Design School

School staff

Laura Santamaria BA Visual Communication Design, MA Branding & Packaging

Photo of  Laura  Santamaria

Laura is a design practitioner, researcher and tutor. She obtained a BA in Visual Communication Design and an MA in Branding and Packaging at the University of La Plata, Argentina, and has worked in the UK since 1993 in the areas of brand strategy, product/service innovation and user experience. Laura developed a wide range of skills and experience by working with a diversity of clients in the corporate sector (finance, consumer goods and fashion) as well as charities and small start-ups, both on a freelance capacity within agencies such as Wolff Olins (branding) and Ogilvy One (customer engagement/user experience), and as an independent consultant through her own agency, SantamariaMedia.

Her current work and research interests focus on applying strategy methods used in the commercial sector to benefit not-for-profit organisations, and encourage a cultural change towards social and environmental sustainability. She has been working in design-driven socio-economic development since 2009, partnering with EU funded organisation Grampus to lead apprenticeship and residency programs in rural villages in Europe, and offering placements/training to design students interested in contributing towards economic development through contemporary reinterpretation of traditional skills and crafts.

Laura is also co-founder andeditor-in-chief of Sublime, a magazine dedicated to making sustainability accessible and aspirational through design and entrepreneurship. Her experience and expertise have led her to advocate for cultural trends, sustainability and design innovation, often engaging as industry expert with the media, and as panel/keynote speaker and competition judging at diverse conferences and events. In 2015, she was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at the School of Business, Law and Communications, Southampton Solent University, for her contribution to media innovation and sustainability.

Laura’s research aims to encourage wider adoption of sustainable lifestyles by investigating cultural and socio-symbolic aspects of consumption. Her approach integrates theories and methods from cultural studies, semiotics and behavioural economics to design and innovation processes, as a way to gain a holistic understanding of the local socio-cultural aspects that influence an innovation’s adoption and diffusion.

Her doctoral research in particular, aims to improve the design and value proposition formulation of sustainable PSSs (as cases of bottom-up sustainable innovation), as a strategy to encourage adoption of more sustainable modes of consumption and production. The research focuses on investigating the value of applied semiotics and cultural analysis methods to draw socio-cultural references as ‘design constraints’ that could enhance an innovation’s relevance and appeal (symbolic value). It argues that, further to improving the innovation’s competitive advantage, socio-cultural context research enables designers to actively contribute towards ‘cultural sustainability’ and ‘sense of place’ by aiming to preserve local and familiar cultural meanings, but also to link them to new, more sustainable products and practices.

Laura is a member of the Sustainable Design Research Group.

From Good to Great: Using Cultural Codes to Improve the Design and Value Proposition of Sustainable Product-Service System Innovations

Sustainable lifestyles and consumption; social entrepreneurship; sustainable fashion; branding and visual culture; product/service innovation; user experience; cultural heritage and craft practices; forecasting; media, communication; semiotics and cultural theory.