Design4Health: Our impressions


Lab4Living recently held the Design4Health Conference in Sheffield. We welcomed 160 delegates from over 20 countries. It’s always inspiring to see and hear from people in both disciplines (design and health) who are talking the same language. I noticed an increase in presentations around dementia and end of life this time round and have pulled out a few titles here:

  • Designing for playfulness through compassion: design for advanced dementia
    Cathy Treadaway – CARIAD, Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Evaluation or anecdote: understanding the impact of design. Gail Kenning – University of Technology Sydney, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Eindhoven University
  • Designed with Me: Dementia’s Creative Communities
    Euan Winton – Imagination, Lancaster University
  • Staying in touch as partners – creating islands of normality for couples living with dementia. Sonja Pedell – Swinburne University of Technology
  • Clothing and dementia. Exploring the lived experience.
    Rebecka Fleetwood-Smith – University of West London
  • Designing person centred products for people living with dementia
    Stephen Reay – AUT University
  • Understanding Meaningful Relationships for Families Living with Dementia in Long-term Care. Angelsea Saby – OCAD University
  • Designing a better visit: Touch-screen apps for older people living with dementia and their loved ones in residential care settings. Sonja Pedell – Swinburne University of Technology
  • Life Cafe – A Co-Designed Method of Engagement
    Helen Fisher & Claire Craig – Lab4Living, Sheffield Hallam University

Abstracts and full papers can be found at


One presentation that particularly stood out for me was in the ‘Democratization & Design’ strand and was titled; Design With Care – From Art to Applied Design to Income Source, presented by Laila Cassim – RCAST, Tokyo University. Cassim’s paper explores ‘how the linkage of creative activities by disabled people and the strategic use of co-design methods and inclusive processes can enable new forms of financial independence and social empowerment for people who would otherwise have difficulty gaining mainstream employment’.

It was the co-design methods, that gave people a sense of purpose and agency that really resonated with the Ongoingness project, as well as the fact that they were creating beautiful objects that might one day outlive them but leave their mark on the world; it made me think about Ongoingness through Art.

Cassim also included an inspiring example of using peoples experiences and stories as coping mechanisms through the co-design of a card game called Karuta. The card game was also designed and produced by the same group of individuals who had shared their experiences of mental health. We hope to engage in similar methods during our project, the process of designing beautifully personal objects with individuals is as important, in creating a sense of Ongoingness, as the outcome.

Posted by Helen

Conversations about dialogicality and the notion of ongoingness

Jayne and I have been working on a spectrum of ongoingness – drawing from ideas that we’ve all had in group meetings and beyond as a way to aim to see an overarching conceptualisation of the notion of ongoingness. One of the main points we discussed was whether the ideas that are emerging in our project are dialogical (read Wright and McCarthy) or not – also how reflective or reflexive they are. The debate on reflexivity is rich and nuanced, and there are different ways of looking at it. We refer here to Paul Hibbert’s definition that reflection achieves some learning but the learner is the “same person” afterwards – reflexivity achieves learning but also leaves the learner changed as a result (read more). So (very crudely!) we could say that reflexivity is reflection + self-change.

We contacted Pete Wright and John McCarthy to discuss our thinking.  Our conversation focused on how the “surplus of seeing” of the other (see more on Bakhtin) would play out in terms of a dialogical encounter between self and a deceased other, or to-be-deceased self and other.

Does biological death or death of self represent the final loss of all potential because we can no longer enter into dialogical encounters?
Or is that the point of ongoingness to help others continue to find new ways of seeing surplus in the self (e.g. in me) of creating me?

Their input has been hugely insightful and useful. We are now weaving all the threads together and developing further our thinking on what the spectrum of ongoingness looks like.

Books/papers we are reading in relation to this focus

Dialogism and dialogicality in the study of the self

Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a prosaics

The rituals pleasures and politics of cooperation

Mortality as Framed by Ongoingness in Digital Design

Taking [A]part. The Politics and Aesthetics of Participation in Experience-Centered Design

Written by Nantia