dwp logo

Methods – Participatory Design Game

method picture
What it is:

A prototyping kit that enables participants to express their needs and preferences through the actions of a board game.  Each Participatory Design Game has designed components (typically scaled architectural models or abstract parts derived from prior research) that are placed on the game board. The game can be played individually or in a group within a workshop setting, enabling the construction of different scenarios and design outcomes.






Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High


User insights and prototype design solutions achieved via a participatory process

Best suited to:



Mid to late stages of the design process

Allowing users to plan their own designs and share the lead in the creative process

Situations where users must give a complete, explicit description of their needs



Type of interaction:


Goes well with:

Immersive Workshops, Day in the Life, Video Ethnography

What designers say

‘…It is about the people-centred era finally replacing the market-centred era…’  Yanki Lee


casestudy icon
Segal Method

Architect Walter Segal is synonymous with self-build housing and is a key inspiration for the Participatory Design Movement.

Read more

casestudy icon
The Building Futures Game

The outcome of research and development work carried out by the Building Futures team, CABE and architectural practice AOC, this toolkit enables communities to think about the future of their neighbourhood.

Read more

casestudy icon
Future City Game

Designed by the British Council, this is a two-day activity that helps players to generate the best idea to improve quality of life in cities.

Read more

Background and further reading

The Participatory Design Movement started in Scandinavia and then North America in the mid-1980s with an initial focus on user-friendly technology. A common theme is to understand people’s desires and develop new knowledge about interaction between designers and people through the language of games.

Ehn, P. (1998), Work-oriented Design of Computer Artefacts. Stockholm, Almquist & Wiksell International

This describes how game playing is a productive way of enabling participatory design.

Lee Y. (2008), ‘Design participation tactics: the challenges and new roles for designers in the co-design process’, in: CoDesign (International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts), 4:1, 31-50

Lee Y, A Takeoka, S Fukuyoshi and S Sameshima (2008) ‘Design Your Home Pack’ Co-designing Tools to Design Homes and Houses’ in proceeding, Participatory Design Conference 2008, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA (download paper)