Dean Stanford-Palmer

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Dean Stanford-Palmer PGCE, MA

Principal Lecturer Design / Business and Enterprise Lead for the department of Art & Design


I am Principal Lecturer and the Business and Enterprise Lead in the Department of Art and Design. I am also the Operational Coordinator for the Future Now programme within the College of Social Sciences and Arts, at Sheffield Hallam University.

I have been teaching on the product design courses (Product Design: Furniture and Product Design) for 15 years. I have benefited from a varied career and spent approximately 10 years as a police officer in both the Metropolitan Police and the Bermuda Police service, before leaving to pursue a more creative profession in music and later design. 


I am the Business and Enterprise Lead for the Department of Art & Design. This exciting portfolio enables me to manage and develop creative professional networks and strategic partnerships (including knowledge exchange opportunities) with a diverse range of industry partners and organisations.

I am passionate about creating impactful work experience opportunities for students and recognise the importance of aspirational employer led provision within our curriculum.

Teaching - Design Specialism

I am a Furniture Designer/ Maker, Design Educator and Design Researcher. I ran my own Furniture Designer / Maker business, producing bespoke furniture pieces to commission. Prior to working at Sheffield Hallam University, I taught Design & Technology in several schools and colleges in the UK. I have been teaching Product Design: Furniture and Product Design for some 15 years on both the Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses and have supported numerous Product Design: Furniture graduates to achieve National Design Award success at New Designers, Islington, London.  

April 2018 _ Salone Satellite, Salone de Mobile, Milan 2018

Salone Satellite, set up by Marva Griffin in 1998, is the Salone del Mobile Milano event dedicated to designers under 35, geared to facilitating interface between businesses and young designers preparing to embark on the profession and launch themselves on the market after finishing their training.

I organised, managed, and curated an opportunity for product design students and alumni to exhibit their work at this most prestigious International Furniture Design Fair. Participating alumni continue to advocate that this one-week international exhibition was one of the most pivotal and impactful experiences of their undergraduate degree.

March – October 2015_ Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth Furniture Exhibition at Chatsworth House.

I supported students and alumni to develop a series of furniture products that were exhibited at this nationally renowned 6-month exhibition at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. The work of Art & Design Product Design: Furniture students and alumni were exhibited alongside high-profile professional designers, including Marc Newson, Thomas Heatherwick and Raw Edges.

The student and alumni furniture products were visited by a staggering 447,573 visitors and was pivotal in helping them to promote both their work and develop their professional profile and industry networks.

Specialist areas of interest

  • Furniture Design
  • Product Design
  • Speculative and Critical Design | See research below
  • Material Investigation + Research | analysis and researching more sustainable and innovative alternatives
  • Design Education | Interested in questioning the ‘future of creative design research and practice within higher education’ as well as exploring alternative curricula related to design practice.

Employability and career development

My varied career and non-linear path to design has helped me to appreciate the importance of a core skill set and in particular an awareness that passion, focus and discipline can help to provide the basis for a successful creative career. My own career path has also provided me with an empathy and awareness of the tests facing the future direction and opportunities for our student designers.
I am acutely aware of the changing and fluid employment challenges that are prevalent at this time. The need for graduates to possess a relevant and desirable skill set is vitally important.

I believe that design and the design process inherent in ‘designing’ and ‘thinking’ offers our students a vital proficiency and skill set that should enable them to contribute effectively to a rapidly changing employment future. This is supported by the World Economic Forum’s Report entitled: The future of jobs - who suggest that the 3 most important skills for the 2020 working environment will be Creativity; Critical Thinking and Complex problem solving.

My role as the employability lead for product and furniture design ensures that I continue to generate strategies to help prepare our students for the world of work. Close links with the wider design industry; through live commercial design projects, portfolio clinics and employability surgeries, all help to improve our student’s commercial and professional awareness and develop their professional contacts.

Importance of transferable skills – a design skill set can offer a great deal to non-design employment routes.


Department of Art and Design

College of Social Sciences and Arts

Subject area

Product Design

Courses taught 

BA Product Design / MA Design for Performance Sports 

Modules taught 

Professional Engagement - Performance Sports Context 


Current research projects

My own area of research centres around Critical Design, particularly using speculative projects to help challenge our understanding of materiality.

According to Dunne & Raby (2017) Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life. They argue that if design is to have relevance within a complex and rapidly changing political, economic, and social environment then it should provoke, spark debate, and highlight assumptions.

I have also undertaken extensive investigation to identify how improvisation might support design iteration and critical thinking.

Collaborators and sponsors

Collaborative Online International Learning _ COIL

I have managed two very successful COIL projects between Sheffield Hallam University and the MBA Business School at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. 

Project 01 _ 10 week ‘Pilot’ co-curricular project
The first ‘pilot’ project involved second year Art & Design students from Sheffield Hallam University and MBA students from La Trobe University collaborating to form a business and design consultancy in support of several SMEs based in the UK and Australia. The SHU/LTU student consultancy partnership provided participating SMEs with both business-driven insight and research & design innovation. The varying outcomes including marketing assets and design proposals were estimated to have generated approximately 90,000 Australian dollars of revenue to participating SMEs. The project also provided students with a valuable commercial ‘real world’ opportunity to apply their respective discipline specialisms in support of impactful business growth.

Project 02 _ 6-month design and consultancy project leading to an International Freelance Sandwich Placement for 9 A&D students.
The second much longer project involved second year Art & Design students from Sheffield Hallam University and MBA students from La Trobe University collaborating to form a business and design consultancy in support of several SMEs based in the UK and Australia. The SHU/LTU student consultancy partnership provided participating SMEs with both business-driven insight and research & design innovation. Art & Design students were able to use this impactful work experience as part of their International Freelance Sandwich Placement, enabling them to apply their design skills and developing business acumen to generate a series of design proposals and products. The combined outcomes of these projects supported significant business growth and product development, and enabled Art & Design students to develop their entrepreneurial competency and professional profile. 

Sheffield Innovation Programme _ Knowledge Exchange 

Utilising European funding and extensive industry networks, I was able to generate and develop a series of collaborative projects with a diverse range of regional SMEs, providing university specialist technical insight to help drive research & development in support of business growth. 

“We have been working with Sheffield Hallam University to help develop a future design product and we have really benefited from the testing, ideation, and pragmatic technical support that we have received from specialists within the University. We really could not have undertaken this R&D project without the expertise and dedication from the Sheffield Hallam University team, who continue to be a real asset to our company”. Rowan Williams, Product Manager Alpkit

I recognise the value of knowledge exchange opportunities and the importance of interfacing directly with industry to not only support their own impactful research & innovation but also to help generate meaningful ‘work experience’ opportunities for our students, namely, in the form of ‘live’ projects, sandwich placements, sponsorship as well as industry mentorship.


Other activities

Future Now
In September 2023, I undertook a new role as Operational Coordinator of the Future Now programme, working across the college of Social Sciences and Arts to interface directly with external partners to help drive knowledge exchange and knowledge transfer partnership opportunities.

Invitation to business and external organisations

If any business or organisation is interested in engaging with the University and would like to know more about how we might collaborate to support of your business, then please contact me via:
Direct line +44 (0) 114 2252709

Postgraduate supervision

MA Design for Performance Sports  


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