Empathy and Employment

photo 2Inspired by the expectation that empathy between societal actors may foster greater collaboration and contribute to the conditions for social innovation, the Empathy and Employment project explored how the design of objects can facilitate interactions that foster empathy in the context of employment.

With the assistance of BA Product Design students from Central Saint Martins, the project brought together employers and residents in the rapidly developing, but relatively deprived, London area Somers Town. Through a collaborative process, students designed objects and interactions which enabled employers and residents to creatively communicate a wide spectrum of emotions about their needs, challenges and aspirations related to job seeking and recruitment, and to understand and empathise with each other’s experiences and perspectives.


Design Ethnography Research in the Rain – A case of literally being out of our comfort zone

“Where did you find out about planning consultation?

When I trained to be an architect”


Our students shouldn’t be surprised to meet a trained architect when interviewing people on the street in Kings Cross as it’s such a diverse and busy area but, because their current project is Reimagining Planning, it did seem fortuitous.

The students are in the first stage of the Reimagining Planning Design Sprint, a four-week collaborative project for Management Science students from UCL and designers from UAL. The project brings together students, users, non-users and experts from different backgrounds to collaborate to understand perspectives, co-design and prototype ideas for better ways to engage people in processes of neighbourhood planning and development control in the London Borough of Camden. Today, my group were using ethnography research methods to elicit information from a housing development site on Gray’s Inn Road.

After starting as a cold, dry week it was raining, making stopping people on the street to ask them questions a bit more difficult than it would have been a few days earlier. Beginning the consultations in the small French café drew positive comments from the business owner, who welcomed the increased customer base the 60 new homes will bring. And it was in a neighbouring café that the ex-architecture student was found. On the surface, the development seems to be optimistically received, but we shall wait to see whether this remains the case, when the students have dug a bit deeper and included data drawn from interviews with the experts in the field (hopefully not carried out in the rain).

Sarah Rhodes

A Vegetarian Octopus, a Pineapple and a Box…

…not the latest weird detox diet or the beginning of a joke, but a creative exercise to kick-start a PCL student project focusing on Youth Hubs in Camden. PCL Principle Investigator Professor Adam Thorpe facilitated a workshop for first year CSM MA Narrative Environment students on co-discovery. The group is made up of ten students from ten different countries that all bring their cultural influences, as well as their differing design disciplines, to the work.

This project gives the students a unique insight into how their skills and competences can contribute to the co-creation of place-based propositions for local societal challenges. The students will act as a bridge between a range of different organisations and individuals, helping to articulate and visualise the narratives of young people that are often overlooked. The group is divided into three smaller groups who have so far scoped their different youth centers and met some of the teenagers who use them, as well as interviewing the staff. The initial site visits have introduced the students to the buildings, people and the locales they will be working in. Some of the students managed to squeeze a game of pool in too, all in the name of research, of course.

Sarah Rhodes

Human-centred Design and Systems Thinking: Two Approaches Workshop

The PCL pairs design students and staff from the University of the Arts London with staff from the London Borough of Camden Strategy and Change Service, specifically the Systems Thinking Team. Ostensibly, both these collaborators use seemingly similar terminology to describe the methodology and methods of their work, although the ways in which they operate differ.

Through this workshop we examined the differences and similarities in our two approaches (human-centred design and systems thinking) and explored the possibility of developing a framework for integrating aspects of both, which we can subsequently test with the PCL. We looked at whether there is a language and/or a process that makes sense to all contributors of the PCL.


Working in pairs (one designer, one systems thinker), we examined the terms both approaches use and whether we can combine the two models we use – the design double diamond and the systems thinking loop.

In concluding the workshop, it seems clear that human-centred design can help systems thinking in the scoping phase of a project (particularly in scoping outside the organisation) and systems thinking can help human-centred design in the briefing stage.

We look forward to exploring this further as the PCL progresses and testing our assumptions in a practical way.


Sarah Rhodes

Introducing the Public Collaboration Lab

Exhibition, Central Saint Martins Window Gallery
Granary Building,
1 Granary Square,
London N1C 4AA

4th January – 12th February 2016.

Introducing the Public Collaboration Lab to the wider UAL and London Borough of Camden audience, as well as the general public, coincided with the CSM Public launch event and the Lumiere London light festival.


The exhibition displayed some of the initial practice-based, research explorations of the PCL so far, spotlighting the Future Libraries and Home Library Service projects, as well as outlining future developments. The students designed and produced creative consultation tools, as well as facilitating workshops with the stakeholders and producing visual documentation as the work unfolded. The exhibition is made up of a selection of these artefacts, videos, photographs, publications and information describing the process and outcomes.

The Public Collaboration Lab exhibition will be updated and shown at a variety of venues and events throughout the coming year.

Sarah Rhodes



Reimagining Adult Social Care Design Sprint

A one-day, co-design workshop run by CSM’s Lucy Kimbell with Merton Council, Social Kemistri, Kareinn and Uscreates (amongst others) to generate visions for looking after older people. This was a productive design sprint that began with Dr Alison Prendiville introducing the PCL with the Home Library Service (HLS) Project, describing the service design and ethnography methodology implemented by the MDes Service Design Innovation students in collaboration with the home library users and providers of the HLS from the London Borough of Camden.

Designer Lisa Pape presented her Walk with Path walking aids for specific medical conditions with mobility issues. Path Feel is an insole to improve balance and provide digital data to the user and their doctor, currently being tested at Queen Mary’s University.

Tom Penney has been working with the London Borough of Merton on a 18-month research project, making a detailed analysis of adult social care in the UK and gave us the stark, and fairly pessimistic, facts and figures to describe this.

Tom set the challenge for the afternoon: how can we design a platform and services around it to match people with caring needs and people with accommodation who are willing to do the caring?

Working in teams, we developed two personas – one person with caring needs and one with accommodation needs – and then used service design methods to ‘match’ up the two by crafting their journey at the beginning of the project, looking at what is necessary from both points of view and identifying the ‘hotspots’.

Feeding back to everyone at the end of the day, the groups identified common key points including ensuring equal exchange of common interests, common rules such as respecting personal space, providing support and community groups for both parties and the need to build on existing services.

Rather than completely ‘reimagining’ adult social care, the focus for the day was very much about looking at it from a human-centred point of view, concentrating on the people involved, empathy and the value beyond monetary concerns.

Sarah Rhodes