Vanessa Brown

Vanessa Brown

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer

School of Art & Design

Staff Group(s)
Fashion, knitwear and textile design


Team Leader and Senior Lecturer in Design and Visual Culture

Design and Visual Culture Team LeaderVanessa leads the team delivering 'contextual' studies for programmes in fashion and textiles and fashion marketing, which take the form of bespoke modules providing historical and theoretical grounding for design and marketing students drawing on the recent developments in visual and material culture and fashion theory.

Module Leader for final year DVCAs part of this responsibility Vanessa has developed assessments designed to allow students to express their research findings in a variety of innovative forms (see below).

Vanessa is interested in supervising PhD students, if you are interested please select the Research tab to see more information about her research field.

Career overview

Information for prospective research students

Any subject focused on the significance of imagery, objects, fabrics - visual and material culture, cool (incorporating issues of authenticity, subcultures, modernity, technology, speed, retro, identity, postmodernity, the spectacular/glamour).

Research areas

  • Objects, Practices, Experiences and Networks (OPEN)
  • Fashion, Textiles and Knitwear
  • Sustainable Consumption

Vanessa's research is focused around visual culture and the relationships between identity and the potential meanings of everyday designed objects within modernity. For example, femininity, feminism and the image of the ideal 1950s housewife (published in Polkey and O'Donnell 2000), sunglasses and cool (the subject of her PhD, completed 2010), and most recently kitsch, cool and the tastes of a British subcultural elite (awaiting online publication). She is currently working on publications from the PhD.

Her work is characterised by a multi-disciplinarity that is increasingly necessary to untangle the web of historical and contemporary associations, ideologies and loosely held beliefs which do so much to constitute the potential meanings of designed objects, which in turn can help to answer the big questions for fashion culture - why do so many people want to be 'cool'? How do taste and power relate to one another? More general areas of knowledge are modernity, postmodernity; twentieth century design history (special additional interest in pattern/illustration); fashion theory, popular culture, celebrity culture.

Vanessa is also interested in innovation in teaching and learning, and has developed a range of innovative strategies to encourage diverse design students to aim high in their research and writing, including: the visual dissertation, options to produce publications/exhibition derived from dissertation study, an undergraduate symposium showcasing student progression and staff research; a competition for placement with Hemingway Design, writing workshops based on life-drawing techniques; an online seminar project; as well as innovative ways to exhibit 'written' work.

Ideas for future work: to draw on new developments in material cultural studies and fashion theory to consolidate methods for 'reading' texture and pattern; and to apply the findings of the PhD about the significance of 'cool' in modern life to more sustainable design and consumption.

Cool theory (and knowledge of visual culture) could have many potential applications to areas like health promotion, education and sustainable consumption.

External activity

2003-2007, External examiner in Design History and in Critical Studies for Photo/Video at Bolton University. Vanessa has been asked in relation to critical/contextual studies to advise across all Boltons' programmes in Art and Design.

Press expertise

Fashion theory; Visual Culture; What is "cool"; Popular Culture.