PhD in history of design, visual and material culture

The University of Brighton has an outstanding reputation for PhD and MPhil research study across the fields of design history, material culture, museum studies and dress history, with world-leading experts supporting the research student environment.

Our reputation was built by some of the leaders in the development of design and material culture as academic disciplines, among them: Professor Jonathan Woodham (A Dictionary of Modern Design,Twentieth-century DesignImage, Power and Space: Studies in Consumption & Identity); Professor Lou Taylor (Establishing Dress History, The Study of Dress History); and Raymond Watkinson (William Morris as DesignerPre-Raphaelite Art and Design). Our strength in these disciplines continues through a thriving department with a genuine international reputation.

Find supervisory interests through the disciplinary links on our staff profile finder  

PhD titles in design history, dress history and material culture have recently included:

  • Governmentality and Design: Inventing the Industrial Design Councils in Great Britain and New Zealand (Dr Christopher Thompson) NZTEC funded
  • Public monuments: memory, manifestation and the accumulated significance of place (Anthony Mcintosh)
  • Eric Gill and transformative practices in the making of sculpture in Britain 1909 – 1940: contexts, networks and contradictions (Ruth Cribb) AHRC funded
  • The cold war emigre exhibit in Britain: cultural exchange, diplomacy and trade c.1945-75 (Dr Verity Clarkson) AHRC Funded
  • The Life and Work of the London Couturier Norman Hartnell: Issues of Design, Business, Royal Patronage and Consumption 1924 – 1979 (Jane Hattrick) AHRC funded

Research by staff and PhD students in design history, art history, material culture and cultural heritage has re-defined and extended the boundaries of architectural and design history, theory and criticism, drawing on cross-disciplinary practice from fields such as cultural geography, sociology, gender-studies, psychoanalysis and anthropology. The scope of the Art, Design, Architecture and Media schools also allows for research to be contextualised within an institution where the boundaries of art and design are also being pushed by practice-led research.

The University of Brighton is the home of the internationally-significant Design Archives, and the Screen Archive South East, both of which provide dedicated resources for research, while the St Peter’s House library has established an excellent collection within the field of design history and material culture for use by PhD students. These facilities are readily supplemented by the easy connections to London [50 minutes by train] with its unique global resources including: the V&A, with whom the University of Brighton holds particularly close ties; the British Museum; the British Library and the National Portrait Gallery. All of these are the focuses of major work and collaborations by researchers at the University of Brighton. 

The student environment includes: a dedicated Research Student Division within the offices of the Faculty's Centre for Research and Development; a thriving Postgraduate Design History Society; opportunities for conference presentation, professional contact and career development in the field. Recent PhD graduate careers have included major museum curatorships and academic posts.


For further information please contact our doctoral centre in the first instance, who will direct your enquiry through to our specialist academic area. 

+ 44 (0) 1273 641044 

For more information on this and general information about life as a doctoral student at the University of Brighton Faculty of Arts, visit our Doctoral Centre pages