The People's Design Lab UK

The People’s Design Lab in the UK was a response to the frustration people experience when they are trying to avoid waste.  All too often,  bad product design means that there is no option but to throw things away.  The Lab was created so that rather than feeling powerless to change the situation, people could come together to create a strong, constructive voice for better design.

 Welsh social enterprise Cwm Harry supported the community of Presteigne in reducing their waste by 60%.  With their bins so slim, people became really annoyed about the things that they had to throw away:  unrecyclable packaging, kettles that it was hard to fix, things that broke way before your expected.  Inspired by Italy’s Little Museum of Bad Design, the community started finding out about the issues and challenging companies about unrecyclable packaging. 


As a finalist in social innovation charity NESTA’s 2013 Waste Reduction Challenge finalist, Cwm Harry partnered with Loughborough and Cranfield Universities to create The People’s Design Lab.  People from across the country backed by a panel of experts in ecodesign and waste three products from 136 nominations were redesigned.  

  Ecodesign experts supported people who knew nothing about design to rethink the nominated products voted  workshops, whilst people across the UK could comment.   People were surprised at how much they could contribute  

What Type of Products Were Nominated?

A wide variety of products were nominated in a number of categories. Here are some of the finalists:

  • The Weakest Link Award for stuff you thought would last a long time, but ended up in your bin –  kettles, headphones and inkjet printers;

  • The Bin Again Award for products that you throw away time and again  – pump dispensers, multi-layer envelopes and black plastic packaging;

  • The Russian Doll Award for Unnecessary Packaging – dead space packaging, excess hard plastic packaging and polystyrene packaging on food.

  • The Anything Else that Needs a Redesign Award –  electronic chargers, multiple train tickets and unrepairable shoe soles; and to celebrate good design:

  • The Best Zero Waste Design Award –  reusable carpet tiles, open source designs for reuse and eco-laundry products.

From these and another round of voting, the finalists identified to be focussed on for redesign workshops were; inkjet printers, black plastic packaging and excess hard plastic packaging and electronic chargers (although all the other nominations were not forgotten).  There was also the winner of the first People’s Design Lab UK award for Zero Waste design, Co-oproduct, a fantastic open-source library of things you can make reusing “waste” materials.

The Future

Now going forward the People’s Design Lab UK is excited to be part of the now Europe wide initiative. This approach and collaboration will hopefully help to raise awareness or wasteful design, while also taking a constructive approach of looking for solutions, engaging the community and hopefully as we move forward manufactures and policy.