Project Introduction Text: DOTT07

Dott 07 (Designs of the Time)
by Bang Hee and Daniela Sangiorgi, ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University

Dott (Designs of the Time) is a 10-year programme of design promotion, manifesting every two years and spanning entire regions across the UK. Dott can be described as a series of creative and grassroots community design projects, intended to improve design awareness at different levels of the society and to stimulate social, environmental and economic innovation within a local territory. This programme has led local communities, design professionals, policy makers and groups of citizens to work together based on a strong belief in the role of Design for social innovation (Thackara, 2007).
The North East England had been the first region to host a biennial Dott programme, called Dott 07. Dott 07 programme was undertaken from the mid of 2005 to the beginning of 2008. It started with two main questions; ‘what might life in a sustainable world be like?’ and ‘how can design help us to get there?’ Based on these two questions, Dott provided a framework and five contexts of everyday life: mobility, health, food, school and energy. In particular, Dott07 programme consisted of design led commission projects, education initiatives and design showcases.

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.
Dott 07 had an overall budget of 5.8 million pounds. The major contribution came from One North East who funded 3.85M pounds in total. This was divided in a core budget (3.5M pounds) and a public commissions budget (350K pounds). The Design Council co-funded the programme contributing with 1M, while Culture 10 contributed with 800K pounds, and other organisations contributed 155K pounds in the various project activities (Source: interview with Robert O’Dowd).
65 partners participated in total: service design agencies and other independents consultants (Design Options, Thnikpublic, Live|Work, Engine and Zest Innovation), local communities, local councils, and more than 70 schools and galleries.

Dott programme represents the Design Council’s ambition at engaging the public in design, creativity and innovation issues. The UK policy describes ‘creativity’ as a key driver for economic development and encourages to explore this resource across education, industry and cultural initiatives (the Design Council and One North East, 2008). In addition, Dott programme was created to celebrate ‘Design’, to implant ‘design thinking’ and ‘creativity’ into the regions in UK, and to engage with the public to raise ‘public awareness’ on Design and on the areas it can make a difference (Source: interview with Robert O’Dowd).
North East England was selected as first context for Dott because it was considered as the right place to start again a new industrial revolution. According to Kester, chief Executive of the Design Council:

North East England has already proven its commitment to using design to create a more dynamic regional economy. Leading the way with a series of bold and innovative initiatives in business, technology and education, the region’s plans for long-term investment and thriving cultural programmes make it the ideal choice to host the very first national design promotion.
(David Kester, cited in Thackara, 2007)

Moreover One North East already recognised the importance of using Design and creativity for innovation; they have supported innovation for a dynamic region building connections between Design, science and technology for the quality of life, investing over 30 million pounds a year in this field. Alan Clarke (Chief executive of North East) states that:

We have a vision that North East England will establish itself as an internationally renowned design destination. We want to be recognised as a region where it is easy to turn ideas into business success, where innovation is unlocked, aspirations stimulated and productivity raised. Creativity is not confined to our cultural policy but is already embedded in our wider regeneration policy, enabling us to promote and nature creativity in diverse communities and environments from science to education.
(Alan Clarke, cited in Dott07)

The Design Council vision for Dott is to engage with the public to generate economic and social benefits and embed ‘design thinking’ in daily regions’ life. At the same time, the Design Council wants to experiment with new forms of design promotion, that are not London-based (Source: Interview with Robert O’Dowd).
One North East vision of Dott was to support a priority action for the regional economic and social development and to raise public awareness on the role of Design. In particular Dott 07 programme met One North East’s long-term strategic plan that saw Design as a key driver for the future productivity of the region and aimed at raising public awareness on the power Design for business development (Source: Interview with Ben Strutt).
Furthermore John Thackara, Dott 07 programme director, imagined the programme as a laboratory to develop a sustainability strategy for regions. Instead of talking to people about what Design is and about what a sustainable future might be, Thackara wanted people to explore it practically developing daily life solutions that seemed feasible and desirable (Source: Interview with John Thackara).
Through the integration of these three perspectives, the vision of Dott 07 was summarised as: ‘what life in a sustainable region could be like’ and ‘how design can help us to get there’.

Table 1: Dott 07 Objectives (Design Council and One North East, 2008)

Structure of the Organisation
The structure of Dott 07 includes a core team and individual project teams. The core team consists of a board, executive producer, programme director, system director, operation manager, web-managing editors including a developer and writer, communication manager, and festival manager. The board includes a chief executive and a board member of One North East, a chief executive of the Design Council and a chief executive of Newcastle College. The Project teams work as a self-organised and independent production body; each project team is made up of a senior producer and designers.

Table 2: Dott 07 Organisational structure

Programme Framework
The programme framework consists of three main areas: public design commission projects, education initiatives and design showcases.

Table 3: Dott 07 Programme Framework

As part of the Public design commission projects, the board approved seven projects to be run by design led delivery team:
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)
In the section of Dott 07 education initiatives the main project was the Eco-Design challenge that aims at introducing the design agenda right through the education system. This section included also other activities such as design competitions and an international conference. For instance, there was a region-wide design competition for secondary school students with Royal Society of Art and a global student’s award with D&AD, the trade and educational body. Northumbria University also held an international design conference, called ‘design intersection 07’.
With regard to design showcases, Dott 07 festival was held for 12 days to showcase some of the outcomes of the work undertaken during the Dott 07 individual projects process and to address the power of Design to identify the key themes within the region. The festival played an essential role in raising the public awareness of Design and creativity. In addition, during the course of the year, various exhibits were conducted in partnership with Culture 10.

Table 4: Dott 07 System Map

Table 5: Dott07 Time Scale

Horizontal and Vertical activities
Individual projects were developed around five themes (vertical tracks) and integrated by a set of horizontal initiatives as part of the overall framework (see table 6).
The horizontal activities were management meetings, internal meetings, external initiatives, design showcases, digital platforms and communication tools. The board met eight times every year to build the partnership and plan how to generate a lasting legacy. Internal meetings, called ‘Otterburn’ and ‘Notterburn’, were attended by Dott 07 core members and senior designers. Through these meetings, they clarified Dott 07 vision and shared each projects’ progress, approaches and methodologies through ‘pecha kucha’ style presentation and discussions. External initiatives were called ‘explorers club’, open events conducted before the launch of a project and at the end of the programme. Through ‘explores club’ people could get to know new people, share design methods and bridge the gap between what people need and what people can get. At the end of the Framework Project people met also to discuss each project sharing feedback and results. The ‘explores club’ used ‘speed date’ meeting, presentations, group discussions and activities including conversation, mapping out issues and brainstorming.
Design showcases such as Dott 07 showcases and Dott 07 Festival were conducted for the public. In particular, Dott 07 festival exhibited all of the design events and projects in one place. Design showcases helped to raise awareness on Design and on sustainable ways of living. Dott 07 website ( was the main digital platform. There were also other support websites such as Eco-design challenge website and Alzheimer’s society website. As other communication forms, there were several publications and leaflets.

Table 6: Dott 07 vertical projects and horizontal activities

The evaluation of Dott 07 programme was conducted by the agency called Wood Homes Group Limited through qualitative (stakeholder interviews) and quantitative research (on-street surveys).

Table 7: Dott 07 Programme Assessment (the Design Council and One North East, 2008)

Key Successes across the Dott 07 programme
1) Community Engagement through Design
After launching the Dott 07 individual projects, over 500,000 people engaged indirectly with the projects within the North East Region and beyond and over 20,000 people visited the festival.
2) Raising awareness of the value of design
Dott 07 encouraged the public to have a better understanding of the role and value of Design. At the end of the initiative many people associated Design with problem solving and improving public services instead of just fashion or product design.
3) Improving Communities and the lives of citizens
The emerging legacy of some of the Dott 07 projects provides successful examples of improving communities in North East England. For instance, Move Me project dealt with unavailable transport crating new service solutions.
4) Developing local networks and alliances
Dott 07 has succeeded in developing local networks and alliances. Each project was developed with local councils, local communities, local businesses and schools. This process encouraged the establishment of new connections and long-term relationships.
5) Inspiring, educating and involving young people
Dott 07 programme has succeeded in inspiring and educating young people about Design through individual projects such as the Eco Design Challenge, Move Me and Our New School.

Some failures and Lessons Learnt
1) Regional penetration & levels of public engagement
Although Dott 07 programme was successful in terms of public engagement across North East England, especially through the Dott 07 festival, Dott 07 could not achieve a regional coverage except for the Eco Design Challenge.
2) Clarity of Dott objectives & messages
The overall theme of Dott 07 changed during the early stage of the programme and this shift caused some confusion in delivering messages within the programme teams.
3) Projects & project management
Dott 07 allowed flexibility and experimentation in the programme, as there were many small projects including 16 events, projects and commissions. Some projects had more energy and undertook very successfully but few projects failed or were less successful to deliver their outcomes.
4) Marketing and communications
The most negative feedback from the key stakeholders was ineffectiveness of marketing and communications of Dott 07. One reason was that Dott 07 did not have a large marketing budget. However, Dott 07 should have tried alternative approaches by using resources more creatively.
5) Regional economic impact
It is too soon to evaluate the regional economic impact however, at this point of the time, the regional economic impact is likely to be small as Dott 07 programme was not directly designed for the purposes of economic development.
6) Governance and management
Delivering Dott 07 programme was a challenge because of its large scale and complexity. Furthermore, the board would have benefited by the involvement of more diverse groups such in particular from the business sector.

Projects Legacy
The table 8 is the legacy map that includes overview opportunity, exploitation plans and action plans of Dott 07 individual projects:

Table 8: Dott 07 Legacy Map (the Design Council and One North East, 2008)

At the executive meeting on the 11 April 2007, key legacy opportunities were discussed based on outlined results by individual projects. This planned legacy was agreed by Ruth Hasnip (Design Council), Lynsey Robinson (ONE), John Thackara (Dott07) and Robert O’Dowd (Dott07). The reason to develop a plan for the legacy was of strategic importance for the future Design Agenda. The exploitation plan for the legacy encouraged to find a clear route to market and stakeholders and to identify a clear funding opportunity.

1.14. References

NESTA (2008), Creative Pioneers, NESTA, London

Dott07, Designs of the time, Origin Communications, North East England

OurNewSchool project (2007) Dear Architect: A vision of Out future school at Walker [online] (Accessed 20, Mar, 2010)

Tan, L. (2009a) ‘Design Methodology in the public and social sector: Seven roles of designers in the Dott07 public design commission projects and their relevance to sustainable development contexts’. PhD Abstract. London

Tan, L. (2009b) ‘Perspectives on the changing role of the designer: Now and to the future’ presented at the ICSID World Design Congress Education Conference, 22 November, 2009

Tan, L. and Szebeko, D. (2009) ‘Co-designing for dementia : The Alzheimer 100 project’, Australasian Medical Journal, 1(12) p185-198.

Thackara, J. (2007) Wouldn’t It Be Great If…We Could Live Sustainably – by design, Design Council, London

[Internal Document]
Design Council & One North East (2008), Evaluation of Design of the times (Dott 07) FINAL REPORT


John Thackara, Dott07 Programme Director (10. May. 2010)
Robert O’Dowd, Dott07 Executive Producer  (26. Apr. 2010)
Ben Strutt, Design Senior Specialist, One North East, (11.Jun.2010)
Nick Devitt, Senior Designer ‘Eco-Design Challenge’ and Dott07 Core Team member (28.May.2010)
Lauren Tan, PhD student, Northumbria University (25. Mar. 2010)

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