Design for Life V&A projects
On this page you can find out about Design for Life projects run at the V&A with both school and community groups. Design for Life was a national museums partnership led by the V&A from 2008-2011. The project sought to find new ways of engaging young people in design through the inspiration of museum collections and contemporary design practice. The V&A was one of 16 museum partners that ran designer-led programmes with young people and developed a legacy of project ideas and design learning resources for teachers and youth and community workers to use in the future.
Design for Life at the V&A
Designing a bag
In 2009-10, the V&A worked with Year 10 Product Design students from two neighbouring London schools: Eltham Hill Technology College for Girls and St Paul's Academy, Abbey Wood.
The two schools were guided by fashion designer Holly Cowan, whose work is inspired by architectural structures. She demonstrated to the students how to design decorative, structured ‘shells’ from polypropylene, encasing fabric bags sewn from recycled materials of their choice. During their museum visit, students looked at examples of historical and contemporary bags, considering different forms and functions. For visual inspiration, they also made drawings of sculptural forms which attracted them, ranging from Buddhist sculpture to contemporary ceramics. Students incised linear patterns developed from their museum sketches onto the shells and then created handles and fastenings.
Designing a T-shirt motif
Young people from the Action for Children’s Haringey Young Carers visited the V&A over three weekends in 2009. They worked with artist-designer Errol Fernandes to explore galleries and develop drawing skills. These drawings were then used to inspire individual textile designs to decorate T-shirts.
Excited by a visit to the new Ceramics gallery, young people created colourful mood boards, drawing motifs that had interested them such as Chinese dragons, flowers, a rabbit and a Paul Klee inspired head. They transformed these into fabric designs by cutting and collaging shapes onto calico panels using iron-on fabric adhesive. They added line through use of embroidery - a new skill for most of the young people. Once the panels were completed, staff helped the young people to machine-sew the panels onto the T-shirts.
Designing a T-shirt and accessories
In 2008-09, the V&A worked with the Year 10 GCSE Product Design course at Eltham Hill College of Technology. The students’ brief was to create T-shirt dresses incorporating fabric designs inspired by the V&A museum. They also made an accompanying personal necklace to complement the dress incorporating the use of resistant materials. Students were inspired by fashion designs by Mary Quant and Pop Art imagery from the Print Collection and the Cold War Modern Exhibition. Fashion designer Sarah Easom and jewellery designer Lin Cheung visited the school to talk about their work and help the girls with their designs.
Over ten classroom sessions the girls developed their fabric design ideas using a combination of techniques, such as cut stencil with spray fabric paints and iron-on transfer printing of digital images. The jewellery motifs were developed from their sketch books and either cast in pewter from clay moulds or cut and shaped from MDF. The final pieces and sketch books were exhibited at a fashion showcase event at the V&A.
Product, jewellery and fashion design
In 2008-9, the V&A also worked with a group of eight young people aged 9-14 from Action for Children’s Haringey Young Carers. They attended four sessions at the museum - three 'taster' introductions to different types of design and a fourth showcase event. The first day was product design with V&A Designer in Residence Lao Jinhua (a product and 3-D designer). The young people made lampshades cut from foam in shapes inspired by the Chinese and Japanese galleries. The second session was jewellery-making with Lin Cheung, making necklaces from shapes cut from thin copper foil, then laminated, inspired by motifs in the South Asian galleries. The third session was T-shirt painting with fashion designer Sarah Easom, inspired by abstract shapes and colours from the glass gallery. At the final showcase event, parents were invited to a display of the work from all the sessions and the designers presented the young people with certificates.
Design for Life was funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education from 2008-2011; and additionally by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council from 2010-11, as part of the government's Stategic Commmissioning Programme for museum and gallery education.