How can a visual system help a local government collaborate with design education to better serve their citizens?


The London Borough of Camden is facing a 50% cut in funding. Their public services will undertake major changes that will inevitably affect their services and procedures. The Public Collaboration Lab conducted a set of projects that aimed to find innovative solutions to these challenges. After 18 months of research, exploration, collaboration, and prototyping, PCL wanted to tell people about their ideas.  


The Public Collaboration Lab is an action research partnership between Camden Council, a large London borough, and University of the Arts London, a world-renowned design institution. The project explored the impact of the collaboration between design education and local government and how design teaching can contribute to public service and policy. It prototyped a place for collaboration, experimentation and experiential learning to explore the co-creation of services and policies that may improve the lives of citizens, even with reduced public spending.


Prototyping a framework of collaboration.

The Lab’s research team conducted six community projects that focused on gaining insight and solutions for specific public services. The team ran workshops, held events, coordinated planning meetings and engaged with the public. Users of the services, public servants, and members of the public were invited to share their experiences, knowledge and ideas. 


Sharing the knowledge

By sharing the process of the project, other organizations can learn and engage with the progressive thinking. 


The project was documented in a variety of formats: printed books, a website with downloadable pdfs, online content and conference presentations. PCL was very transparent in the information they shared as the team remained dedicated to contributing to the progression and creation of society’s future. By making the materials so readily available, the insights can inform and enable other partnerships aiming to develop innovative solutions to societal challenges. 


Equipping others

The PCL team developed a set of tools that can help plan future local government and design education collaborative projects.


Local government and design education is not a typical pairing when dealing with budget cut challenges. Through the six projects within PCL, the team was able to develop a method to making the partnership effective and organised. A set of planning tools was created and tested to help bridge the gap between the two organisations. The codification of these projects can equip other partnerships and give them a jumpstart in their own efforts. 


Diagrams were designed to help the planning stages of collaborative projects. They introduced new teams to the process and helped define who would be involved, the stages of the project, and what the project goals were. Clear communication and alignment across both organisations proved to be crucial.


Designing an identity

The visual system brought together many types of information in a way that let the success of the project own an identity.


It was really important to make the vast amount of insights accessible to people who might not be well-versed in design, prototyping, or experimentation. The academic rigor that went into the project had to be presented in a way that others could easily grasp. The look maintained authority without inflicting superiority. In telling the story of the projects, materials were gathered from all types of contributors, so a treatment was used to bring them all into the same visual style, without losing the authenticity. 


Icons added another dimension to making the tools accessible to a variety of extpertises and participants. A visual element makes the tools easier to use.


Photos were taken from all kinds of participants. The styles were all different and consistency was nonexistent. A treatment to each photo transformed them into a series.


Thanks to the brilliant minds at University of the Arts London and Public Collaboration Lab.

If you'd like to know more about this project, please email me.

My contribution

Visual system
Photo editing
Information design
Book design
Layout design
Iconography design