Design Jams in Dundee

I took part in the Global Service Jam in Dundee in March 2013. This was the first service jam I had joined in Dundee, although I had taken part in the Glasgow Service Jam in both 2011 and 2012. Plus during my five years of design studies (in Glasgow, Cologne and Paris), I was lucky to take part in a number of short week-long projects that had similar elements to a jam.


I think to really enjoy a jam you have to start the weekend with the right mindset, and you need to make sure you have charged your energy resources (that means get some sleep before and remember to plug in camera/ipad to charge at the same time).

My motto for the Dundee weekend in March reflected that of the Jam organisers and it was to have as much fun as possible – it was the weekend after all. I knew that the most successful projects I’d seen in previous jams were from people that didn’t spend hours talking about a project, but those who got out into the city to talk to people, who made quick decisions and gave themselves enough time to prototype a project well – even if based on a simple idea.


The surprise theme for the weekend was ‘Grow Up’, but we somehow misheard it and thought it was ‘Grow’. So we worked with the theme of ‘Grow’ for our initial brainstorm on Friday. So although the first lesson may be to listen better, I think the second is that sometimes mistakes guide a project – as it was definitely ‘grow’ and not ‘grow up’ that planted the seed for our ideas.

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The Friday night started with inspiring talks about design skills, some big group brainstorming sessions, forming teams for the weekend, then developing ideas. The team forming started by standing underneath one of the post-its that had been pulled out as a key issue from the main ideas in the brainstorm. I remember nervously standing on my own under the issue that had caught my attention, and feeling incredibly relieved when a few more people stood underneath the issue with me – it was David, Craig and Jo. The team grew again when Finlay and Alina joined and we were left with a pretty awesome group of people, none of whom I had known prior to the jam. But we later became known as The Pollinators.


On Saturday morning our the newly formed team, The Pollinators, jumped out to the allotments and the botanic gardens to do some quick research. It was a surprisingly sunny day and we were pleased to find lots of people dotted around the allotments who were happy to answer a few of our questions. I remember one particular family we spoke to because their son had fiery red hair and a witty personality. He jokingly remarked in response to his mum saying they had started the allotment because she wanted to teach him where food came from with: “I know where chips come from – the fish and chip shop!”.


We then jumped back to the working space to gain insights and develop a service idea. This process became quicker as the day flew by, and we gained some brilliant project advice from Taylor Haig and the Jam Doctors throughout the day.


So by the end of Saturday we had resolved our concept and set about prototyping it in a visual, engaging and fun way. We built a small scale prototype model, and a larger life-size prototype space to film a short scenario in.


Sunday morning flew by as well – as we wrote a script and storyboard for our video, a business plan for our service, mocked up a website and filmed, then edited a quick video which made us laugh (alot). I think we may have inadvertently created the most colourful business plan ever!


Then we presented our idea to the rest of the Dundee Jammers and uploaded it onto to Planet Jam to be viewed by Jammers worldwide. You can read more about it and watch the project video here.


I always feel that it is really valuable to take part in events like this, because they give me a real energy buzz, they remind me of short University design projects and they allow me to meet some great new faces. In fact, for me this is one of the most valuable things to come out of the Dundee Jam.

Following on from this Jam experience and it was after talking to David over a few beers that a group of us decided to organise Dundee’s first Global Sustainability Jam. Organising this design event has been an equally quick process to confirm venues, reach out to collaborators, confirm speakers and start spreading the jam! But it is happening on the 22nd November and you can read more about it at Plus you can book a ticket on Eventbrite.
Eventbrite - Dundee Sustainability Jam


    Great report, thanks! The Secret Theme of the jam was neither "grow" nor "grow up". :) It was grow^ Like many of the Jam themes, aspects like spelling, punctuation or - in this case - special characters are part of the theme. Some people chose to see the ^ as "up", or as an "n", or as a roof, etc etc. So you would be perfectly correct to see "grow", "grow up" or something else. Adam Global Co-Initiator

    Adam Lawrence | 5 years ago

    Aha - Thank you Adam! Will look out for any added punctuation bits on this years Sustainability Jam theme then. Just a few weeks left now - it is starting to get exciting! Hazel

    hazler_06 | 5 years ago

    :) Some examples... (Super)Heroes HEART((BEATS)) grow^

    Adam Lawrence | 5 years ago

    And of course... HC SVNT DRACONES

    Adam Lawrence | 5 years ago

    ah of course... HC SVNT DRACONES So the theme is also a clever little test of people's observation/punctuation/latin language skills :) I like it.

    hazler_06 | 5 years ago

      Here was the thinking on HC SVNT DRACONES. People see it, many go "huh"? If you research it, you find that "hic sunt dracones" means "here be dragons" - so you might think about dragons, monsters, power imbalance and fear in government. Or quests, heroes, fairy tales etc. Some nice Jam ideas there. If you dig deeper, you might find out that on at least one globe it was used to mark unknown territory - areas outside our experience. More nice Jam ideas. Or, you might find out it was written in medieval (not classical) Latin, which was used by scholars - but it was never their mother tongue. They were never at home in it, but they used it to communicate internationally. That could lead to some nice ideas too. Or you might think, "why are they speaking latin, abbreviations and ALLCAPS at me?", and think about the tone of voice and language of government communication. Or, you might think "I don't understand you" - in which case that is your theme... Or, you might discover something completely different in it, and that is fine. It's making you think along unfamiliar paths. That's what the Theme is for. ;) A

      Adam Lawrence | 5 years ago

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