Participatory Design

What if you could design for people’s dreams, for the things they don’t know how to tell you? Asking and observing are one thing. Creation triggers stories which reveal deep needs and wants people wouldn’t know how to otherwise express.

Serving suggestion

  • Minimum 3 participants (large groups welcome)
  • 1-2 hours

Pairs well with

  • Ethnographic Studies
  • Diary Studies


Get design buy-in from business stakeholders

Understand user behaviors, attitudes & needs

View recipes


How to do it:

  • Gather materials to construct a story (markers, legos, play-doh, etc).
  • Tune the materials to the audience (e.g., serious vs playful).
  • Assemble a group of participants, paired up.
  • Present the group with the problem and materials.
  • Give pairs 10 minutes to construct a solution using the materials of their choosing.
  • Walk around and ask pairs to describe their creation, providing subtle guidance.
  • Take turns explaining the object and discussing as a group.

Additional resources

Participatory Design as a Research Method – Collaborate from Anywhere

When you do user research, there are some things that are just hard to get at. People’s needs, feelings and motivation may be hidden beneath a layer of politeness or people may even be unaware of some of it themselves. This is where we turn to participatory exercises, to find ways to discover and talk about the stuff they couldn’t quite put their finger on earlier.

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Bringing Users into Your Process Through Participatory Design – Frog Design

Now more than ever, prospective users and clients are being drawn even deeper into our UX design process through the use of participatory design activities. These activities help designers better identify people’s needs, then generate and evaluate a range of design ideas—often in a playful and fun way that helps us rapidly construct and test design hypotheses for products or services.

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Principles of Co-Design – Fair Deal Forum

Co-design is increasingly being used by both government and the community sector to describe a range of activities and processes used in the design of services and products that involve people who use or are affected by that service or product.

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The Story of Co-Design – Thinkpublic

A short and sweet animation illustrating the “Co-Design” process.

Watch the Video