University of the Arts London
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Cell Furniture Project. Design-Led Research in Prisons. Stint 2: Ideation and Prototyping

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posted on 2024-04-30, 13:25 authored by Lorraine Gamman, Adam Thorpe


The ideation is the creative process of coming up with new ideas. On Day 1, the co-design group defined personas and their furniture needs, and on Day 2 they ideated unique cell furniture concepts for each persona. The group shared the furniture ideas and sketches, and discussed what worked and what didn't work, how the concepts could be improved and whether or not the furniture concepts for one persona worked for the other personas.


Once a collection of furniture concepts were sketched out and visualised the participants roughly prototyped the concepts with materials like cardboard and tape.

Activity #1: Ideation

Coming up with creative furniture ideas

Ideating is the creative process of coming up with new ideas. After the personas and their furniture needs were defined, the co-design group generated furniture ideas that would suit the persona's furniture needs. We got into several groups, with each group focusing on ideating for one persona. Groups communicated these ideas through a combination of brainstorming, sketching and modeling. After about an hour or two of ideation, ideas were shared amongst the whole co-design group for feedback.
Following the discussion, the group decided on the best ideas to move forward with, and then moved onto prototyping these furniture concepts.

Things to keep in mind when ideating

Ideation is a messy and fast moving process. The point is to get many ideas out quickly.

Ideation occurs in a 'Develop' stage of the process. At this point you want to think expansively and not limit your ideas. There are no bad ideas.

Don't come up with ideas for yourself, necessarily. Get into the empathic mindset and design for the persona and their needs.

Ideation isn't necessarily a time for finding clear-cut solutions. It's not bad to think pragmatically, but even ideas that might not seem like they wouldn't work, might have an aspect that could contribute to a design that does work.

Activity #2: Prototyping

Why is prototyping useful?

Roughly prototyping designs early and often in the design process helps to visualise what it's like to use the product, what it could look like and identify what works well and what doesn't. For a product like furniture, prototyping can reveal how the product interacts with the physical environment in terms of use, size, shape and visual aesthetic. At this stage in the design process, prototypes are meant to be experimental and a low-cost and low-risk opportunity to see, discuss and iron-out flaws.

Prototyping materials:​

Please be aware that because the co-design workshops were held at HMP Standford Hill – a low-security Cat D Open prison – we were allowed to use craft materials and tools that would most likely not be allowed in other higher security establishments. Nevertheless, we still had to approve the materials before bringing them onto the grounds. Prototyping materials included:

  • Cardboard
  • Tape (gaffer, masking, etc.)
  • Glue (superglue, glue sticks, etc.)
  • Scissors
  • Box-cutters
  • Fabric
  • Foam
  • Markers, pens and pencils


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