Last week I finished off a commission from the BESiDE project, to take the research they’d done into co-design with older adults and turn it into a kit that they can present and even make openly available for further use. A co-design kit for use with older adults.

I was given the back story of the project as a brief. Initially design had only played a smaller role in this huge research project: the designers were brought in to make sure that the older adults taking part in testing were given suitable monitoring devices to wear, ones that they liked and enjoyed wearing and ones suitable for their lifestyle.

However the designers brought in, Chris Lim and Sara Nevay of DJCAD, saw this as an opportunity to do what sounds like it was a really fun and valuable project, making each individual participant a beautifully customised object based on a series of worksheets in which they learned about the personal tastes of each user. Recreating this valuable and memorable experience between researchers and participants was my inspiration for the rest of the project.

Image from the BESiDE website


Image from the BESiDE website


Image from the BESiDE website


My challenge was to turn all of this into something much more finished but I was given some flexibility into how it would be presented and the content. I chose to create an open source design kit that could be downloaded by a community group hoping to work with elderly people. The kit takes you through a co-design process inspired by the work already done by the BESiDE designers but with a more clearly defined process and including detailed guidance through the whole process.

I spent the first week of the project writing the guidance document. This was definitely the most challenging element of the project as I had to describe the design process to be understood by non-designers.

I turned the process into three steps:

  • Introductions – this stage is all about really getting to know your user
  • Gathering Insights – developing a mood board telling a visual story from your participant’s life, and learning about their needs through fun activities
  • Making – designing and getting the final product made: a wearable pouch with a completely customised design and aesthetic.

The experience was, however, made quite enjoyable by the opportunity to do my own illustrations to visually explain each stage of the design process.


After finalising the process and writing the guidance document came the fun bit: building some example kit boxes. (Although the kit was to be made for open source download we thought it would be really nice to have some physical kits to also present).

This is the finished kit box. It contains the guidance document; a series of worksheets and prompt cards; and a whole set of textile samples to make the experience more tangible.

At the end of the project, I even got the opportunity to present the kit to the V&A Dundee to be used as a possible basis for future projects with co-design kits and work with elderly people. This was a really nice opportunity to share all my hard work and explain all the thinking behind it. I’d be thrilled to see the kit put into use and developed for new purposes too!

MAKE (k)IT is an open source kit that guides a researcher through the co-design process with older adults. The physical outcome of the kit is a wearable pouch customised to the personality and needs of each particular older adult. MAKE (k)IT uses a hands-on design process to create a memorable experience and, through this, to create understanding between individuals who would not normally come in contact with one another. The wider aim of the kit is to create empathy and connection within a community.

The kit can be used by, for example, pupils in a school; students; members of community groups; or anybody who is already working with older adults looking for a new way to engage them.

The outcome of the kit, in addition to the social benefit, is a personalised wearable pouch which embodies memory and story for the older adult and acts as a conversation starter they can treasure. The pouch could be customised to carry medical alarms, health sensors, medication or useful objects such as keys, a mobile phone or a bus pass as chosen by the user. In designing these customisations the kit encourages sensitivity by the researcher to the issues faced by the user.

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