Playing at the crossroads

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


Objectives; The Design Research Group (DRG) at The University of Northampton has been engaged in a number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP). Three of these KTP's have involved designing toys, games and playthings. The first exhibition's aim was to act as a research tool to contextualize, analyse and draw conclusions from the KTP experience and collaborations with local enterprises. Then use the knowledge to further research the creative value of play and toy design to all in the community. The curating process for ALL PLAY informed the second exhibition. The data collected will be analysed and any findings will add to the overall outcomes of ALL PLAY. The objective of this research is to establish greater insight into the impact in the form of benefits of design initiatives in the production and use of toys and the role of play in society. Prior Work; This research is informed by a series of Knowledge Transfers partnerships undertaken by the DRG for Sue Ryder, John Crane Ltd and BCE (Distribution) Ltd. The group has gone on to research the design management implications of these projects for designers and social enterprises. Approach; Two exhibitions and a symposium were planned for 2013 (June-July and October-November) to showcase, review and extend the collaboration with the KTP partners. The first was held at the Collective Collaboration Gallery in the Northampton Town Centre. It enabled the DRG to examine and disseminate the experience and demonstrate the benefits of the KTP projects. It enabled further research about the value and impact of the local toy industry in the Northamptonshire, past and present and to forge links with local community and business organizations. The symposium and second exhibition held at the University provides an opportunity to explore current global trends in design for play in the publishing, health, leisure, gaming and interior design industries in more depth. The process of curating the exhibition involved networking and bringing a wide range of experience, theory and case studies together. Creating a ludic play space in the galleries provides for another level for theoretical exploration, research and design. Results; Primary research in the form of interviews undertaken into the local toy and play, complements work being undertaken by the Museum of Childhood, indicating that a specific study needs to be undertaken into the regional history of the toy industry. There is scope for DRG to support and investigate further into the international role of toy design and distribution organizations that are based in the East Midlands. The exhibitions highlighted the impact of the DRG’s KTP research on different communities and industry sectors. The event emphasized the diverse and shared perceptions of the creative benefits of play. Knowledge was transferred back to the University feeding into teaching and learning and particularly in further collaborative research work. Implications; Oral History on the British Toy-Making Industry has yet to be published and its focus is recording the past manufacturing experience and not the dynamic role of creativity and design management in this sector today. The curatorial process has brought together past and present, the local and the global, the practitioner and the academic. The initial research indicates the increasing international importance of creativity and design in the play sector with a focus of enterprises based in the UK. There is an expectation that second set of events will explore and extend the debate further. Value; ALL PLAY is the umbrella title for the events and the paper showcases the benefits of the curating process, allowing the DRG to share their Knowledge Transfer research and account for the impact of it and at the same time continue to build collaborations and information about the value of play locally, to the creative industries, social well being across all groups and enterprise internationally.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISBE 2013 Conference Proceedings
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9781900862264
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2013


  • Creativity
  • East Midlands
  • design
  • education
  • enterprise
  • play
  • toys


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