Ms Shai Akram

Research project: Manufacturing Narratives : A conversation between globalised industry and vernacular craft.


In The Nature of Art and Workmanship, (2007) David Pye asserts that the difference between craft and design is that craft seeks to flawlessly repeat whereas design seeks to find unknown possibilities. This research project shares that spirit and aims to challenge globalised material culture, interrogate current models of industrial production and influence perception of cultural craft. 

As production of goods is increasingly being turned over to mass manufacture, many craft techniques and skills are vanishing from our material lexicon. This study seeks to preserve them by examining the material culture that surround these techniques, developing a means to translate them for use within the design process and testing viable routes re-engaging of the role of hand processes in an industrialised context.

The intent is to work towards viable, tangible outcomes, and break new ground for craft techniques to be integrated into the existing industrial processes as a mean to disrupt and diversify from the outset by:

  • developing international platform/s for integrating craft processes within industrial production.
  • creating a network of makers, materials and manufacturers. (events, archives, libraries, etc)
  • documentation and archiving system of possibilities that allows industry to easily engaging with craft.
  • contribute to the discourse and knowledge around craft practice in relation to contemporary consumer culture.

The aim of this proposal is to radically rearrange the relationship between globalised industry and vernacular craft towards a hybrid creative economy. I view the relationship as a powerful liberator of material language - placing craft techniques within the industrial model, working together to uncover new market possibilities and disrupt the monotony of global uniformity.

  • Research degree: Practice-based PhD
  • Title of project: Manufacturing Narratives : A conversation between globalised industry and vernacular craft.
  • Research supervisor: Dr Jana Scholze


I am a designer, educator and researcher based in East London. I have an ongoing fascination with culturally or geographically specific making techniques and an enduring obsession for natural and scientific phenomena.

During my MA in Design Products at the Royal College of Art (2006) I developed an approach to design that explored the connection between material culture and visual language. I have been asked to bring this approach to a wide range of projects in China, New Zealand, North America, Russia and across Europe.

Since graduating, I co-founded Studio Alt Shift with partner Andrew Haythornthwaite. Studio Alt Shift is a design studio focused upon material research and production of spaces and objects.

The design studio works with clients across the entire process from conceptual direction to final production and installation. Completed projects range from physical outcomes such as commercial interiors (The Chin Chin Laboratories, London), furniture ranges, (Bench Seats and Things, produced for The Book Club with Turners and Moore), exhibition design (AHEC | SKN gallery) and product ranges (Acland Homeware, NZ).

Research-based projects include conceptual / visualisation proposals (ThinkDO Camp - Marks and Spencers, UK), invited residencies (ARCO Furniture, NL) and experimental material research (Corian DuPont, IT). Their work is held in the permanent collection at the Design Museum, London and MoMA, New York and has been published internationally.

I also enjoys teaching onto under-graduate, post-graduate and research programs at a range of institutions including UAL and the RCA.

Areas of research interest

  • Craft
  • Industry
  • Material Language
  • Creative economy
  • Value (cultural, production, commercial)
  • Experimental design methodologies
  • Manufacture
  • Explorations through vernacular making
  • Local and Global
  • New modes of production


  • MA : Design Products, Royal College of Art, London
  • BA : Three Dimensional Design, Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester
  • BA : Architecture, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester University, Manchester

Funding or awards received

  • LDoc, PhD Scholarship, London Doctoral Centre
  • Incubator Scholarship, Leverhulme Trust.