‘DESIGN KIT’ – Creative Economy Showcase

16 April 2014

Brian McNicoll Photo

This post is written by Louise Jack. Louise manages the main DiA Hub office within DJCAD and provides all administrative support to the core team and wider research staff, including finance and HR.  She graduated from Abertay University 2006 with a BA in Media, Culture and Society and is currently studying for a Graduate Certificate in Management at the University of Dundee.

Design in Action – Design Kit Team:

Jen Ballie (Principal Investigator): a post-doctorial researcher within Design in Action.

Suzy Prior (Co Investigator): a post-doctorial researcher within Design in Action.

Louise Jack (Hub Administrator) and Dawn Campbell (Events Officer)

2 months. That was all we had to develop and design our new brainchild, Design KIT, before it was ready to display at the prestigious inaugural AHRC Creative Economy Showcase in London.

This Design KIT emerged during a group brainstorming session. What fun we had throwing ideas around and excitedly discussing how we could best showcase some of the work being developed within DiA to support knowledge exchange in a new and innovative way. Design KIT was envisaged as a Do It Yourself (DIY) toolkit for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to apply design methods independently and within their own space.  By using design-thinking activities to promote knowledge exchange (K), innovation (I) and trend forecasting (T), we wanted to offer businesses and other organisations the opportunity to utilise our bespoke innovative design activities so they can innovate themselves.  Aware that many perhaps do not have the time or capacity to attend a full 2.5 day Chiasma, this informed the development of our tea-break challenges as well as longer, more focused activities that allowed teams lengthier periods of reflection, to support varying levels of participation.

We had big collective ambition for this project and our shared enthusiasm enabled us to design and develop a digital platform to host Design KIT, alongside a physical pack. Three sample methods were developed and everything was branded to represent Design in Action and credit the AHRC.

Conscious that we would be exhibition-standing beside the other AHRC KE Hubs – including Creative Exchange who we knew were using actual, honest-to-goodness HOLOGRAMS! – as well as a vast range of other clever and inventive projects,  we knew we had to deliver something that was not only innovative but eye-catching, accessible and interesting.  We couldn’t let the project or Georgina (Follett, Director of DiA) down, especially as she would be there delivering an introduction to the ethos of the event and keynote speaker Sebastian Conran.

The beautiful host venue whose name, Kings Cross Conference Centre, didn’t quite do it justice was lovely, light, modern and perfect for hosting such an event. Once the others and we got going (a task that, in our case, included a slight skirmish with a helium canister and a telling-off by security), it really was a sight to behold.

A quick jaunt around each of the 3 levels showcased a wide range of disparate projects, each unique but connected via AHRC funding and a shared remit of contributing / or having the potential to contribute to the creative economy.  In my short time there, I witnessed some fascinating stands encompassing themes such as broadcasting, 3D-printing, history, computer games, architecture, copyright law, community, dance and network constellations, to name but a few.  My only grumble was that between the gamut of stands, on-point opening speeches and fascinating plenary workshops, there just wasn’t enough time to properly absorb everything!

Fortunately, Design KIT proved to be popular and we were located beside the CX Imitarium (the afore-mentioned holographic exhibition that had one member from each of the four KE Hubs – REACT, Creative Exchange, Creative Works and Design in Action – give a general project overview whilst appearing to stand in a model of a teeny-tiny coffee shop; a huge shout-out must go to its artist and maker Steve Wade for such an inventive creation), we got plenty of footfall and curious passers-by who were all scrabbling to take a Design KIT away.

By the end of the day, the rest of the Design in Action team and I were buzzing from such an array of original and imaginative projects, none of which would have been possible without the help and support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.  Their continued backing and encouragement allows for creative minds from a whole host of disciplines to pursue their ideas and visions (no matter how ‘out there’ some of them might be). The showcase not only displayed these activities in a lively space but also confirmed that this creative nourishment can bring significant benefits to sectors as far-reaching as medicine, technology, security, communities and policy in the UK and beyond.

Well done to them and everyone involved for such a fantastic and worthwhile event (and thanks for having us!)

Keynote speech by Sebastian Conran (Chair of the Design in Action Steering Group): –

Speech from RT Hon David Willetts MP: –

IP Models for Knowledge Exchange workshop (including our Director, Prof. Georgina Follett OBE): –

Design in Action – Design KIT interview with Jennifer Ballie and Dr. Suzy Prior:-

Design KIT website: