Thursday, 25 February 2010

Visiting Dott Cornwall

Around the charming towns of Cornwall, either by the windy seas or undulating hills, a whole lot of design is taking place. And in a different sense to what much of Cornwall would have known before.

Cornwall is a county on the SE tip of England. Well-known for its dynamic creative industries, and also historically for its tin mining, Cornwall went through being one of the most prosperous areas of the UK to becoming one of the most deprived when mining could not keep up with its foreign competition, and industry shut down altogether. Today, Cornwall's economy is mostly sustained by tourism. Usually associated with beautiful imagery of the seaside, beach and quaint little towns (not to mention cream teas, Cornish pasties and celebrity-chef eateries such as Rick Stein restaurants and pub, and Jaime Oliver’s fifteen ) Cornwall's geography is one of the most beautiful and attractive in England. The other industry which thrives in Cornwall is the creative industry, and during my short 2-day stay in Cornwall this week, I already met an interior designer, graphic designer and lighting designer, all who have their own businesses. And most of them, often defined by their design degree (a focal point of the county's creativity is the University College Falmouth (UCF) which runs design degrees) now work across all design disciplines. For example the interior designer I met told me he also designed furniture and did graphic design. The design disciplines are certainly blurring, and also evolving.

Last year, design in Cornwall ramped up several notches with the launch of Dott Cornwall. A programme of work, run in partnership with University College Falmouth and Cornwall County Council, which will showcase ten visionary design projects, showing the potential of a design approach in regeneration and services to make a positive difference to the lives of people, communities and organisations in Cornwall. Dott Cornwall is the second Dott initiative spearheaded by the Design Council. The first having taken place in 2007 in the NE of England called, Dott 07.

I made a trip down to Cornwall this week to visit Dott Cornwall, UCF and also attend Open Dott, an event which invited the public, the partners, project stakeholders and designers to experience and share the progress of the live Dott Cornwall design projects.

Image from Dott Cornwall website

Held in the Royal Cornwall Museum on Tuesday night, Andrea Siodmok, Programme Director of Dott Cornwall and John Thackara, former Programme Director of Dott 07, author and founder of Doors of Perception, opened and hosted the night. The new Dott Cornwall website was also launched on the night, a great resource to keep-up-to-date with all Dott Cornwall happenings.

Screen capture of Dott Cornwall's website

Five presentations from the Dott projects were the feature of the night. These projects updated their progress. Most have only just completed their research phases, gathering insights from local people to inspire new ideas:

Move Me by live|work
This project looks at how a design approach might help shape behaviour toward more sustainable mobility. Cornwall is a region made up of quite small towns, only a short drive away from each other, and much like in my home city, Sydney, almost everyone in Cornwall has and uses a car as their main form of transport. The designers at live|work also cite many behavioural factors related to the high dependency on cars, such as habits and perceptions of public transport (such as expense). But, the designers also discovered that while people depended on cars, they had a strong conscience of a loss of community feel by filling the town streets with congestion. The designers see this tension point as an opportunity for a design a solution (coming up in the next phase of the project).

Living Well by STBY
This project, led by STBY looks at practical ways to develop and inspire more sustainable practices among individuals and in organisations. So far, the designers have undertaken extensive research with people to capture opinions on sustainability, and also identify what projects and activities in the area of sustainability already exist. These insights have been used to inspire many project directions, and these project directions are currently being decided upon, to take the Living Well project forward.

Cornwall Works 50+ and Cornwall Works 50+ Cares by thinkpublic
These two projects work with Cornwall's older communities in the areas of staying in and/or finding employment (Works) and finding opportunities for care and support for older people (Cares). So far, designers at thinkpublic have undertaken research with people to gather personal stories from these communities. These stories will help inspire new ideas in the next phase of the project for both employment and care for older people in Cornwall.

Designing Communities
by sea communications
The neighbourhood of Pengegon, Camborne is one of the country's most deprived areas and designers at sea are working with locals to help discover community facilities and services that are more resident-led, rather than authority-led, to help improve lives. So far, the designers have undertaken research with local people including producing several films to convey the experiences and voices of locals. You can view these films on YouTube here. One of the most fascinating things to emerge from the films is the enthusiasm of the locals to own and take responsibility for their local facilities and services.

Eco Design Challenge
The final live Dott Cornwall project is Eco Design Challenge (EDC). EDC, an educational project, was run in Dott 07 and is running in Dott Cornwall again. EDC gets Year 8 students to measure their school's carbon footprint with an Eco Calcuator. The students then work with design and social entrepreneur mentors to help create new ideas to reduce their school's ecological and carbon footprint. In June 2010, all schools will submit their ideas to EDC and by July, winners of the EDC will be announced. So far, EDC has engaged 34 schools in Cornwall to take part, and the school students are currently working on measuring their carbon footprint. The next phase of the project will be to pair schools up with mentors to create new ideas to address sustainability at their school. For more information, resources and updates, head to the Eco Design Challenge website.

The night wrapped up with some opinion voting on the Dott Cornwall projects.

Voting on the live Dott projects

And also a bit of networking.

Networking after the presentations

The following day, Dott Cornwall and UCF hosted a Design Workshop for UCF design students. The workshop generated loads of creative energy and high-level enthusiasm for Dott, as much as the Open Dott event the previous night. If this is anything to go by, Dott Cornwall will certainly be a fantastic programme to demonstrate, once again, how designers, local communities and organisations can work together, using a design approach to address social issues and improve the livelihoods of people.

Presenting ideas at the design workshop at UCF

Service Design Drinks, 26 February 2010

This Friday 26 February will the be the second 2010 Service Design Drinks in London! Here's all the essential info:
  • Date: Friday 26 February 2010
  • Time: From 7pm
  • Location: The Bunch of Grapes. 2 St Thomas Street, Borough, London SE1 9RS (it's just a hop away from London Bridge tube stop)
  • RSVP: Sign up on Eventbrite here (and see who else will be around)
  • And to find us, look for the Service Design Drinks London sign!
If you can't make this one, we'll be doing a regular Service Design Drinks London on the last Friday of every month. So sign up to the mailing list here to keep up-to-date with the latest happenings.

As you already know, the cities of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Dublin (Ireland), San Francisco (USA), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Sydney (Australia) organise and host Drinks and other events via the website. We're pleased to announce that Berlin and Cologne (Germany) organised by Minds and Makers and Glasgow (Scotland) organised by wearesnook have also joined!

Remember, if you are traveling to one of these cities, check in at and to see if anything is on. And if you, or anyone you know from another city is interested in coordinating service designing-type events, please get in touch with us at We'd love to have a chat and help by providing tools and insight into organising and hosting events and activities to help develop service designing communities around the world.