University of Hertfordshire

Professor Grace Lees-Maffei MA RCA PhD FRHistS FRSA FHEA


Grace Lees-Maffei

Professor Grace Lees-Maffei MA RCA PhD FRHistS FRSA FHEA


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


Research interests

Professor Lees-Maffei's research as a design historian has focussed on design discourses and the mediation of ideas about design through channels including domestic advice literature, corporate literature, graphic design, magazines and advertising. She has contributed to knowledge and understanding of heritage, national identity and globalization, domesticity, design historical methodology and the historiography of design.

Lees-Maffei is author of Design at Home: Domestic Advice Books in Britain and the USA since 1945 (Routledge 2014) and co-author of Reading Graphic Design in Cultural Context (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019). She is editor of Writing Design: Words and Objects (Berg 2012) and Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things (Bloomsbury 2014, paperback 2020), and co-editor of The Design History Reader (Berg 2010), Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design (Bloomsbury Academic 2014) and Designing Worlds: National Design Histories in an Age of Globalization (Berghahn, 2016, paperback 2018). Grace's research has been published in journals including Design IssuesDesign and Culture, The Design Journal, the Journal of Design History,Women's History ReviewModern Italy, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education and the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice.

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 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 convened the Society's 2009 Annual Conference, Writing Design: Object, Process, Discourse, Translation, hosted at the University of Hertfordshire, and has demonstrated an extensive commitment to the editorial work of the Society's journal, the Journal of Design History as Chair of the Editorial Board (from September 2021), as Managing Editor (2011-17), as Editorial Board Member (2002-8) and as Book Reviews Editor (2002-6). 

Prof Lees-Maffei is Book Series Editor, with Prof Kjetil Fallan (University of Oslo), for Cultural Histories of Design (Bloomsbury Academic) and Advisory Board Member for that publisher's Bloomsbury Design Library. She is also Advisory Board member for AIS/Design Storia e Ricerche, Journal of the AIS/Design (Associazione italiana degli storici del design). Previously, she was an advisory board member for The Poster (renamed as the Journal of Political Visual Communication) and Series Editor for Writing Visual Culture.

Since 2012, Grace has been a member (Research and International) of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. In 2013 she served on the Arts and Humanities Selection Panel for the British Council Researcher Links initiative.

From 2016-2019, Professor Lees-Maffei was Advisory Board Member for ‘Irish Electric Homes’, an AHRC Leadership Fellowship project led by Dr Sorcha O’Brien, Kingston University. 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

Professor Lees-Maffei is a qualified research supervisor interested in supervising research across the field of design history, critical heritage studies and cultural history.

She has supervised three doctoral students to successful completion:

  • External Supervisor, Jamie Jacobs, DPhil (2021) 'Principles and Practice: Craft and mechanisation in the fabrication of A.W.N. Pugin's designs in the applied arts’, Department of Architecture, University of Kent 
  • 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.

Grace is currently supervising the following doctoral students:

  • Principal Supervisor for Sarah Buckingham, ‘A Reconsideration of Principles and Practice in Major Interventions to Rehabilitate Heritage Sites’
  • Principal Supervisor for Alison Lister, ‘The business of conservation: understanding and developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes for successful and sustainable commercial conservation practice’
  • Co-Supervisor for Kayleigh Davies, ‘The British Toy Industry in the 20th Century: Enthusiasts as Guardians and Gatekeepers of Historical Knowledge’
  • Co-Supervisor for Zana Osmani, ‘Regeneration of Historic Town of Janjeva: Challenge and Opportunity’
  • Co-Supervisor for Nicola Moody, ‘Handweaving as a pertinent artform to illuminate stories and data generated because of the COVID-19 Pandemic’. 

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

  • Bugali, Hilal (2019) ‘Emancipatory Design: A Foucauldian Critical Discourse Study’, Robert Gordon University, UK. Revise and resubmit for an MPhil (not submitted).
  • Hartley, Alexandra PhD (2019) ‘The Cultural Legacy of the Mechanics Institute Movement in the North of England’, University of Huddersfield, UK.
  • 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.

Lees-Maffei has delivered doctoral training 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, 2014.

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 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, Grace worked as a gallery lecturer in the Education Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, as a visiting lecturer at the University for the Creative Arts Epsom and Farnham, and as a Guest Lecturer at the University of the Arts London.