UCL Anthropology


Camilla Sundwall

Camilla Sundwall

UCL Email: camilla.sundwall.11@ucl.ac.uk
Year of Start: 2011
Supervisors: Susanne Küchler, Adam Drazin
Subject: Material Visual and Digital Culture
Fieldsite: London

PhD Research

Material relationships: From industrial design to every day life

This research will unpack the systems and social orders behind choosing, assessing and bringing materials into peoples' everyday lives. Industrial design is a filter through which most materials today pass through before entering the public domain-be it food substances, the 'immaterial' such as digital interfaces or sounds, or the more traditional substances such as plastics, metals and woods. There are people with careers dedicated to understanding materials, their use and to predict their uptake, and are equipped with specific skills and methods to do so. The aim here is to give an insight into the processes, frameworks and networks in place that facilitate, or sometimes hinder, materials to flow through our physical, mental and emotional domains. In doing so, we will gain a greater understand of how materials are continuously framing and reframing our lives.

With a professional background in product design and materials research I have over a decade of experience in the field of colour, material and finish design. My expertise ranges from working hands-on to make new material compositions to build longstanding material and innovation strategies for global clients. The research builds on my first-hand experiences with allocating and negotiating materials, and through the lens of design unravels social understandings around creativity, innovation, identity, uncertainty, gender and morality.

Research interests

  • Anthropology of design
  • Consumer culture
  • Consumption and production
  • Managing the future and uncertainty


  • Miracles and crushed dreams: Material disillusions in the design industry. Chapter in The Material Culture of Failure: When Things Do Wrong, edited by Timothy Carroll, David Jeevendrampillai, Aaron Parkhurst, Julie Shackelford, Bloomsbury Publishing 2017.
  • Various articles on material and design trends in industry magazines such as Interior Design Today and Aircraft Interiors International.

Presentations & Conferences

  • Miracle materials: material disillusions in the design industry, part of Material Failures panel at American Anthropological Association's annual meeting, Chicago 2013.

Teaching Experience

  • Lecture at RCA Design Products platform 22: Design Through Making, on materials, design and anthropology. 2016.
  • MA Material and Visual Culture seminar at UCL on materials and design. 2008.

Education History

BA (Hons) Product Design, Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London. 2008

Additional Information

  • Research assistant for E-fibre: From invention to consumption, an AHRC funded collaborative project between researchers at Nottingham Trent Product Design and textiles, Goldsmiths Computer Science and UCL Anthropology investigating innovation and networks around electronic textiles. 2014.
  • Organised FIGS cross-departmental forum at UCL on Material Properties. 2014.
  • Properties and Social Imagination reading group - Collaborative research with Massey University in New Zealand exploring properties and materials using objects from the UCL ethnographic collection. Resulted in a self-published book outlining the investigation of three objects; a spear thrower, an adze and bark cloth. 2012.