University of the Arts London
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Flip Chair

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posted on 2024-04-29, 12:17 authored by Lorraine Gamman, Adam Thorpe

Flip Chair

Developed using collaborative design methods by DAC, prisoners and prison staff at HMP Standford Hill.

This product was in prototyping and testing with HMPPS/PSPI.

Flip Chair is a plastic chair with two different sitting heights. Flip it one way and it's a desk chair. Flip it the other way and it's a comfy lounge chair with armrests. The existing plastic cell chair was one of the most disliked items by prisoners and this design greatly improves on ergonomics and comfortability.​

  • Material: Toughened Grade Polypropylene (PP)
  • Manufacturing Method: Injection Moulding

How the co-design group came up with the concept

In the co-design sessions at HMP Standford Hill, the participants used a human-centered design methodology which involved creating user-personas. Personas are useful because they are semi-fictional characters with characteristics and needs that represent groups of real people in a given context – in this case prison. We then design for these specific personas rather than for an ambiguous user. Based on their expert knowledge of prisons, the co-design cohort defined the furniture needs of the prisoner personas, and it turned out that each persona would benefit from a versatile and multi-height chair. Such a chair would improve wellbeing and make it easier to engage in purposeful activity whether for the sake of relaxation or productivity (i.e. desk work). The current plastic chair falls short of providing these benefits. The group created multiple concepts that explored the different ways a chair could be adjustable and fit the needs of the personas.

After the co-design sessions: DAC's continued design development

After the co-design sessions, DAC developed the adjustable chair concept into a feasible and viable design proposal. The original co-design chair concept had an adjustable seat and moving parts, which was problematic in terms of durability and manufacture. DAC sought to provide the functionality and comforts of an adjustable chair while still accounting for HMP's cell furniture standards and safety. The result was a solid one-piece plastic chair that had two different seat heights.

Final Design

The Flip Chair Proposal

DAC developed the adjustable chair concept into a chair that could be manufactured as one solid object and provide two different seat height options. Depending how you flip it, the chair can be used as a desk chair or a comfy lounge chair with armrests.

Technical Specifications

Storage and Transport

  • Chairs per stillage = 6
  • Stackablility: moderately stackable


  • Toughened grade polypropylene (PP) plastic​


Fabrication Method: Injection Moulding

Average time of to make each chair = 100 seconds

Innovating Through Circular Systems

The system of fabrication and distribution of the Flip Chair could be carried out similarly to the current plastic cell chair, however, there is tremendous opportunity to innovate in this area by using recycled plastic material that is recycled directly from the HMP establishments.

At the time of writing, DAC's proposal to use circular, recycled plastic from Bright Green, is in the testing phase. Bright Green plans to work with several local prisons to collect PP and PE plastic waste that they will pay for and recycle. A portion of this recycled plastic from prison could be used as material for injection moulding, which is being engineered by Bright Green's innovation lab to match HMP requirements.

Emerging Opportunities

This proposed circular model and recycling trial goes towards providing jobs for prisoners in a number of ways. Immediately, the extra sorting of material and separating of PP and PE, will mean that more men are occupied in the prison-based MRF’s. In the long term, Bright Green would like to open a sorting workshop to sort additional external material.

Waste management and recycling is a promising industry for the prisoners to get involved with because it is a growing sector in the UK and will develop as more legislation around plastics and recycling is implemented. Through this industry, the prisoners could have the potential to learn employable skills like forklift driving, QC testing and training for Wamitab to level 4.


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