Nick Gant is a designer, researcher and lecturer, with particular interests across sustainability and community development.
He has led the development of a number of discrete project brands including Inheritable Futures Laboratory (IF:Lab), BoBo Design Ltd. and Community 21, and is Assistant Head of School in the area of Economic and Social Development.
Through these Nick's educational, professional, research and community engagement practices combine in the development of multi-layered, concatenating projects that investigate issues across communities, technologies, material cultures, artefacts and spaces.
Nick Gant is assistant head of the School of Art, Design and Media for Research, Economic and Social Engagement. He is co-founder of Community21.org, co-director of the Inheritable Futures Laboratory (IF:Lab), sustainable design research group and an award winning industrial designer. He co-wrote the MA in Sustainable Design, lectures across a number of subject programmes and is a PHD supervisor. Nick has been a peer reviewer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The Leverhulme Trust and the Research Through Design Conference as well as Thames and Hudson and Lawrence King Publishers. He is external examiner at The Royal College of Art for MA Design Products.
Nick has consulted for global branded organisations and developed applied research projects in collaboration with industrial, public and private sector partners, NGOs, charities and community groups. Alongside his academic and industrial work he also leads funded volunteer projects that explore and deliver community resilience.
His applied design research explores material media and digital systems, locality and community as means to facilitate social impact, sustainability and models for 'ecologies of scale'.
Nick's research practice work has involved working with global organisations as diverse as Vivienne Westwood, Apple Corps, The Beatles, Dyson, Vodafone, ICI, Veolia, Philips, The V&A and Natural History and Science Museums, 100% Design, New Balance, PUMA, Fender Guitars, the NHS and the BBC and has promoted the work of NGOs and charities including Rural Community Council Network, Vision Aid Overseas, WWF, The Marine Conservation Society and The UK Milk Bank.
He has generated collaborative projects with funding from both public and private sectors including The Arts and Humanities Research Council, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Nominet Trust, The National Lottery, The Design Council and Crafts Council, Gulbenkian Foundation and Department for the Environment Farming and Rural Affairs and Intereg, REED PLC, Tesco, Interface, Lucite International, Media Ten and UBM.
Nick's work has been disseminated in international exhibitions, journals, conference papers, books, websites, blogs, radio and television broadcasts, newspapers and magazines including ICON, Blueprint, FRAME, The BBC, Design Week, New Design, Vogue, Elle, International Textiles, The Independent, The Times, The Guardian, The Sun, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The London Evening Standard, The Mail, Core 77, Design Boom, Deezeen, Treehugger and CNN with newspaper and web articles internationally in countries including Canada, USA, India, Pakistan, Israel, Ireland, Australia.
He has pioneered, applied, cross-disciplinary research projects that engage undergraduate, post-graduate and PHD students through collaborative learning experiences with different organisations, enabling community and industry participants and NGOs to help form pressing research questions. He is currently lead supervising the 'Envisioning the Future Community' collaborative doctoral award, which he co-wrote and which was awarded a full funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Link to visual research and practice portfolio site http://gantanddean.tumblr.com/
Examples of current projects include:
'Community21' (online network and planning tool for sustainable communities) in collaboration with The Rural Community Council, Action in Rural Sussex, which explores ICT impact on community resilience and peer-to-peer learning for community design, facilitated by a digital platform specifically designed for neighbourhood planning.
'Sole Searching - shoes and stories of material culture'. Mediating complex issues of material ethics, science and sustainability to public and industry audiences through the formation and exploitation of embodied material narratives in 'waste' materials - in collaboration with Tanya Dean and a diverse group of materialists and makers. The project constructs and tests a lexicon of material meanings which facilitate sustainability and the elevation and use of the value of waste materials and promotes the work of NGOs and charities that promote engagement with issues of material culture.
'Young Digital Citizenship' - Nominet Trust, Digital Edge funded project which researches how to support young peoples engagement in envisioning their future community under localism through the use of co-designed, accessible 'digi-tools'.
'On Our Doorsteps - Local Design Activism'. Curated, interactive, exhibition and web-resource of designers and companies who are reengaging with contemporary interpretations of 'local' as a critical and creative context and methodology for more meaningful contributions to sustainability, society, the economy and well-being.
Engaging Design - 'engaging design as an active agent for change / exploring the role of design as a tool for engagement'
Nick Gant's current research explores the facilitation and mediation of sustainability (social, environmental and economic) via material (meanings, values, semiotics, technologies and cultures) and digital (networks, tools, communities, technologies and virtuality) explored via artefacts, products, spaces, systems and texts. His applied research focuses on engagement; the theory and practice of design as a means to engage communities (civic, industrial, third sector) in issues and solutions and productive models of co-development, empowerment and sustainability:
Currently 'Sole Searching' and 'Meaning Making', in collaboration with Tanya Dean explores how to strategically exploit the embodied material meanings and narratives inherent in 'waste' materials to expand the communicative vocabulary and consumer value of materials and products made from waste. The thesis being that this can elicit better consumer knowledge, raise awareness of critical issues and exemplar uses and the facilitate and promote consumer demand and the consumption of 'more sustainable' products. Simultaneously this work has lead to collaboration with, and promotion of, different NGOs, charities, organisations and industries connected to contemporary issues and opportunities of waste material culture.
Current projects include use of breast milk to promote the NHS Milk Bank and World Breast Milk Donation Day, use of beach waste with the Marine Conservation Society, use of cork in promoting the WWF campaign and use of waste spectacles with Vision Aid Overseas and use of fats recovered from civic drainage systems or contaminated food packaging with Veolia and water authorities.
My collaborative material research has long since explored how complex issues, messages, meanings and knowledge can be communicated through the design and use of materials strategically deployed within the creation of products, spaces and experiences. Projects such as the work with Lucite International TM that explored the ‘emotional value’ of materials (winner of Business Design Association award for design effectiveness 1999 with Elmwood) and ‘Marriage of Materials’ project with Perspex TM (winner of Crafts Council bursary 2002), that experimented with material language and using materials as arbiters. Along with the ‘Bright-space’ building with Spectar TM and Barlo TM (winner of best in show 100% Design 2004), which 're-branded' plastic as the unexpected 'alternate' facilitator of sustainability and the 'Product Life' explorations in collaboration with Jonathan Chapman in 2007. This body of work manifest in award winning products, exhibitions and spaces engages the potency and activating potential of materials in facilitating and mediating sustainable behaviour change.
Investigating digital technology as a mediator and facilitator of integrated sustainability in society and co-designing sustainable futures, is tested through the Community21 project (in association with The Rural Community Council network). This online toolkit and networking platform explores participatory innovation in uniting communities, service providers and governance in achieving resilient sustainability through co-design, inclusive and community led, neighbourhood planning.
Current projects include a Nominet Trust funded 'Digital Edge' project exploring how to engage young people in sustainable community planning by using accessible technologies and app tools.
I use digital to also explore material (virtual materiality) and the internet as a platform to provide efficient and frictionless manufacturing and distribution channels for alternative, meaningful propositions to habitual consumer behaviors and 'materialistic' values. 'The Thought That Counts / Bitwrapped' is a gifting and gift-shop social enterprise model for digitally formed products that explores and evaluates 'virtual' and digital as 'valuable' alternatives in consumer contexts.
Community / Locality
These elements feature in most of my recent work, either through the exploration of collaborative design methods, provence and 'meaning making' in material and product design or social networking and communal action for sustainable development and planning. 'On Our Doorsteps - Local Design Activism' curates, maps and applies emerging methodologies that utilise community and locality to form more meaningful and sustainable products and services. Community21 exemplifies the role of design in facilitating community resilience and the decentralised sustainability for 'edge communities'. Both reconsider the role of collaborative design in facilitating social, economic and environmental development and well-being.
Community 21 is a joint strategic, ‘action research’ initiative between University of Brighton and The Rural Community Council, Action in Rural Sussex
A collaborative design workshop, product range, exhibition and conference paper by Nick Gant's BoBo Design Ltd
An annual event which uses a cyclical research gathering, dissemination and creative response methodology to question approaches to sustainable design
Chapman, J. & Gant, N. (Eds), Designers, Visionaries & Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays, Earthscan, London, 2007
Engaging community members to collaboratively create recognisable and identifiable ‘visions’ for the future of their neighbourhood
Industrial engagement, data gathering exhibition and lecture at the PUMA headquarters, exploring 'meaningful materials'
Fostering contemporary design’s re-engagement with ‘local’ as a means to forge meaningful contributions to society, the economy and the environment
Product Life Workshop at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities
100% Sustainable? 2007 at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities
100% Sustainable? 2008 at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities
Nick Gant and Jonathan Chapman launch their first joint project at '100% Design', London
19 Sep 2006
Gant, Nicholas, Balnave, Jean and Adeyeye, Oluwakemi (2014) ‘Greening the Green' - community water in the age of localism In: Adeyeye, K., ed. Water efficiency in buildings: theory and practice. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK, pp. 273-284. ISBN 9781118456576
Gant, Nicholas (2013) Waste Zone Ecobuild 2013, Excel, London, 05/03/2013-07/03/2013, London.
Dean, Tanya and Gant, Nick (2013) Sole Searching [Artefact]
Dean, Tanya and Gant, Nicholas (2012) Meaning Making [Exhibition]
Gant, Nicholas (2012) On Our Doorsteps: Local Design Activism [Exhibition]
Gant, Nicholas and Ganderton, Zoe (2011) Envisioning the future village In: Future Village.
Gant, Nicholas and Gittins, Teresa (2011) Community 21: social networking and neighbourhood planning toolbox for sustainable communities Action in rural Sussex (AirS); University of Brighton, UK.
Gant, Nicholas and Gittins, Teresa (2010) Toolbox for the 21st Century Village designing an engagement tool for sustainable communities Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 3. pp. 155-170. ISSN 1836-3393
Chapman, Jonathan and Gant, Nicholas (2008) 100% Sustainable? Research gathering exhibition, seminar and masterclass (2006, 2007 and 2008) Reed Expo, London, UK.
Chapman, Jonathan and Gant, Nicholas (2007) 100% Sustainable? New Design (Issue 54). pp. 34-39. ISSN 14722674
Chapman, Jonathan and Gant, Nicholas (2007) Designers, Visionaries + Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays Earthscan, London, UK. ISBN 9781844074129
Chapman, Jonathan and Gant, Nicholas (2007) Designers, Visionaries and Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays [Edited Collections]
Gant, Nicholas (2006) Marriage of Materials 100 % Design Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London, UK, LONDON, UK.
Gant, Nicholas (2004) Bright Space 100% Design Exhibition, London, London.
"Nick Gant sees himself as a material activist. His mission is to develop an idea as making as a way of constructing narratives. How you interact with materials, what you turn them into, the networks of others you engage in, the direction you take value in through objects all add up to an ideological process. Nick spoke passionately about the need to re-activate an enquiring approach to materiality. Of course, anyone who has read Bernard Leach’s writing may find a measure of similarity. However, arguably, Leach expressed his material politics in a semi-mystical way by talking of ‘returning to the clay’ as a return to the self. Nick’s drive is more progressive, I think. He is interested in making as a way of extending knowledge and understanding, of exploring the realms of the possible." (Guy Julier - Professor of Design and Culture, V&A Museum writing about the Design Salon series).
"On Our Doorsteps stand, was a perceptive installation by the University of Brighton showcasing projects by designers working as local activitists, either by making new products from materials scavenged off nearby streets or creating schemes to galvanise communities" (Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director of The Crafts Council writing in The Huffington Post).
"Architects and Designers are ahead of the curve when it comes to environmental and sustainable awareness, but education and information resources remain a key barrier to the de facto adoption of sustainable product design. 100% Sustainable? was designed and implemented by designers for designers. It spoke to designers in a voice they could understand and relate to, so demonstrating that sustainable design is both achievable and now the only option."
(Peter Massey, Director of '100% Design exhibition')
"Paper Thin Buildings - Flat-pack usually implies packaging and furniture made from rigid cardboard, wood or similarly inflexible materials. The structures designed by Nick Gant challenge this notion; they are produced from an ultra-thin lightweight PETG. Using a folded plastic sheet that is extremely thin (0.75mm), these incredible geodesic structures are rigid and self-supporting. The beauty of this design lies in the use of such a thin sheet on such a large scale without the need for an internal framework to support the sheets. Using thje principle of origami, which uses the inherent strength of fold to make three-dimensional structures the design explores the application of plastic in a new context. Another aspect that makes this project unique is that it eliminates the need to include glass in order to obtain total transparency in a building."
('Plastics – Materials for Inspirational Design' Book, Chris Lefteri, Rotavision 2006).
"Nick Gant and Tanya Dean are masters of material manipulation. Having already received international acclaim for their progressive work with Perspex acrylic. They have teamed up with a group of multidisciplinary craft-based creatives in a bid to push the boundaries of materials practice even further. The juxstapostion of old and new is perhaps best seen in best effect in the convertible Skinned Prismex table designed by Gant and Dean. Combining the use of Perspex with a variety of traditional and contemporary materials and techniques has resulted in a selection of fascinating designs."
(Design Week, 19 September 2002)