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Research Projects

RCUK Digital Economy £1.1m (Value to University of Dundee: £225,000) 04.2009 – 03.2011

Bespoke 1
Bespoke 3

Increasing social inclusion through community journalism and bespoke design

Main project collaborators

Prof David Frohlich, University of Surrey (Principal Investigator)
Prof Patrick Olivier, Newcastle University (Co-Investigator)
Paul Egglestone, Sandbox and University of Central Lancashire (Co-Investigator)
Dr Justin Marshall, University College Falmouth (Co-Investigator)
Dr Jon Rogers, DJCAD, University of Dundee (Co-Investigator)

Bespoke 2DJCAD Team

Dr Jon Rogers (Co-Investigator)
Michael Shorter (Research Assistant)
Paddy Stevenson-Keating (Intern)
Michail Vanis (Intern)

Context and background

A brief consideration of how often we check our email or connect to the web each day begins to show how embedded digital technology and information have become in everyday life.

This has begun to transform the way we maintain relationships, create communities and conduct transactions with businesses and institutions. However, large populations around the globe do not have internet access, computing technologies or the literacy and operational skills to use them.

This includes populations on the margins of UK society who simply cannot afford the technology or struggle with its’ interfaces and complexity. Although such populations continue to engage in analogue information, through access to print and broadcast media, they do not enjoy the advantage of connection to wider networks and may be excluded from the real economy and be less able to compete for jobs and resources.

Aims and objectives

Bespoke is a multidisciplinary project investigating how digital systems and devices can increase social inclusion and improve lives. The project is working at a neighbourhood level, helping people to tell their own stories through hyper-local news production, and then using these stories to inspire radically simple bespoke design solutions, created with and for people.

Bespoke is a ‘work in progress’ bringing together researchers from design, journalism, ethnography and computer science to explore the possibilities of ‘digital’. Moving beyond social cohesion projects aimed at giving communities a voice, Bespoke is attempting to connect these voices to tangible benefits in the form of real world outcomes with genuine impacts. These could be design objects reconnecting people with the digital world. They could be changes to the physical environment brought about using digital technologies. One of the key objectives is to create simple and engaging analogue interfaces to digital content in order to allow those that are digitally excluded to benefit from the economic, social and cultural advantages which access to digital tools and content can provide. For example, someone without email could receive messages on a letterbox printer and reply and write back using a scanning postbox.


The project has developed a new method for engaging designers with communities in a sustainable and measurable accountable way. Through working with journalists at UCLAN, Bespoke have shown preliminary results that citizen journalism provides a more accountable process for developing design ideas and measuring the effect and impact of design responses on vulnerable communities.


There are a variety of outputs from this project including academic publications, designed objects, press coverage and follow-on funding. Specifically, physical outputs from this project are 5 designed objects that have been installed and evaluated in people’s homes, in the public, through community venues and centres. The final work of the designed products will be exhibited at the V&A in September 2011 at the London Design Festival.

Ultimately, the output of this project has been to initiate, test and begin a radically new form of design research that uses transformation to both journalism and design.

Bespoke - click here to download PDF description