Guest Journal by Laura Wareing


Earlier this year Deco Publique collaborated on a co-design research project that has been selected to be part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Design Research for Change 2019 Showcase at the London Design Fair, Old Truman Brewery, London. The showcase runs from Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 September 2019. In this guest journal post, PhD Researcher Laura Wareing introduces the project.

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Laura Wareing

Hello, my name is Laura Wareing and I am a designer and PhD researcher at Lancaster University.  I recently collaborated with Deco Publique on a research project called Redesign by the Sea, in which I worked closely with local young people aged 16 and 17 to design aspects of the Vintage by the Sea Festival - a visual report that outlines our process in more detail can be downloaded from this page.


The project came about when I approached Deco Publique to share ideas from my research and discuss their work, priorities and challenges, particularly in Morecambe.  We talked about the importance of engaging a wider and younger audience from Morecambe to help grow and sustain arts and cultural events and festivals in the local area.  Together, we came up with the plan for a project that would aim to engage with young people in the local community, provide them with an opportunity to voice their views and ideas on events and things to do in Morecambe.  We decided to focus on Vintage by the Sea, a very popular annual event, drawing in crowds of people from near and far but not necessarily appealing to local teenagers. 

We asked ourselves, how can Vintage by the Sea and other events in Morecambe appeal to and benefit local young people?


My PhD is part of a programme called Transformation North West (TNW). TNW is led by  ImaginationLancaster at Lancaster University and supported by four other North West based universities.  I am one of twelve PhD students from different creative backgrounds on TNW and we are all exploring how design and creative techniques can make the North West region a more prosperous place to live.  I am doing this by delivering four projects in partnership with businesses and organisations in the North West.

For my own PhD, I am interested in how collaborative approaches to design can help to raise the aspirations of young people living in underserved places in the region.  Young people outside the big cities in the UK, particularly those who live in seaside towns, former industrial or rural locations, have more difficulties accessing learning and employment opportunities and I would like to find out how design processes and techniques might have a positive influence in this area.  As I grew up in Lancaster and have family in Morecambe, I was keen to explore this in my own local area.  This is one of the reasons I approached Deco Publique, whose own ambition to improve places where people work and live, closely matched my own.

Recent research highlights how young people in seaside towns may have more difficulties in finding the right learning and employment opportunities where they live, which might affect how they feel about where they live and what they aspire to do in the future. Creative businesses and projects may be able to help draw on the strengths in seaside towns and create positive connections with the local community. 

Therefore the project aimed to provide a chance to learn about creative careers and entrepreneurship in Morecambe and offer a chance to have a hands-on creative and collaborative experience alongside Deco Publique.


I specialise in designing ways to draw groups of people in and genuinely involve them in the process of designing, planning and imagining something that is useful and beneficial to different people.  The outcome of what we design together does not need to be a physical object, it can actually be an experience, service or plan.  This way of designing with other people is especially well suited in situations where groups of people would like to make a change or solve a problem together. Through designing together, relationships with different people can be created, new ideas can be learnt and those people involved can feel empowered. 

Many people, particularly in the world of design research world, refer to this process as ‘co-design’, which is the approach that myself and Deco Publique were keen to take in this project.   

In order to do this, we invited pupils aged 16 and 17 from Morecambe Bay Academy (formally known as Morecambe High School) to take part in creative design sessions to give their views and ideas about Morecambe.  The content of the sessions was shaped through conversations between myself, Deco Publique and colleagues on TNW.  With the guidance of expert festival curators and a designer, we would take them on a journey through a design process.  The workshops were carefully planned to guide everyone through the design process, making use of the space and skills available and using a number of what we refer to as ‘design tools’, that would help the young people to express their ideas, helping even the most quiet pupils imagine and voice their ideas.  For more detailed information and images of the activities, please take a look at the visual project report available to download from this page.

We were blown away by how far the group progressed in such a short space of time!  We went from some of the group saying ‘they were not creative’ and hardly speaking to standing up in front of everyone with big smiles on their faces as they proudly talked about their new festival ideas.  Everyone came up with a wide range of completely new ideas, from the use of new technology to experience Morecambe like never before, to vintage sports experiences, to brand new ways of using the local park in an outdoor cinema experience!  


We had extremely positive feedback from the group who all wanted to continue developing the ideas further and felt that they had gained a different and more positive view of where they live, learnt about creative careers and had new confidence in being able to work with others and share their ideas.

Deco Publique hope to continue to evolve the ideas and would love to be in contact with the group again to do so, if possible.  Deco Publique are also keen to continue to use a co-design approach to involve and engage with the public in their work in the future.


We are excited to announce that this project will feature at the Design Research for Change 2019 Showcase at the London Design Fair, Old Truman Brewery, London from Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 September 2019.

Going forward, I’m excited to continue working in partnership with Deco Publique, developing an engaging co-design approach to working with young people that aims to reflect on the characteristics and future ideas for working and living in the communities they grew up in.  I’m also hoping to develop another project in this area.  If you would like to know more, please get in touch with me at

More information about Transformation North West at

Design Research for Change is a showcase of 67 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Design research projects. The projects traverse disciplinary, methodological, geographical, and conceptual boundaries. The work showcased here was developed by researchers and practitioners from a range of Design disciplines including product, graphic, fashion, and furniture and from other specialist areas such as healthcare, business, engineering, and elsewhere. The projects illustrate wide-ranging social, cultural, and economic impact and highlight the significant roles that UK-based Design researchers play in some of the most complex and challenging issues we face both in the UK and globally and the positive outcomes that are being designed and developed.

Workshop one was held at Morecambe Bay Academy in March and the second workshop was held at ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University in May 2019.

Photography by Laura Wareing