Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Methods Lab 2011

Ageing in Kensington: Designing for our future selves

31 Oct - 3 November 2011, Royal College of Art
Part of AcrossRCA interdisciplinary collaboration week at the RCA

This four-day version of the Methods Lab, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design's annual education workshop, involved students from ten RCA programmes and the Media Studies department at the Media, Art & Design Faculty (MAD) in Genk, Belgium. In total, 37 students made up four interdisciplinary teams.

The participating students were asked to engage with local communities in Kensington, experiment with design methods and work with students from different disciplines to develop and test designs that could improve people's lives.

The Brief: Ageing in Kensington
The brief asked the teams to design and conduct a design event to promote a more sustainable lifestyle for all. With Kensington’s proximity to the RCA and the highest life expectancy in the UK (82.4 years in 2011 – ten years more than many other areas of the city), it was selected to be the test bed for the teams. Each event should include the needs and aspirations of local residents and should encourage active participation with the local community as well as RCA students and staff members. Results should demonstrate alternative design perspectives to perceived attitudes of ageing.

The students worked in teams with creative partners: older local residents, University of Third Age (U3A), a design professor who grew up in Kensington and a MAD design tutor who was pregnant. 

The workshop began with a briefing session by project leader Dr Yanki Lee who explained some current debates in design, participation and social development. There was a collective exercise each day:

  • Mapping Kensington with the locals – creative partners were asked to create a journey to show the students 'their' Kensington and share. Maps of the local area were given to students to map out experiences.
  • Improving 'your' Kensington – the students were asked to analyse the experience that they had with their creative partners on the first day. They documented the journeys and developed visual ways to present the experience and establish a design direction.
  • Prototyping in 'our Kensington' – the teams were asked to develop ideas and went out to test their ideas. During the process, they were reminded to question, compare, contrast and develop the ideas within the framework of policy development and existing social developments in the area.
  • Team presentations – students were asked to prepare and present a six-minute video of their project and include future implications.

The seminars and discussions at the end of each day were led by: Rama Gheerawo, Deputy Director HHCD who discussed challenges of ageing research; Sevra Davis, Royal Society of Arts (RSA) who explained Emily Campbell's Design & Rehabilitation; Neils Hendriks from presented recent design research in dementia at MAD and Prof Jeremy Myerson, Director of the HHCD discussed how to translate design research data into design action.

In the four-day period, students were inspired by their creative partners and encouraged to engage with the local community through a creative design processes. Collectively, new design ideas for our active future selves were developed and tested.

See projects here