A Year in Research at PDR
For the research teams in PDR, 2021 was a categorically big year. Despite ongoing restrictions on team working and travel, we powered on with large-scale projects and our regular project support, helping businesses and governments across the world to integrate better design practises.
Now the dust has settled, it’s important to reflect on all that was achieved - so we sat down with Piotr Swiatek, Project Manager, and Jo Ward, Designer, to dissect another 12 months of hard work and exciting new challenges in research and knowledge exchange…
We started 2021 by picking up our long-term knowledge exchange project Design4Innovation, which brings together 8 European partners. 2021 was the continuation of our ‘monitoring’ phase, dedicated to engaging policy makers and assessing the impact of the interventions we designed for that process.
“Usually funded projects end with no time given to measuring impact, but this project had 2 years dedicated to just that, built in. All the partners managed to influence policy and create new business support mechanisms that were worth over 10 million Euros,” Piotr explains. “As a result, we’ve been highlighted by our funder Interreg Europe as a case of best practice from all 260 projects they fund.”
A significant portion of our work at PDR involves working with local governments - so it was in February that we delivered a workshop to the Welsh Government, sharing what other regions are doing and the current trends in design and innovation support. “This month was also when we kicked off a new project, the Design Impact Observatory, which is a collaboration with 3 other partners - Danish, Estonian and Hellenic design centres,” Piotr continues. “We aimed to identify the value and impact of design, and how to collect that integral data - reviewing methods for measuring design impact and seeing how this approach works in different countries.”
We’ve been highlighted by our funder Interreg Europe as a case of best practice from all 260 projects they fund.Piotr Swiatek | Project Manager | PDR
Over in the Clwstwr project, the second seed cohort with the Ideas Lab was announced in February, kicking off months of support and seed-level research and development with the various projects. “In this group we had Little Bird Films with the Green Screen project, Salt White Studio with the Crit + Spec project, Tantrwm with the Remote Interview System - and even more great ideas!” Jo exclaims. “It was a good mix of projects looking at products and services based around technologies, or social impact, or using screen technologies to enhance experiences.”
Soon came the Clwstwr Ideas Lab Deliver Session: “This was a show-and-tell style session for the cohort to share what they’d learned throughout the process, and what they’d be taking away for future development. These Labs are short, high intensity periods where projects are effectively ‘live’ from the get-go, so it’s a great chance to run quickly with new ideas as they develop.”
During spring, the research teams delivered the User-Factor pilot support in Wales, testing different ways of delivering design support to small businesses. “We carried out a small design audit of each company’s needs and suggested ways in which design would help them with their development. Frog Bikes is a great example of this - they were looking into changing their business model into a circular business model,” Piotr explains. “Similarly, Miss Patisserie - the bath bomb micro-business - were exploring a new offering with subscription boxes.”
Clwstwr turned some of its attention to the Journalism AI project in May, working with the Polis team at LSE, BBC News Labs and global newsrooms to focus on new ways of finding and telling new stories using artificial intelligence. “We supported and facilitated those sessions with workshops - it was really great to get such a diverse group of people from such a variety of world-wide newsrooms around the table to work on new story-telling R&D.
July was a great month because we got to go out and test Reel Reality ‘in the wild’! The concept is about film and TV locations through Wales, so we were able to road-test the app in Cardiff Bay and search for the location points, collecting items to build our own film sets and additional bonus content.Jo Ward | Designer | PDR
"Over the next month or two, we supported the Come Together event for Clwstwr, bringing as many of the team together as possible with the new cohort, the third of its kind. Some of these were brand new to PDR and Clwstwr,” Jo continues, “but equally we had plenty who’d been through the process and had now secured bigger pots of funding for brand new ideas, which we were really happy to see - Edge 21 and Hijinx Theatre were just two examples here.”
“July was a great month,” Jo begins, “because we got to go out and test Reel Reality ‘in the wild’! The concept is about film and TV locations through Wales, so we were able to road-test the app in Cardiff Bay and search for the location points, collecting items to build our own film sets and additional bonus content.”
In October, the Design4Innovation monitoring phase culminated in our final conference, in early October 2021, in Poland. “It was very exciting - my first in-person event since before March 2020!” Piotr explains. “It was part of a bigger congress, the European Future Forum, which had 4,000 attendees - it’s during this congress that we held our three-hour session, with over 100 attendees. We shared our impact and progress from the project, and asked what design support for small businesses will be needed in the coming years - especially taking Covid and recovery measures into consideration.”
As ever, our support for global governments continued. “Around this time we were approached by the Latvian Government to deliver 6 sessions for senior civil servants around design thinking and service design in the scope of policy and public service.”
November saw the Amgueddfa Cymru Challenge Workshops take place, around collaboratively investigating potential opportunities for innovative and creative ways to rethink the museum experience. “It was super exciting to see so many people we knew coming back in with something exciting and new ideas to give to the museum,” Jo explains. “Up until Christmas, we continued with lots of project support - we had around 60 projects during 2021, so they need plenty of communication and guidance which is really fun and rewarding.”
Looking ahead at 2022
Clwstwr sadly comes to an end in summer 2022, so we’re busy bringing all those projects to a close. “As Clwstwr wraps up, we’re kicking off our Clwstwr Expertise project comprising of 4 different studies; one, led by the policy team, reflects on the work completed during Clwstwr, what we’ve learned and what we can develop for creative industries in the future - which is a great lead-in to our next big project with media.cymru,” Jo finishes.
“We’re wrapping up projects too,” Piotr adds. “User-Factor and the Design Impact Observatory are both coming to an end, and we’re looking at capitalising on what we’ve learned during those projects for future collaborations and developing commercial work off the back of it.”