How Can Design Make Us Happier?

Posted 30th Sep 2019
how design can make us happy

Back at the 2014 festival we asked this question – Does good design make us happy?

As I remember it, the great Neville Brody, David Constantine, Sir John Hegarty, Deyan Sudjic and the lovely Fi Glover concluded that yes, good design does have the potential to make us happy, (after a lengthy debate around what counts as good design).

But the bigger question that remained after that talk was, how can design make us happy?

Fast forward 5 years and I believe we have the answer to that question.

Since 2014 big change is happening to improve health care, wellbeing, education and the environment using the power of design.

And here are just a few people we know that are using design to do good things and make us happier:

Camilla Buchanan

Camilla has gone from the Design Council policy team into a government role at Policy Lab, where she is uses the power of design to help form better, more effective government policies that better serve the public interest.

This year Policy Lab has been working on a project with the United Nations (UN) to bring the voices of people in a geographically distributed organisation into the early stage policy design to broaden the range of people and quality of engagement for more effective policy development.

You can read more about the project Camilla has been working on and how the Policy Lab used design processes for open foreign policy making.

How do we do open foreign policy making?

Andy Puncher

Andy Puncher founder of pH+ Architects is using architecture to bring communities of people together.

pH+ architecture works around the belief that by delivering high quality and considered “shared spaces” everyone will benefit, from the local residence to businesses and the local economy.

They exploring how mixed-use architecture can build cohesive and successful communities and ultimately the cities they combine to form.

Take a look through the extensive pH+ portfolio and see how this award winning architect firm are reshaping communities and bringing people together.

pH+ Portfolio

Yoko Sen

Yoko Sen is the founder of Sen Sound, an organisation that aims to alleviate suffering through transforming sound design in hospitals.

Patients and their families suffer from noise pollution. Clinicians suffer from alarm fatigue, a major safety hazard. Hospitals, as systems, suffer from disease-centered design. Yoko envisions human-centered sound design, to bring more dignity to our hospital experience.

Sen Sound are passionate about alleviating suffering. They aim to improving experience for everyone. Their products are human-centered, creative, holistic, effective, and economical.

Read more about the effects of negative sounds in hospitals in this New York Times article – To Reduce Hospital Noise, Researchers Create Alarms That Whistle and Sing

Alexander Taylor

Alexander Taylor has been an innovation and creative design consultant since 2008 working alongside adidas and Parley, an organisation in which creators, thinkers and leaders raise awareness of the state of the oceans and collaborate on projects that can protect and conserve them.

They worked together to suggest an extraordinary answer for the immense plastic quandary polluting the earth’s oceans.

Their solution was to turn the deadly fishing gear into a revolutionary stylish shoe, each created using over 16 plastic bottles, and 13 grams of gill nets each.


The adidas  and Parley trainer is the first example of this originality ever being done. The upper shoe is made impressively and entirely from plastic collected in the coastal areas of the Maldives, and illegal deep-sea gill nets retrieved off the coast of West Africa.

Read the full article – Adidas x Parley create trainers using illegal plastic from the ocean.

Patrick Grant

Fashion designer Patrick Grant is breathing life into our beleaguered clothing industry with his social enterprise and ethical clothing label Community Clothing.

And there is a bigger purpose to Community Clothing than to making affordable, sustainable clothes. They aim to create and sustain quality jobs in towns that were once alive with clothing-manufacturing activity and to restore civic pride in communities and consumers.

community clothing

After introducing it to his own factory, where he employs 38 people from the local area, Community Clothing now works with 25 factories and suppliers in the UK and has created more than 124,000 hours of skilled work, which is paid at the National Living Wage.

Read the full article – British manufacturing: back in fashion

As the Cheltenham Design Foundation we want everyone to see how design is being used to improve our lives and make us happier.

With the importance of human-centred design high on the Cheltenham Design Festival agenda, our speakers will show you how design is being used to improve our everyday lives and our future happiness.

Key Festival Information
Taking place in the heart of Cheltenham at the Parabola Arts Centre, and across several fringe venues, over three days from 1-3 November, design-fans will be able to purchase one or two day tickets for the talks, with practical workshops and student focused events taking place across town and ticketed separately.

Book Tickets
Ticket prices start from £68 for 1 Day student ticket – talks from 9:30am – 6pm.
Group discounts are also available

See All Speakers