University of Hertfordshire

Professor Grace Lees-Maffei BA Hons MA RCA PhD FHEA


Grace Lees-Maffei

Professor Grace Lees-Maffei BA Hons MA RCA PhD FHEA


Postal address:
University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Hertfordshire
United Kingdom


Research interests

Grace's research as a design historian has contributed to understanding of mediation, national identity and globalization in design, and domesticty. She is interested in the discourses surrounding design, including the dissemination or mediation of ideas about design through channels including domestic advice literature, corporate literature, magazines and advertising. Grace has made influential analyses of design historical methodology and historiography.

Commercial and public engagement

Prof Lees-Maffei is a member of the University's Heritage for Business group, under the auspices of the Heritage Hub, and she has contributed her expertise in the history of design, marketing and mediation of household goods in work with manufacturers and retailers in the UK and Europe.

Lees-Maffei's long-standing collaboration with Berg Publishers (now Bloomsbury Academic) has resulted in The Design History Reader, co-edited with Dr Rebecca Houze of Northern Illinois University, USA (Berg 2010), Writing Design: Words and Objects (Berg 2012); Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), co-edited with Kjetil Fallan of the University of Oslo, Norway; the sole-edited Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things (Bloomsbury 2014) and she is currently finishing a book co-authored with Nicolas P. Maffei, Reading Graphic Design in Cultural Context (Bloomsbury Academic 2018). Grace is Series Editor, with Prof Kjetil Fallan (University of Oslo), of Bloomsbury Academic's book series Cultural Histories of Design.

Routledge published Lees-Maffei's first monograph, Design at Home: Domestic Advice Books in Britain and the USA since 1945 as part of its series Directions in Cultural History. A second book co-edited with Prof Fallan, Designing Worlds: National Design Histories in an Age of Globalization, has been published by Berghahn, and is available open access at Berghahn Books' website.

Lees-Maffei has engaged the public with her research via film and radio appearances and through research assistance to a series of media producers. Her public engagement has been further conducted through service to the Design History Society, as elected Treasurer (1998-2001), and Event Award Coordinator (2001-2). She has maintained her commitment to her subject association by convening the 2009 Design History Society Annual Conference, Writing Design: Object, Process, Discourse, Translation, hosted by TVAD at the University of Hertfordshire, and by making an extensive commitment to the editorial work of the Society's journal, the Journal of Design History.

Prof Lees-Maffei has served as Reviews Editor (2002-4), Editorial Board Member (2002-8) and Managing Editor (2011-17) for the Journal of Design History. She is a member of the Advisory Board for AIS/Design Storia e Ricerche, Journal of the AIS/Design (Associazione italiana degli storici del design) and for The Poster (Intellect).

Grace is a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and has served on the Arts and Humanities Selection Panel for the British Council Researcher Links initiative (2013). In 2012 Lees-Maffei was Consultant to the project Design in Portugal (1960-1974): the actions, actors and repercussions of the Art, Industrial Architecture and Industrial Design Nuclei of the National Institute of Industrial Research (I.N.I.I.), IADE-Instituto de Artes Visuais, Design e Marketing, Lisboa, Portugal.

Teaching specialisms

Prof Lees-Maffei has taught doctoral students in a variety of contexts:

  • She is Programme Director for the Professional Doctorate in Heritage (DHeritage) at the University of Hertfordshire.
  • She was Visiting Professor for the Doctoral Programme in Design, IADE-U, Lisbon, Portugal, teaching the core course ‘Academic Writing in English’, 2013-14
  • Grace was Keynote Speaker at ‘The Statement of the Object: Aesthetics, Theory, Context’, PhD and Research Seminar, Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies, University of Bergen at Centre Franco-Norvégien en Sciences Sociales et Humaines (CFN), Paris, 22-24 October 2014.

Grace is currently supervising the following doctoral students:

  • Principal Supervisor, Sarah Buckingham, ‘A Reconsideration of Principles and Practice in Major Interventions to Rehabilitate Heritage Sites’, University of Hertfordshire DHeritage, Oct 2016- (PT).
  • Co-Supervisor, Carolina Castillo, ‘An examination of how broad knowledge of children’s literature exemplified through the designing, disseminating and curating of text experiences can widen reading for pleasure in the classroom’, University of Hertfordshire EdD, Oct. 2014- (PT).
  • External Supervisor, Jamie Jacobs, ‘AWN Pugin's Relationship to Industrial Production’, Department of Architecture, University of Kent DPhil Oct 2013- (FT). 
  • Co-Supervisor, Cate Hursthouse, ‘Realising the Freudian “Unhomely” in Cloth’, University of Hertfordshire PhD, Oct 2010- (PT). 

She has supervised two doctoral students to successful completion:

  • Co-Supervisor, Alaa Shatwan, PhD (2018) ‘Female Comfort and Natural Light in Contemporary Architecture in Jeddah City’, University of Hertfordshire, UK.
  • Principal Supervisor, Barbara Brownie, PhD (2012) ‘The Behaviour of Fluid Characterforms in Temporal Typography’, University of Hertfordshire, UK.

Lees-Maffei is a qualified research supervisor with experience across design history and heritage. Grace is interested in supervising research across the field of design history, design historical methodology and historiography, cultural history, mediation, design discourse, didactic discourse, domesticity, gender and globalizaton. 

Prof Lees-Maffei's research degree examination experience includes:

  • Miranda Garrett, PhD (2018) ‘Women Decorators at the end of the C19th’, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, UK.
  • Marlizè Groenewald, PhD (2018) ‘Domesticating the modern: An interrogation of the visual rhetoric of South African graphic designer Ernst de Jong (1934-2016)’, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
  • Jacquie Naismith, PhD (2014) ‘Mediating the Alpine Archiscape: Emplacing the Subject in Publicity Design for New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park’, Massey University Te Kunenga Ki Purehuroa, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Patricia Thomas, PhD (2014) ‘Large letter’d as with thundering shout’: A Textual and Graphic Analysis of Nineteenth Century Emigration Posters, New Zealand 1839 – 1875’, Massey University Te Kunenga Ki Purehuroa, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Tracey Avery, PhD (2012) ‘Beneath the Veneer: Negotiating British and Colonial Australian Relationships in Queensland Domestic Interiors, 1880-1901’ University of Melbourne, Australia.

Grace's MA teaching experience includes her Visiting Professorship for the MA Design Cultures at VU University, Amsterdam, teaching the core course Design, History, Culture, and examining MA theses, and teaching on the MA Design Cultures Art and Design at the University of Hertfordshire.

Grace has been teaching at the University of Hertfordshire since 1995, including, in addition to work with research degree and MA students, sustained contributions to the BA Hons Graphic Design and Illustration programme and the BA Hons Contemporary Applied Arts.

Before joining the establishment faculty at Hertfordshire in 1998, Grace worked as a gallery lecturer in the Education Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, as a visiting lecturer at Surrey Institute of Art and Design and as a curatorial assistant at Kensington Palace (Royal Historic Palaces). This was in addition to her curatorial experience at the V&A, and Brighton Pavilion, Art Gallery and Museums.