Learn from graduates about the possibilities of design

The concept of co-design has been with us for a while, but we rarely see it in action. It is more likely to be bandied around the conference platform as designers defend their position against public participation in what they believe they do best.

But when it works, co-design can yield outstanding results, with design professionals taking a lead and facilitating projects that enable individuals and communities to improve their lot of their own volition.

It is hugely refreshing, therefore, to see Get Go Glasgow – a collaboration of MA students at The Glasgow School of Art – win top prize in the Sustain Our Nation initiative with a project that has already galvanised the community on Glasgow’s Wyndford estate (www.designweek. co.uk 18 February).

Get Go Glasgow’s Green Gorillaz project is not about telling people what they need, or forcing a well-intentioned solution on them. The students have brought them together to decide what they want and are helping them to deliver it.

It fulfils the brief set for Sustain Our Nation by the Audi Design Foundation in that it is sustainable, with four GSA designers-in-residence remaining to support the community and a £10 000 seed fund – the ADF prize money – for community-generated projects over four years. Key to its success is that the instigators hope to hand over to local leaders within a couple of months.

Co-design is a natural for community projects, but could it work in the commercial world? Before we dismiss that notion, it is worth considering moves being made for brands to work together (see News Analysis, page 9) and the real need for collaboration with local consultancies and businesses in emerging markets such as India. It depends how you define community.

One thing is sure. Current design graduates are more open to new ways of working – and to embracing sustainability in the broadest sense – than many practitioners. There is as much to learn from them – in attitude and hunger for these topics – as a consultancy can teach them.


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