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Global Innovation Design (MA)

Jessica Riley

Jessica Riley is an interdisciplinary designer who enjoys exploring the complex and intangible challenges we face as a society. Asking broader questions about future socio-cultural challenges of globalisation, Jessica explores design as a tool to develop resilient communities, through creativity, participation, and cultural awareness. 


MA/MSc Global Innovation Design, Royal College of Art and Imperial College London (2020)

First-class honours Multimedia Textiles Design (BA Hons), Loughborough University (2014)


Prior to her MA/MSc in Global Innovation Design, Jessica worked for a number of years for the market-leading commercial flooring company Amtico where she specialised in print and surface design innovations. Jessica collaborated cross-departmentally and with international suppliers to design and develop core product innovations and was involved in multiple aspects of the product development and creative delivery process, from customer research, trend research and competitor analysis, to manufacturing and photography. As Specials Coordinator for the company (2014 - 2015) Jessica was also responsible for advising and developing bespoke products for a wide range of customers internationally, developing products from design to delivery. 

Recent Exhibitions:

Work in Progress Show, RCA and Imperial College London, January 2020  

GID Showcase, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, November 2019  

GID Exhibition, Tsinghua University, Beijing, July 2019 



Personal Website

Project Instagram

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Degree Details

School of Design

Global Innovation Design (MA)

Empowering and engaging people in the places and communities they’re part of has never been more important. I believe the future of design lies in creative social innovations, empowering social infrastructure and finding better ways of looking after and understanding each other as well as the world we live in.

My identity as a designer is formed by five core motivations; making the intangible tangible, fascination with our human experience, curiosity, deep-diving into contexts, and advocating for meaningful change through design. Above all I am practically optimistic; facing global, complex challenges with empathy, cultural awareness and creativity.

The experience of living in London, Beijing, and Singapore as part of the GID programme, meant engaging with design in the context of deep physical, material, cultural and emotional “embedded-ness”. This sensitivity to place has been formative in my projects and my professional and personal perspectives. GID encouraged my fascination with people, allowing me to explore how we understand each other and the world around us. I was able to explore behaviour change principles, human perception, social constructs, participatory design methodologies, inclusive processes and collaborative working. Fundamentally, it reinforced my intention to work with people and for people. Throughout the course I constantly asked: “Why? What happens if? Could we try?”. This allowed me to dig deeper, broaden, narrow down and re-purpose methods, things and information to explore complexity and challenge the status quo.

Aesthetics of Place:

The ongoing project, Aesthetics of Place has received substantial validation and interest from stakeholders ranging from community engagement and built environment professionals to local authorities, as well as interest from the general public. 

I am looking for opportunities to take Aesthetics of Place forward by working with related projects, particularly those with a focus on urban development and placemaking, aiming to create social impact. Please contact me to find out more or collaborate. 

Research Question

Introducing Aesthetics of Place

Visual Ethnography, Defining Aesthetics of Place

Social Media Cultural Probe Campaign

Participatory Workshop Materials — Suitable for both digital and face-to-face delivery.

Participatory Workshop Focus Group Testing

Aesthetic Summary for "Safe and Caring"

Methodological Framework for External Partners

Hear More About Aesthetics of Place — Interviewed by fellow GID graduate Paris-Anne O'Shea, find out what inspired Aesthetics of Place and hear more about my journey to pursue social impact through aesthetics.
How might we empower communities to uncover, understand and augment their collective culture through aesthetics?

This project explores how we might use the colours, materials, objects, and behaviours we see in our shared spaces as a lens to explore collective cultural values and community aspirations. Addressing the existing visibility gap between diverse communities and the external powers that shape our shared spaces, it offers external parties a method to more sensitively understand and respond to the current and future aspirations of the diverse community they represent.

Building on theories of Environmental Aesthetics and existing community engagement practises, I’ve designed an adaptive methodology and participatory workshop materials to help communities uncover, define and shape the aesthetics of place that make their place feel like theirs. This new way of seeing and shaping the places we share has the potential for impact through encouraging a deeper sense of place for the community involved, providing accessible tools of engagement and encouraging social cohesion through shared understanding. Acting as a foundation for future research, development and public awareness this approach to community-led, aesthetic “place-shaping” could be developed to support places and communities that are inclusive, complex and resilient.

Aesthetics of Place has received substantial validation and interest from stakeholders ranging from community engagement and built environment professionals to local authorities, as well as interest from the general public. I am looking for opportunities to take Aesthetics of Place forward by working with related projects, particularly those with a focus on urban development and placemaking, aiming to create social impact. Please contact me to find out more or collaborate.
AestheticsArchitectureCommunityDesign MethodologyDesign researchEngagementParticipationparticipatory futuresPlacemakingSocial ImpactUrban Design

Illustrating What It Feels Like To Live In Singapore

Personal Reflection, What We Chose And Why

Sharing, Discussing and Exchanging Perspectives

What Singapore Feels Like

Exhibited At Work In Progress Show, January 2020

What if we could use aesthetics to communicate cultural values?

For millennia we have turned to the aesthetic components of our environment to understand the world around us. When we experience our contemporary, urban environments, how do the formal aesthetic components affect and influence our sense of place? If aesthetics are a global and intuitive language that engage with our deeply-rooted, human instincts, could we use these aesthetic components to communicate specific cultural values from one community to another?

During my time in Singapore (studying at Nanyang Technological University), in response to these questions, and inspired by the prominent use of geometric components in Asian design, I designed an experimental workshop that asked if it was possible to show someone what it feels like to be somewhere, through the power of colour, shape and composition. The workshop format provided a platform for people to communicate and discuss their individual and sometimes opposing impressions. through the narrative of making and sending a postcard.

This format supported critical and meaningful insights into what living in Singapore meant to different people, through sometimes conflicting interpretations. The postcards acted as “mitigating objects” that supported self-reflection and communication of complex personal, political and cultural insights.

Shi Jia Hutong Community Engagement

Social Imprint: Objects Acquired For Seating, Abandoned In Situ

Personalised Doorsteps

Pot-plant Enthusiasts

A self-directed exploration into the cultural heritage and visual character of the Hutongs in Beijing. Extreme economic growth in China has resulted in complex socio-cultural challenges for the people that live in the Hutongs. They are highly sought after areas for residential and commercial development, however are also crucial to Beijing’s cultural and material heritage.

Through visual ethnography and one-to-one community interviews I explored the current culture of the Hutongs. I photographed the shared spaces and community areas to identify culturally and location specific objects, colours, materials and behaviours. I interviewed four residents of the ShiJia Hutong who have lived there all their lives. I also joined some community consultation research trips for a social innovation project that aimed to improve access to sanitation for the elderly within the Hutong community.

This photographic exploration was the foundation for my future projects, Akasa and Aesthetics of Place. It deepened my interest in deep diving into a context, engaging with a community and exploring how we might facilitate creative agency over the spaces we share in complex and evolving urban environments.
Launch Project

Aesthetics of Place Interactive Workshops

What are Aesthetics of Place? How can we use aesthetics to shape the future of our shared spaces?

Join an interactive workshop where we will explore what Aesthetics of Place mean to us through the medium of collage.

Following a short introduction, we will create individual responses to what our specific Aesthetics of Place mean to us, followed by a brief discussion exploring these perspectives and open discussion. This is an informal workshop, everyone is welcome to participate regardless of experience.

Booking in advance is required, please follow the link in the About section above to confirm your place.
24 July 2020
9:00 (GMT + 0)

Global Innovation Design Graduates Present: Aesthetics of Place

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