Designing in Partnership: A Live Product Design Project

Alexa Mottram and Neil Housego

• Complete a ‘live’ 28-week Design Project as part of the second year Sensory Design module. The project involves working in partnership with a live client, the charity LIVES, and a local primary school, Monks Abbey.
• The project will also potentially involve collaboration with other university departments (eg. Healthcare, Interactive Design and Computer Science.)
• This Research Project will assess the impact of these activities on student learning experience, primarily around the themes of engagement, motivation, confidence and learning outcomes.
• Establish a model of Design Project development and teaching that can be replicated and/or adapted within our programme and others.

As a programme we integrate live projects regularly and believe a relationship with a live client enhances the learning experience for our students. We have never formally documented or explored this and would therefore benefit from the learning outcomes that this research project will facilitate. The findings from this research will inform our future project planning and enable us to develop our teaching further.

This particular project is interesting in that we are working not only with a live client but also a user group so the students will be able to interact with two external groups over the course of the 28-week project.

Our hypothesis is that this expansion of the learning environment will increase engagement, motivation and confidence in the students and deepen their learning experience. The aim of this research project is to firstly test that hypothesis and secondly explore and analyse the impacts the project has on the student learning experience.

The research project follows the course of a 28-week Design Project within Level 2 of the BA Product Design programme. The Design Project brief requires the students to work with the charity LIVES to re-design their delivery of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training to primary school pupils. The charity works with many children with the aim to increase knowledge of CPR techniques and ultimately reduce death due to heart attack and seizure. LIVES have asked the University to help them improve their system as they have identified a number of problems with their current equipment and techniques.

We have also partnered with Monks Abbey Primary School and will be bringing all three groups (our students, LIVES and Monks Abbey) together to produce design outcomes that respond to both the needs of the client and the target audience.

This Design Project provides an opportunity for us to evaluate the impact of this experience on the students and how it enhances or detracts from their learning outcomes.

The first stage of the Design Project involves research. During this phase the students will work closely with representatives from LIVES and also pupils from the school in order to gain a full understanding of the central design task. There is also the potential to bring in staff or students from other degree programmes at this point, to run Q+A sessions with the students.

The second stage involves concept development. In this phase the students will create sketch models to communicate and explore their design ideas.

The third stage will be refinement of the final design concepts. Prototyping will inform this process and these models will be used to gain feedback on designs from both the client and the school pupils.

The communication between these three groups (our students, the client and primary school pupils) will be enhanced and facilitated using a variety of tools and techniques. These include role-play, video documentation, co-design tools and use of models and prototypes to enable idea testing. The students will take the lead in designing and implementing these interactions and this is expected to increase the sense of ownership they feel towards the project and their own learning process.

We will implement a number of information-gathering techniques throughout the period of November 2017 to May 2018 that will aim to determine levels of student engagement, confidence, motivation and learning outcomes/experience.

• What is the impact of external collaboration on student engagement, motivation, confidence and learning?
• What are the drawbacks/challenges to the partnership/live project model?
• What are the challenges, impacts and best-practice models to consider when facilitating interactions between students and external clients and members of the public?
The project is exploratory in nature and we believe it is important to remain relatively open-minded about the findings and direction at this stage.

Data-gathering techniques will include:
Observation and documenting of studio sessions and project progression using photos, videos etc.
Qualitative staff and student feedback obtained at two points during the project: interim assessment point in January 2018 and the final assessment point in May 2018

Qualitative student feedback will be gathered through the use of two anonymous online surveys comprising a mix of closed- and open-ended questions around the themes of engagement, motivation, confidence and learning outcomes.

Student attainment levels could also be used, as in Watkins et al 2017, as an indicator of the success of the learning outcomes. We will be able to cross-reference these with the self-reported data from the surveys.
Collaboration and partnership approaches
The student project this research is evaluating has collaboration and partnership at the heart of it. Our aim is to enhance our understanding of these types of projects, improve our delivery of them and disseminate our findings to peers with HE.

Supporting confidence in students
The research will attempt to measure the impact the project has in this area, working under the hypothesis that interaction with external partners and intergenerational groups will improve levels of student confidence.

Interdisciplinarity and interprofessional education
The planned Design Project will provide a rich and dynamic network of learning possibilities between four ‘types’ of contributors: the academic staff, students, clients and school pupils.


April 2018
A Day in the Life of a CPR Trainer
A second co-design session took place the following week with representatives from the charity LIVES. This enabled the students to discover expert knowledge and insight into the CPR process and training challenges.
The Product Design students had to consider a different approach when designing their co-design activities to tap into the client needs. The challenge here is for students to familiarise themselves with the client-designer relationship, along with enabling the design partners to share insights that are both conscious and subconscious.
Activities ranged from brainstorming the name of the product, describing a day in the life of a LIVES trainer and discovering how 999 calls are handled.
Students gained valuable feedback that has been applied to their design development and they are currently working towards a final pitch.
As the Designing in Partnership research progresses we will be exploring ways in which we can improve the delivery and outcomes of these student interactions with live clients.

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March 2018
Designing CPR Training with Jenga, Capes and Colouring Pens
As part of their CPR design project, students visited Monks Abbey School to engage the pupils in a co-design session. This involved creative participation in design ideas and testing of prototypes and concepts.
The level two students had previously visited the school in October 2017 to observe CPR training by the volunteers from the LIVES charity.
The activities were designed by students with the goal of leveraging valuable insights from the user group. They ranged from using the game of jenga to explore design decisions to wearing cardboard glasses and colouring in character designs. The goal of this strategy is to enable designers to achieve a more relevant and suitable outcome for their target audience.
The impact of this activity on the student experience is something that will be examined within the Designing in Partnership research project.

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