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Design is for everyone

16 December 2021

Head of Learning at V&A Dundee, Jo Mawdsley, on how good design can bring us together, foster wellbeing and strengthen partnerships

Design shapes our world. It's part of everyday life and it's everywhere. V&A Dundee is a museum with a vision of the future where everyone is inspired through design and recognises its far-reaching impact in our lives.

As a result of the pandemic, the museum was acutely aware of how crucial good design is to all of us. Good design is about equity, value, access, and joy. Reflecting on our role as a 21st century design museum and a centre for design excellence in Scotland, we have been refreshing our mission and vision.

Following the appointment of our wonderful new director, Leonie Bell, we have been on a journey in recent months to examine what we are, what we do and how we can make changes and a lasting impact for the future.

Things have changed this past year or so, and this is true for V&A Dundee. We are a pivotal part of Dundee, a city which is transforming. Throughout lockdown we engaged hundreds of families through our fun Design Busters hotline – every week a new challenge would be shared with budding designers via the special phone line. These design challenges encouraged intergenerational learning in fun and creative ways, using things most people have around their home.

Deepening our reach and impact across the community

Through our Learning Programmes, we are building on and developing a programme for all, that has at its core care, health and wellbeing.

Our successful and ongoing partnership with social empowerment, Dundee-based organisation Front Lounge has welcomed a new cohort of seven young people from their Kindred Clothing project. The eight-week course, Totes Sewing, is an introduction to machine sewing skills in which participants design and create bags inspired by the museum. What is so lovely about this project is that the participants, many of them young mums, feel so much part of the museum, using our studio space to socialise with each other and their young children.

We are developing a strong relationship with our fellow members of Children in Scotland and Families Outside – a national charity that works solely on behalf of families in Scotland affected by imprisonment. A series of outreach workshops is being developed with one of the outputs being some wonderful Christmas tree decorations designed by a group in Castle Huntly that will be displayed on the tree in the museum.

Promoting community health and wellbeing

Following on from the success of our first health and wellbeing trail, Labyrinth, we continue to work closely with medical students from the University of Dundee and design students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design to develop the second trail, Orikalmi – aimed at people who are feeling stressed, under pressure and experiencing anxiety. Using design, architecture, and museum spaces as a starting point for exploration and reflection, the trails will be available to anyone and will be distributed in partnership with NHS Tayside.

Sensory-Friendly Days for families and communities are core to our programme and offer a more relaxed way to enjoy the museum for those with autism spectrum conditions, sensory processing differences or profound and multiple learning difficulties. We work with key partners across the city, such as Dundee Carers Centre and Capability Scotland, to build on this programme.

This is just a taste of some of the wonderful programmes and activities we offer, so if you are interested in learning more about how you can engage with V&A Dundee, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Click here for more information about V&A Dundee

 

About the author

Jo is Head of Learning at V&A Dundee

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