University of the Arts London
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Cell Furniture Project. Design-Led Research in Prisons. Stint 1: Icebreakers

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posted on 2024-04-29, 09:55 authored by Lorraine Gamman, Adam Thorpe

Stint 1: What We Did

The Stint 1 data-gathering workshops took place in a 'Discover' phase of the project. Coordinating with HMPPS, DAC held three days of data gathering sessions over the span of one month at HMP Standford Hill. Approximately 30 prisoners participated in Stint 1. The goal of Stint 1 was to understand prisoners' experiences with cell furniture. As part of it's design-led research, DAC designed activities to create multiple ways for participants to discuss and express their knowledge and ideas.

The activities and tools used in the session:


Doing icebreaker exercises is a good way to establish a positive tone at the outset. They can serve as a creative warmup and they also help people feel comfortable with participating. We found that people who were not present during the icebreakers exhibited a less constructive way of communicating which arguably had an impact on the entire group.

Constant Gaze Portraits

How it's done

Working in pairs, partners quickly draw (about 30 seconds) each other's faces without looking down at the paper. At the end, share your masterpiece and write your partner's name next to their portrait and repeat with someone else.

Why bother?

The thought of looking someone in the eyes and drawing them might feel exposing, even intimate, but this can be a humorous activity that helps overcome the awkwardness of introductions. Often times the results are surprising which might instill creative confidence, and since everyone is equally good/bad at drawing when they aren't looking at the page, it creates an environment that is encourages sharing of ideas, work, etc.

What you need:

  • blank paper for drawing
  • drawing/writing materials (i.e. pens, markers, pencils)

20 Circles

How it's done

Starting with 20 circles on a page, in 2 minutes, draw as many things that you can think of that are circular, spherical or round using the circles as part of the drawing. Examples, could be an eyeball, the earth or a football. You can also combine circles to make things like glasses.

​Why bother?

​This icebreaker is a creative warmup and gets you thinking outside the box. It challenges you to think quickly and put down the first thing that comes to mind.

What you need:

  • sheets of paper with 20 or so circles drawn on it
  • drawing/writing materials (i.e. pens, markers, pencils)


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