The value of co-design

Young V&A Museum
March 21, 2022

Co-design is at the heart of our approach at Young V&A (YV&A). Imbuing our projects with creative and dynamic content, interpretation, and outcomes. I was determined to employ this practise in the development of the YV&A’s first online exhibition Play in the Pandemic, which launches on 23 March 2022 on the Play Observatory website.

Play in the Pandemic exhibition logo, designed by Marcus Walters
Play in the Pandemic exhibition logo, designed by Marcus Walters, 2022

Collaborating with designers and artists was vital to the successful creation of the exhibition. In November 2021, we invited RCA graduates, Juliette Coquet and Sindi Breshani from Episod Studio to create an immersive and interactive online exhibition environment. The pair had an impressive résumé with a host of imaginative projects under their belts including the ‘Race for the Arctic’ computer game and ‘The Village’ virtual reality experience. Responding rapidly to the brief, they devised the concept of a house for the exhibition environment. This idea evolved from a physical house to a doll’s house and then into an unfolding origami house, inspired by children’s craft activities. The playful home design was a reference to the setting where most families experienced much of the pandemic. The four rooms within the origami house represented the exhibition’s four theme, hosting within them the theme’s text, galleries, and activities.

Artist, Marcus Walters was commissioned to create the exhibition’s playful but sophisticated illustrations, logo and takeaway materials. Marcus’s portfolio boasts a wealth of incredible illustrations and animations for leading museums, heritage centres and children’s hospitals and was the perfect fit for this exhibition. Working together, Marcus, Juliette and Sindi, developed a colourful, bold and beautifully designed environment, in which to host the children’s artworks, games and videos, Young V&A’s collection and a series of takeaway activities for families (available to download at the bottom of this blog).

Dr Valerio Signorelli, lecturer at UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis had the herculean task of translating these concepts, complex designs and animations into computer code. To not only devise and build the infrastructure of the online exhibition, by which every text, photograph and function would hang, but to make it an enjoyable immersive experience for visitors.

Render of the exhibition's home pages
Render of the Play in the Pandemic exhibition by Episod Studio, infrastructure devised by Dr. Signorelli, featuring illustrations by Marcus Walters, 2022

Over the course of this six-month project there have been many challenges for this team, but the co-design process has pushed us to work collaboratively to find creative solutions, reach compromises, and deliver an innovative new exhibition experience. It is thanks to this team’s inexhaustible creativity that we have achieved a space worthy of hosting the artworks and experiences of the children and families who contributed to this project.

Please visit the exhibition at and for more information about the project please visit our research pages.

Lego by Marcus Walters, 2022

Play in the Pandemic is an online exhibition drawing on the work of the Play Observatory. The exhibition showcases children’s artworks, games and films from across the UK that were contributed as part of the Play Observatory project. It celebrates how children have demonstrated resilience, resourcefulness, and creativity through play, supporting and reflecting their wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 – 22.

The Play Observatory was funded from October 2020 to March 2022 by the Economic and Social Research Council. The aim of this innovative project was to collect and research children’s play during COVID-19. The work was undertaken by researchers from IOE, UCL’s Faculty For Education and SocietyThe Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, and, the School of Education at the University of Sheffield.

About the author

Young V&A Museum
March 21, 2022

I am the curator for the upcoming exhibition Japan: Myths to Manga, which is opening on 14 October at Young V&A. The exhibition is a celebration of Japanese folktales and...

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