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

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


In preparation for the last two days of co-design workshops, DAC continued design development by considering aesthetics and use, and researching materials and other aspects of the design that would be discussed with the co-design group. On day 3 of the co-design workshops the cohort discussed the developments and looked at granular details of each proposal in order to refine the designs.


This second iteration of rough prototypes built on the refinement discussion and the new design developments. These full-scale prototypes were put in a cell for the co-design group and non-participating prisoners and staff to observe and give feedback.

Activity #1: Refinement and Material Considerations

The 'look and feel': Considering materials and other aspects of cell furniture

Leading up to Day 3 of the co-design workshop, DAC continued design development by considering aesthetics, safety, use scenarios and researching materials and other aspects of the design that would be discussed with the co-design group. In addition, DAC synthesized the persona insights, ideation and development from the first two sessions and compiled the information in the furniture development sheets.

On Day 3 of the workshop, the co-design group went participants went through the developments and discussed the desired 'look and feel' of each furniture concept. This information would help inform decisions about materials, colour and finishes later in the design development. DAC's development sheets and workshop materials documenting the design discussions around 'look and feel' are pictured in the images.

Activity #2: Prototyping (2nd iteration)

Round 2 of Prototypes

After discussing the furniture aesthetics, potential material choices and other 'look and feel' aspects, we tested these developments with a second iteration of rough prototypes. In the design process, constant iteration helps to work through ideas and problems. It’s important to test early and often, and creating rough prototypes is a useful way to assess any new ideas and developments.

Once these prototypes were finished, HMP Standford Hill allowed the co-design cohort to place the prototypes in an actual cell. This in-cell opportunity was another chance to test, observe and acquire feedback about the furniture concepts. Not only was the co-design group able to assess how the full-scale prototypes fit in the physical cell environment, but prisoners and staff on the wing were invited to come and give their opinions. All points – good and bad – were considered in the design development.

Observations and feedback from in-cell testing

  • The clearance space under the metal beds varies and this needs to be factored when dealing with furniture that stores under the bed.
  • Some prisoners prefer folding their clothes, some prefer hanging their clothes, and some do both. In any case, furniture should try to accommodate both options.
  • Even in a small cell, some prototypes looked too small.
  • Functionality supersedes looks.


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