Design of the Time is first of all a ‘Design-centred’ programme as its main vision and aim are to grow awareness of Design and to explore new ‘designerly’ approaches to innovation on a wide scale. Mostly designers and design led teams have been participating in its activities forming the core of the initiative, but at the same time also artists, architects, and media studios had a significant role. This to say that designers did have a ‘leading’ role in the programme setting up the vision and facilitating the key project commissions, but Dott07, in order to reach out as many people as possible, involved other professionals using different approaches to engage communities.
Design as object and mean for change
Dott 07 was co-funded and delivered in partnership between the Design Council and the regional development agency, One North East. Culture 10, the region’s major arts and cultural programme and a variety of public and private organisations also supported Dott 07.
The vision and strategy of Dott 07 was therefore the combination of the two organisations’ visions, but Design had a central role both as an object of ‘promotion’ and ‘experimentation’ and as a ‘driver’ for innovation and change. Used as an alternative way to plan change in a territory with a particular focus on sustainability and a ‘less stuff, more people’ world. The use of creative approaches was also in line with the ideal of inspiring and engaging people while not telling them what to do: ‘on the contrary: its purpose was to enable local people – interacting with inspiring and visionary guests from around the world – to develop their own visions and scenarios’ (Thackara, 2007: 7). North East was to become and behave as a ‘design school’.
The structure of Dott 07 includes a core team and individual project teams. The project teams worked as self-organised and independent production body; each project team was made up of a senior producer and designers. The focus of the programme was mainly on the seven public design commission projects that co-designed specific solutions to specific challenges. These were facilitated by design studios (Thinkpublic, Livework, Engine, Designoptions, Zest Innovation), but were multidisciplinary and collaborative in their model. The seven commission projects were:
1) Health Context: Alzheimer 100 (Better lives with dementia)
2) Health Context: DaSH (Design and Sexual Health)
3) Energy Context: Low Carb Lane (Community based energy efficiency)
4) Mobility Context: Move Me (Rural transport)
5) Mobility Context: New Work (Peer led work support)
6) Food Context: Urban Farming (Growing, cooking and eating in the city)
7) School Context: Our New School (Getting pupils to re-design their school)
Beyond this core work, a plethora of other initiatives took place in the North East with the aim to generate discussion, interest, attract attention, engage communities and develop ideas. These initiatives were always developed as independent production bodies, but their approaches were not necessarily linked to design; some used installations, performances, digital media, and various techniques for community engagement.
The framework and each design group was set up to work in a collaborative way, so Design did have a leading role, but used their approach to map out and engage as many stakeholders as possible. This was a need of the individual project, but also a need of the overall framework, to impact at a regional scale. More people participating and more connections established and more successful would have been the programme at the end. Designers followed the Design Council’s Double diamond process model, but developed their own approach adapting their techniques and plans to the concrete situations and co-design group abilities (for example if they were older people or students).