Co-designing for Wellbeing

Learning & Visitor Experience
October 19, 2017

A collaborative project with the V&A, Bidean and MIND (Kensington & Chelsea)
Generously funded by the The Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation

Following on from last year’s ingenious designs created by members of the Depression Alliance, on the subject of design and environment, this year we shifted the focus of our co-designed efforts to wearables and wellbeing; taking inspiration from the Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A, as well as the permanent jewellery and theatre/performance collections.

Bidean is a social enterprise that co-designs products, spaces and services for wellbeing with those who have first hand experience of mental health problems.

Once again this year our social enterprise joined forces with the V&A and Mind (Kensington and Chelsea) to organize a series of workshops that took participants on a journey from the very first research stage, where we identified problems that relate to mental distress such as isolation, anxiety… to creating a wide collection of designs that benefit mental health one way or another, which we shared with the community through a display in the V&A’s Prince Consort Gallery.

As co-founder of Bidean and having facilitated co-design Workshops at various settings, I am continuously astonished with the variety of design concepts that each and every group comes up with.  This project is unique as it embeds the design process within the V&A galleries, using the collections to enhance the participants’ imagination for concept development and combining this with other techniques that help the group communicate and analyse adversities that relate to mental distress, which we later redefine as design challenges.

This year we came up with a wide range of fabulous ideas around the notion of wearables and wellbeing, such as the ‘love infuser’, ‘multisensory body suit’ or the ‘electrostatic aura fluffer’!

The most memorable moment in the project was when the whole group joined a member to test out the benefits of the ‘aura fluffer’!  We were doing a ‘mute’ brainstorming session, in which the participants had to perform around a box as if this was representing a solution to a particular design challenge, in this case, feeling paralyzed by depression. Each member took the box and did something with it, and everyone else had to guess what that box was doing and respond… ‘It’s a phone!’ ‘It’s a TV!’ ‘It’s a facemask!’ And discuss how that product may or may not help ease symptoms of depression and how it could be improved to fulfil that particular function. At this moment a participant took the box and shook it around his body. Everyone began to wonder what it was, when he called out: “It’s an aura fluffer and, as a matter of fact, it works! Come on everybody get up and flush yourself with the aura fluffer!” So we all stood up and began moving our bodies and our hands around our heads! I couldn’t stop laughing.

Humour is a huge part of the design process and the Bidean workshops aim to use play at every stage of our 5 step design process: Identify, Ideate, Invent, Initiate and Implement. We take pride that participants at this project have described it as a safe place for crying as well as laughing about oneself, which enables participants to look at their experiences in a ‘new light’, as valuable insights that inform new, original designs!

Some of these ideas are currently being redesigned for market and will be available soon as rewards in a crowdfunding campaign, so keep posted and find us on

Guest blog by Erika Renedo, Bidean

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