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Methods – Immersive Workshop

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What it is:

A workshop that replicates and accelerates the front end stages of a typical design development process and can be tailored to the specific aims of its organisers through the framing of the brief and the selection of participants. These may include designers and those from other disciplines such engineers and specialists in the theme of the workshop as well as end users. The format allows for a ‘dream team’ to be assembled to work on a given area and can take the form of a public design challenge, academic teaching module or an internal company workshop.






Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High


Visualised design ideas, design scenarios and simple prototypes depending on the time frame and context

Best suited to:



Early to mid stages of the design process

Rapid revelation, demonstration and analysis of issues, knowledge generation and knowledge transfer

Brainstorming and visualisation of new design concepts

Taking designers out of their comfort zones, enabling them to envisage issues and scenarios of which they may have been unaware



Type of interaction:


Goes well with:

Interview, Day in the Life, Observation & Shadowing, Prototyping

What designers say about it:

‘…The combination of timescale, research and teamwork is a brilliant, yet extremely challenging way of bringing about truly innovative thinking…’  Adrian Berry, Factory Design

‘…It is the perfect example of design thinking, building on new knowledge, placing designers in unfamiliar situations and forcing them to understand that the extremities of ability creates a powerful force for innovation…’  Clive Grinyer, Cisco


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Workshops with Targeted Brief

A 48 Hour Innovation Workshop at the University of Tokyo focused on the theme of design to assist people in the event of a natural disaster.

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Workshops with Open Brief

A 24 Hour Universal Design Challenge in Dublin set an open brief: each team was asked to take a journey with their disabled design partner through the main walking routes of the city.

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Multidisciplinary Workshops

The B Me Challenge Workshop, sponsored by Roche, sought innovative solutions to help people with rheumatoid arthritis over the course of a three-day multidisciplinary event.

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Prototype Generation

All Inclusive Sarajevo was a five-day workshop in which four designers worked with local workshop employing hearing-impaired people to create new products that they could make.

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Background and further reading

A pioneer of the immersive workshop model is Julia Cassim, Senior Research Fellow, Helen Hamlyn for Design, who, beginning in 2000, developed an international series of Inclusive Design Challenges in which designers work in teams with a disabled or older design partner as ‘lead user’. Timing of these workshops is from 24 hours to three days and they are devised to be an intense, immersive collaboration between designers and users.

Cassim’s Challenge Workshop model was subsequently adapted by Dr Yanki Lee as an educational methodology for introducing students at the RCA to inclusive and participatory design, entitled The Methods Lab. This extension of the model explored social activism in design, especially in relation to environment issues.

The immersive workshop today is a feature of many forms of social activism, civic campaigns and public awareness, for example the workshop typology known as ‘cultural jamming’ – a term coined by Kalle Lasn, the creator of Canadian magazine Adbusters.

Cassim, J, (2010) ‘Designing Effective User Interactions – examples from the Challenge Workshops,’ Proceedings of the 3rd Conference of the International Association for Universal Design IAUD, Hamamatsu, Japan

Sanders, E.B.-N. and Stappers, P.J,(2008) Co-creation and the new landscapes of design. CoDesign Vol.4, No. 1 March 2008, 5-18, Taylor & Francis, London

Cassim, J and Percovic, N (2011) ‘Harnessing Inclusivity and Co-Design methods for rebuilding cultural networks and economic transformation in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina’, Include 2011, Royal College of Art