Design Factory Brief and Analysis


When we consume products – clothing, food, furniture, tools and utensils, gadgets and entertainment devices, vehicles, luxury items… –part of our rationale for doing so is often to outwardly communicate something about ourselves. This may serve as an intended, or even unconscious, statement to friends, peers and strangers, as if we are proclaiming: “I am in charge”, “I am allied with this ideology”, “I am unique” or “I have good taste”. The messages we ‘send’ can also reflect back onto ourselves and affect the way we operate. Consider the psychological effect of clothing on its wearer:

  • a fluorescent jacket can make a construction worker feel safer;
  • sophisticated;
  • a police riot-helmet can make an officer feel empowered;
  • a corporate uniform can remind a retail employee they represent a larger system.

All consumable objects can therefore operate like costumes and props, with architectural spaces as their theatres. As ‘users’, we swap and change these aspects around as we play out our various roles in society.

The Design Museum has worked with Designs of The Year 2014 nominees, PAN Studio, to produce this brief. PAN Studio are interested in how the principles of design can be applied to create rich and meaningful experiences – creating unique sensations, provoking emotional responses or encouraging people to consider ideas from new perspectives.

With this year’s Design Factory brief, they ask you to explore:

How can we design new objects, spaces and systems to affect the way people see themselves and the roles they fulfil?

This project is all about user-centric design thinking. You are invited to design an intervention that will make the intended user feel something strongly about themselves. Your task is to develop something with which an individual can engage and then say “I feel… *something*” (e.g. “I feel invincible”, “I feel small”, “I feel in-tune with my environment”, “I feel weightless”, “I feel rebellious”, “I feel contented”). The resulting intervention or outcome could take any form. For example, you could design:

  • an inhabitable space,
  • a piece of graphic communication,
  • an item of clothing or
  • an interactive system/ piece of technology.

BRIEF PART 1: Design Museum research

Visit the Design Museum’s Women, Fashion and Power exhibition as a stimulus for your research.

Choose an exhibit and dissect the effect it might have on the user. Consider, for example:

  • What does the user want the item to communicate about them?
  • Why would the user want to communicate this? (What might it
    reveal about them?)
  • What does the object tell us about the designer and their own
  • Describe what the emotional journey might be for the user, from
    before first acquiring the item, to owning it, using it for the first time,
    using it subsequent times and final disposal (if applicable).

Consider how this emotional journey can be meaningfully mapped.

Explain your research findings through the production of:

  • Visual data – drawings and photographs
  • Written data – this should include critical and analytical reflection;

E.g. How well has the product/ intervention succeeded in performing its function? How is/was it experienced by its intended users, or by other stakeholders? Has it been designed in response to human behaviour or characteristics or changed these through its inception?

Part 1 Outcome: 1 board of exhibition response and analysis.

Analysis: The content of this part of the project will depend on the amount of information and images that I am able to collect when at the exhibit. The more information that I can collect the easier this part will be to complete, completing multiple sketches and photographs to a high quality will make the overall presentation of these pages more aesthetically pleasing and good photography will make the board look more professional. I will also have to make sure that I do not miss any of the exhibitions and evaluate the functionality of each piece in-depth. The layout and structure of the display boards will be another aspect that I will have to keep in mind when creating the boards because of the amount of text that I will include and the layout of images, without over populating the board with imagery or leaving large blank spaces that interrupt the flow of the board.

BRIEF PART 2: Identify and investigate a potential user, and how you want them to feel about themselves.

Identify the situation where the intervention should take place: does it happen before, during or after a particular event? (E.g. a high-street during a riot, a beach whilst on holiday, a board-room during a meeting, visiting a theme park)

You could make use of the Design Museum’s Designers in Residence 2014 exhibition (theme: ‘Disruption’) to help identify a context for intervention. Your research could form a case study – for which it might be relevant and useful to gather interviews, questionnaires or other background data.

Use your research to consider how your potential users might want to feel differently about themselves. Alternatively, it could inform a hypothetical solution for a group or organisation that wants to affect people to further its own goals. There is nothing to prevent you from being an intended user yourself, or designing for a context of which you are a part.

Part 2 Outcome: 1 board of research – defining the user and the circumstances for intention, not the intervention itself.

Analysis: This board will include the research of what the target audience, including the demographic and how the product will be accessible to them. Interviewing a scope of the demographic will help create a relevant product that will bring about an experience for the user and interact with them in a memorable way.

BRIEF PART 3: Design development and solution

Through your own creative design practice, develop the intervention. Experiment with a range of different ideas, tweaking them bit-by-bit with every iteration. Prototype and test ideas as far as possible by re-creating the situation, e.g. in model form or even using role-play.

Design something that ultimately makes the user feel a particular way. If it helps flesh out the scenario, create quick prototype ‘props’ and ‘costumes’ to evoke this. Be sure to communicate the final intentions clearly by including a statement, with your “I feel…*something*” user-centred objective.

Part 3 Outcome: one board for development, and a second for the design solution, plus a written statement of 500 words. (If appropriate, your design solution board could be substituted for a short film – 3 minutes or less).

Analysis: Once the initial ideas have been created I will get feedback to develop and refine them, until I can create a prototype of the product and test how the audience interact with the product and record how they feel using it as well as how i could improve the product more. I will also have to keep in mind that I will need space on the final board for the finished complete product.

As a reminder, all submissions should consist of:

  • EITHER: 4 boards in PDF, plus 500 words written proposal
  • OR: 3 boards in PDF, a 3 minute video (a link to a YouTube or
    Vimeo site, or to Google Docs, WeTransfer or Dropbox), plus 500
    words written proposal.
  • Your name, email address and institution must be visible on each
    board or part of your submission.

Following the judging, written feedback is provided to all students nominated by their tutors. A shortlist of 40 successful students will be invited to the Design Factory full-day Symposium in May 2015. Participants in the Symposium will work to a final project brief inspired by the Designs of the Year exhibition in 2015.


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