Government funding to the tune of £1m has this week been secured for a three-year schools design project, entitled Joinedupdesignforschools and led by The Sorrell Foundation.
Designers including Love, Ben Kelly, Judge Gill, Poke and Frost Design have developed initial concepts for 24 projects, final versions of which are due for completion at the end of May. Each project has been awarded £10 000 in design fees from the Department for Education and Skills.
The Sorrell Foundation has matched designers with schools across the UK to develop their projects, which range from toilets to signage, playground layout, identities, storage and school magazines. The foundation approached each designer last year.
One of the most important aspects of the project is involving pupils, and teaching them how to set design briefs and ‘handle being a client’, says The Sorrell Foundation director Shelagh Wright.
In each school, the pupils are the clients and the designers work for them. ‘We want to ensure pupils are getting something they really want and will use, rather than having it imposed from above,’ says foundation chairman John Sorrell. ‘It helps if they are stakeholders in their own school.’
Each project title begins with the child-friendly header ‘the thinking behind…’ and includes ‘…how we let everyone at school know what is going on’, by Love; ‘…how we store our things’ by El Ultimo Grito; and ‘…how we bring fun and learning to our playdecks’ by Conran & Partners.
Once designs are finalised, they may be presented to each school’s board of governors. According to Wright, schools will then be able to use new Government funding, part of the upcoming £5bn increase in schools’ capital investment, to implement the designs.
‘This is one of the most exciting projects we have funded,’ says Minister for School Standards David Milliband. ‘It aims to inspire creativity in young people and improve the quality of life in each school. Pupils and designers are working together to produce ideas for classrooms with lots of light, fresh air and good acoustics.’
The announcement follows a pilot scheme last year with seven schools, funded by The Sorrell Foundation. The foundation evaluated results with think-tank Demos before approaching the DfES, says Wright. Pilot projects included looking at school dinners (Ben Kelly), identities (Interbrand) and school uniforms (Paul Smith).
The signage project
Graphic Thought Facility has had first concepts approved for signage at Summerhill School, a new-build school in Birmingham, with the work to launch in time for the new term in September.
GTF designer David McKendrick says the consultancy was briefed to add character to the building through signage.
‘We were briefed by about 20 pupils, aged 14-15 years. The school, which opens in September, will have yellow breeze block walls and blue floors and we wanted to add some personality and help distinguish between different departments.
‘We presented our first concepts to the group at the Design Museum on 2 April. It was nerve-wracking as I didn’t know what to expect. Kids have no pretence, they will come out and say if they think something’s crap.
‘The solution they chose was giant, 180cm-high lettering along certain school corridors, creating a “branded” area in three different languages.’