Real world design

Thursday and Friday of last week saw me making the decision to get involved with an outside project, working as a designer at a co-design workshop put on in conjunction with the Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland (LTCAS). The event was looking into the future of a project called ALISS – improving Access to Local Information to Support Self management – which aims to provide a platform for linking up individuals with long term health conditions, providing information and access to existing support mechanisms that are currently out there, but not too easy to find. This little video by the people behind the workshop gives you the run-down.

The workshop itself contained a hugely diverse mix of people – individuals with long-term conditions, designers, and lots of people from other organisations in the public and private sectors, all of whom were needed to contribute to the overall design process. From a personal perspective, the idea was quite daunting – I’ve no experience of co-design beyond group-work on previous projects, and the fact that I was expected to lead people with no design experience, through the design process, was a little nerve-racking at first. Each group was allocated a designer (all of whom were current or former students from the Glasgow School of Art Product Design course), with our role being to act as a facilitator for the rest of the people in our group; assisting them through the design process.

Once I got settled with my second group (I was ousted from the first in what can only be described as a coup… well, not really, another group had no designer, and we had two), I began to get a handle on things, and we began the design process, which proceeded over the two days. Working together, we dissected our allocated area of exploration and started to pull together all the information needed to justify the design proposal that the group was producing – it’s not a simple task to facilitate in this situation, as you essentially have to think through the whole design process yourself for the problem, and then try and encourage the group onto the next stage. However, I was pretty amazed at how well the group got a handle on it, and really started offering up solid parts of process work, such as user journeys and concise statements of what they wanted to achieve.

All in, the proposal (People Helping People) looked at how ALISS could offer a way of facilitating access to the extensive number of support opportunities that exist already, but are poorly connected, allowing people with similar conditions and experiences to help support each other. Additionally, it suggested that those most able to support those with LTCs are those who also live with them, and that the service should be able to empower them to help people use ALISS as a means of adjusting to life with their condition, by becoming ‘givers’ – people who use their role as support providers to help themselves.

Realistically though, my blog post isn’t about what we produced as a group, but about how it was achieved. I have nothing but praise for my group – they worked their arses off over the two days, and really got their head around the way of thinking that we take for granted as designers. Sarah and Lauren (Drummond and Currie, directors of Snook, and co-ordinators of the design side of the workshop) produced some great tools to help pull their thinking together, and it really helped structure the days, and allowed the group members to see just how much work they had actually done. I was sceptical, even at the end of the first day, that we were achieving much, but I think the validation provided by the participation of those with LTCs is incredibly valuable, and the quality of work produced by the end of the workshop speaks for itself.

From a personal perspective, it was an eye-opening experience. I learned a hell of a lot about co-design, as well as how to explain design process to people with no design history, and I enjoyed seeing people grasp the concepts I work with in my uni coursework, and the fact that they seemed to really get something out of it. On another level, it was incredibly validating to see that design process can work in real situations, with real people, who have real problems.

I spoke to the head of my course the other day about design as a career, and how I think it’s fairly unique in that you really have to believe in what you are designing to do a good job. I’ve heard designers badly justify it by saying they won’t work for fast food companies and the like (pish – the truly bold thing would be to take the job and affect change), but the truth is that I agree with the sentiment. This workshop made be believe in design, my career, and that given the opportunity, people can achieve change for the better.

    • janice
    • March 17th, 2010

    why put DEPT OF HEALTH ON-IT doesnt apply here
    LTCAS is a Scottish org.
    health is devolved,
    DOH has no relevance or jurisdiction here.

    • Harriet Hunter
    • March 17th, 2010

    Hi James,
    this is a great summary – just wanted to drop you a line to say what a great job you did last week in facilitating the group, which is not an easy task and one you did really well. I have been telling everyone what a difference having design input made to the process. Good luck with your future career!

  1. Janice – I’m not sure what you’re referring to, as I don’t mention the Dept. of Health at any point in the post.

    Harriet – Many thanks for your comments – it was a new situation for me, but it was very enjoyable, and I think the group did a great job.

    • alex
    • April 21st, 2010


    Just found this as a link from redjotter on twitter

    It is a great summary

    Are you still looking for work, or is this your final year ?


  1. April 14th, 2010
  2. April 11th, 2011
    Trackback from : Matchable checking in «

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