Clerkenwell Design Week: Ideation workshops 1

by Foolproof

I love working in our offices in Clerkenwell. We have great labs and studio rooms, lots of skylights and even our own courtyard.

We are also at the heart of one of London's most creative districts. This is exemplified by Clerkenwell Design Week, a three day international festival celebrating the best in design with more than 150 events, pop up exhibitions, installations, talks, performances, music and workshops.

Flow and Koleksiyon

This year we got together with Koleksiyon, a furniture design company from Turkey, to run two ideation workshops in their beautiful new showroom in Brewhouse Yard. From the start we were impressed with Koleksiyon's commitment to collaboration and co-creation and their philosophy of rooting design in the "culture, history and geography" of "a particular time and place."

Ideation workshops

We planned two short workshops that would use Koleksiyon's showroom space to inspire new product or service ideas for interactive and intelligent objects and spaces for home, work and play.

Our aim for the first workshop was to create new product and service concepts. Here we would not focus on how the product or service might work, just what it would be capable of and what the experience would be like. The output of this workshop would be a 'show and tell' of each concept.

Our aim for the second workshop was to take the output of the first workshop and consider how the new product or service might actually work and how a person might interact with it. The output form this workshop would be an 'elevator pitch' for each product or service.

We scheduled the 90 minute sessions that participants could fit into a 'long lunch' on the Wednesday and Thursday of the festival.

Recruiting participants

We promoted the workshops through the Clerkenwell Design Week website and timetable, through twitter and through our professional and personal contacts. For each workshop we wanted to recruit 16 participants from a variety of backgrounds so we could put together mixed workgroups of three or four.

To help the participants start their thinking before the workshops, we gave them a homework task. We asked them to think of a piece of furniture that was connected to a special meaning, experience or memory for them. And to bring an image of the piece of furniture to the workshop.

Workshop structure

It can seem like a contradiction, but creative workshops need careful planning to create a structure and set of rules that help focus participants' efforts, but leave enough room for participants to find their own path and use their diverse skills. This was particularly important for these workshops as the time constraints (90 minutes sessions) did not allow for any wasted time.

The structure for the first workshop was:

  1. Introductions - to help the participants get to know each other and to give them time to get comfortable with the showroom space
  2. Inspiration and context - Koray Malhan, the General Manager of Koleksiyon, explains their design philosophy
  3. Exploration - groups create lots of possible product and service ideas
  4. Capture - groups refine their best ideas and record them using the worksheets
  5. Show and tell - groups present their best ideas to camera using the materials they have created.

The structure for the second workshop was:

  1. Introductions - as first workshop
  2. Inspiration and context - as first workshop
  3. Concept showreel - participants watch the Show and Tell recordings from the first workshop
  4. Options - groups choose concepts to work on and create several design options for each concept
  5. Capture - groups refine their designs and create descriptions and interaction storyboards for their best designs
  6. Elevator pitch - groups present their best ideas to camera using the materials they have created.


For the introductions we asked the participants to pair off and to fill out an introduction card for their partner. Participants would then introduce their partner, and their partner would describe their special piece of furniture.

To structure the participants' efforts and to help them work quickly, we gave them stacks of worksheets and lots of pens and sticky notes.

Wait and hope

Recruitment went well and both workshops filled up quite nicely in the days before the festival. We were getting excited.

On the day before the workshops I dropped in on the rather lovely party that 

Koleksiyon hosted to launch their new showroom. All we could do now was wait and hope that someone showed up the next day.

What do you think?