Scholarly biography and interests

Tanya Dean is joint area leader for Polymers and Composites on the Design and Craft programme and co-founder of acclaimed design consultancy Studio BoBo. Described by Design Week as a 'master of material manipulation', she utilises her expertise to develop research initiatives and projects that explore, develop, test and apply new materials design innovations in a broad range of industrial and public contexts and in the promotion of charities, NGOs and exemplar 'materialists'.

Dean has instigated and executed a diverse range of multimedia projects which explore the breadth of material application, forming a wide range of outputs from highly crafted interior installations and commercial product design for use by industry and more recently promotional and awareness raising products for charities and NGOs. 

Along with long term collaborator and colleague Nick Gant, Dean is using some unorthodox waste materials including dog hair, chip fat and breast milk in the formation of objects that mediate complex issues of material culture. Dean and Gant have turned their industrially developed knowledge to the creation of materials and objects that promote awareness of exemplar applications, signal future sustainable use and change behaviour and perceptions of materials in times of dwindling resources and material security. In particular this includes the promotion of companies, NGOs and charitable organisations who use and endorse materials for social and environmental benefit, including the NHS Milk Bank, Vision Aid Overseas, The Marine Conservation Society and WWF.

Previous clients, sponsors and associates include global material manufacturers like ICI, Lucite International, Perspex, Ineos and Eastman as well as individuals and branded organizations as diverse as Vivienne Westwood, Apple, The Beatles, Dyson, Absolut Vodka, Fender Guitars, Phillips, The V&A and Natural History Museums, 100% Design, PUMA and the BBC. Dean's work sits within a self-perpetuated network of creatives, researchers and companies which cross a range of disciplines and activities - motivating and facilitating the exploration of particular areas of research interest and industrial concern. 

Tanya Dean's research interests stem from an intuitive and rigorous enquiry of materials and making which has led to new material innovations articulated through objects, products and spaces.

Dean was commissioned by world leading material manufacturers to explore and unearth, experiment and test, promote and apply new material attributes to a range of creative, industrial contexts. She is currently focusing on the formation of 'meaningful waste materials' so as to promote exemplar uses and 'materialists'. The research continues a 15 year long exploration strand which investigates design and craft methodologies which aim to imbue materials (in particular waste) with value(s), visual language and meaning so as to promote and provoke greater awareness and motivate engagement with material culture.

Research questions include:

Beyond technical recycling, can the processing of by-product and / or waste materials successfully contain, convey and/or enhance embodied material narratives and meaning – to promote greater understanding and use of more sustainable products?

Can objects be designed to promote user engagement with materiality (matter-reality) to facilitate greater understanding and evaluation of complex material culture?

What are the implications for material, manufacturing and design practices of 'material meanings'? 

Featured works and projects

Meaning Making

This industrial engagement presents methodological approaches / tools to generating 'meaningful waste materials'

Flip-flopsam and Jetsam

Up-cycling ‘waste’ and ‘surplus’ materials to create an emotionally durable, sustainable product

Breast Milk Booties

Reconceptualising human ‘surplus’ or ‘waste’ to promote the work of the NHS and UK Breast Milk Bank

GreenHouse Project

Tanya Dean is co-founder of acclaimed design consultancy BoBo Design Ltd and Area Leader for Plastics

Perspex Frost

Tanya Dean is co-founder of acclaimed design consultancy BoBo Design Ltd and Area Leader for Plastics

Research and professional activity

Repository holdings 

Number of items: 5.

Dean, Tanya and Gant, Nicholas (2013) Breast milk booties: an investigation into 'waste' materials and the re-evaluation of meaning through the use of the communicative cultural archetype of shoes [Artefact]

Dean, Tanya and Gant, Nicholas (2013) Sole Searching [Artefact]

Dean, Tanya and Gant, Nicholas (2012) Meaning Making [Exhibition]

Dean, Tanya and Gant, Nicholas (2011) Flip-flopsam and jetsam: a study examining the agency, values and narratives embodied in materials and artefacts [Artefact]

Dean, Tanya (2005) The Green House project The Green House project, West Sussex, UK.

This list was generated on Thu Sep 13 04:13:02 2018 BST.

Selected further activities 


  • Peer reviewed paper Gant, N. and Dean, T. 'Making Meaning' at Making Futures Conference, Plymouth, UK. 
  • Peer reviewed paper Gant,N. and Dean, T. 'Mediating Material Narratives for Meaningful Products', Poetics and Praxis - Research Through Design Conference, Northumbria.
  • Exhibition of Sole Searching Shoes (Breast Milk Booties, Businessman's Brogues and Flip-flopsam and Jetsam) at Baltic Centre Newcastle. 
  • Launched 'Breast Milk Booties' in collaboration with Tanya Dean by invitation of the NHS Imperial Trust and The UK Milk Bank to promote World, Breast Milk Donor Day. Appearing in international press coverage in over 15 countries.
  • Seminar presentation 'Meaning Making' at the Wastezone, Ecobuild, Excel, London (world's largest design and build industry event).


  • Working with Vision Aid Overseas by utilising the waste materials from used spectacles to create promotional and awareness raising objects to promote the charity and exemplar material applications. 
  • 'Making Meaning' at PUMA HQ - produced exhibits and content for industry focused exhibition, data gathering and lecture to designers professionals and research and development staff from global sportswear, fashion and apparel brands. Exhibiting and presenting 'meaningful waste materials' articulated through products, which attendees evaluate to provide data according to three criteria; meaning, value and applicability (to their industry)
  • Production of new material hybrid casein formed from breast milk with Imperial NHS, promoting the Milk Bank process of recycling and collecting donations of waste / excess breast milk to feed premature children or children of very sick mothers. The material is a useable mouldable and rigid material, in this case formed into tiny baby booties based on the size of some premature children as part of the ongoing collaborative project 'Sole Searching'. 
  • Production of recycled glass and bio-resin hybrid material forming stable, functional thermoset material for general purpose moulding into resistant object/product forms. 
  • Production of 'Flip-Flotsam and Jetsam' shoes constructed onsite from plastic beach waste collected by volunteers and the Oceanic Conservation Society, rewarding collectors with a practical pair of beach shoes, embedded with local significance, value and enduring meaning, whilst helping protect the environment and raise awareness of issues of marine conservation and waste. 
  • Silcon and carbon / coal slag hybrid material formation post engagement with Cutacre Colliery in Greater Manchester. The material is stable and mouldable and will be applied to products as a waste stream resource with cultural significance. 


  • Manufacture of "Gentlemen's Brogue" shoe for public awareness of the value of cork forestry - made from recycled plastics corks, the shoes demonstrate the capacity for reuse of problematic waste materials whilst highlighting the mis-perception and contradictions that emerge from consumer behaviour with potentially, unintended negative environmental consequences. The shoes will form part of the 'Sole Searching' exhibition. 


  • Launch of Greenhouse major spatial design project funded by the Big Lottery to build a new recycling centre - winner of National Charity Associations Design Award (wow).
  • Consultancy commission work for Fender Guitars – "50 years of the Stratocaster" exhibition proposal
  • Exhibit 'Euroshop', Dusseldorf, Germany (February)


  • Featured in book 'Brilliant' (Jane Pavitt, V&A Books)
  • '100% Design', London (September)
  • 'Visual Communications', Milan (November)
  • Exhibited 'Skinned Prismex Table' and 'Frosted Glonuts' pieces in major lighting exhibition; 'Brilliant', V&A Museum London, England
  • Exhibition 'Visual Communications', Paris (September)


  • Exhibition 'Any Colour You Like', Building Centre, London, England


  • Exhibition '100% Design', London, England
  • Exhibition 'Fespa', Madrid, Spain
  • Exhibition 'Euroshop', Dusseldorf, German


  • Perspex Frost material and Glo-nut and Pillow light product launches 
  • Commissioned research paper and proposal for Lucite TM
  • Exhibition Exhibition 'Homo Habitat', Rome, Italy
  • Exhibition '100% Design', London, England
  • ‘Synthetic’, Pure Gallery, Old St, London, England


  • Article created by global trend forecasting company WGSN about Dean (and Gant's) 'Sole Searching' waste materials project, published to 78,000 corporate subscribers globally from worlds leading consumer brands.
  • Invited panel member at UK's largest design event 100% Design as part of Eco Design Industry seminar series. Session Sustainable Materials and Meaning. 
  • Invited to PUMA HQ Sustainable Design Collective industry exhibition, research gathering and keynote presentation of 'Meaning Making and Sole Searching'.


  • Faculty Research Funding for 'Sole Searching' 


  • External validation panel member for London College of Fashion 


  • Awarded the National Association of Charity Retailers National Design Award for the design of 'The GreenHouse' sustainability, retail and education social enterprise project in 2005
  • Invited by International Guitar Club on Behalf of Fender Guitars to design proposal for 50 years of the iconic Stratocaster Guitar. 
  • Awarded lottery funded income for GreenHouse project 
  • Habitat Catalogue, Spring/Summer
  • Brilliant (Book), Jane Pavitt, V&A
  • Blueprint feature
  • Materials for Inspirational Design – Plastics 2 (Book), Chris Leftrei, Rotovision
"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 the 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). 


  • Gioai feature, Autumn
  • Elle Interior Design (Europe), November
  • European Plastics News, Autumn
  • Journal of Landscape Institute, November
  • Materials for Inspirational Design – Plastics (Book), Chris Leftrei, Rotovision


  • Winner of the Crafts Council Bursary and major sponsorship by Perspex TM for Marriage of Materials project
  • BoBo Frosted Glonut selected as the icon product to represent the 100% Design show and Independent Newspapers ‘Top 50’ lighting products
  • Design week, feature article, September
  • New Design Magazine feature article, October
  • Ottagano (Italy) feature article, September
  • Frankfurter Allgemeine feature article, Germany
  • IDFX, feature article, June
  • World of Interiors, feature article February


  • Moebel Interior Design feature article, (Holland) December
  • Intramuros, (France) feature article, December
  • The Independent feature article, October


  • Selected as best of show 100% Design 2000 by Frame magazine
  • Selected by the British European Design Group and the DTI to represent the British Contemporary Design Movement on the International Exhibition Circuit


  • Designed features on the Lucite TM exhibition design for ISH; Winner of the Design Business Association Award for Design Effectiveness in association with Elmwood Design. Sponsored by BT and Design Week
  • Major sponsorship from ICI for the V&A, Design Festival BoBo Installation


  • Finalist Blueprint Design Awards for the Airwave Table – selected by Verner Panton
  • Provided consultancy and creative work (as BoBo Design Ltd) for The Beatles/Apple, BBC, Science Museum, ICI, Ineos, Lucite International, Fender Guitars, Vivienne Westwood and Absolut Vodka.

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