon's Hope Journal. UAL on request.
- Supporting statement from the Attorney General's Office NSW. UAL on
- Australia Parliamentary Drugs and Crime Committee Inquiry report:
Evidence of raising awareness of `design against crime'
- Supporting statement from Home Office. UAL on request.
Evidence of the utilisation of research outcomes by public and other
Designing Out Crime: A Designer's Guide, Design Council (2011)
- Supporting statement the Design Council. UAL on request.
- Supporting statement from CPNI. UAL on request.