The Soft Touch: Design vs. Disruption

Sara Nevay (Lead / Corresponding author), Sze Chong Lim, Gary Gowans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


Loneliness is a growing endemic social condition that can be deeply harmful to health and wellbeing, particularly for ageing populations, who, consequently, may be at greater risk of developing depression, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease (Campaign to End Loneliness, 2016). Contributing to a PhD study that employs a soft design approach towards connectedness – the antithesis of loneliness – twelve older adults were invited to experience an interactive etextile prototype, the ‘Dundee Conversation Quilt’. Designed by individuals with experience of loneliness to prompt dialogue and interaction, the quilt reflects some core values project participants have consistently identified as being key to social connectedness: identity, heritage and storytelling. Despite careful design and a soft touch approach, in this paper we will describe a situation where disruption, distraction and – at times – discomfort prevailed during a workshop where the Dundee Conversation Quilt was tested. Hosted by a local charitable organisation and up against adverse environmental factors including an unexpectedly hot climate and last minute changes to the workspace and facilitation team, this workshop presented challenges outwith the researchers’ control, and to the potential detriment of participant wellbeing. We unpack this demanding workshop journey, reporting on the workshop design - its’ successes in providing opportunity for connectedness, its’ derailments - and the implications of these disruptions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRunning with Scissors
Subtitle of host publication13th International Conference of the European Academy of Design
EditorsLouise Valentine, Joanna Bletcher, Leon Cruickshank
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages13
EditionSupplement 1
ISBN (Electronic)9780367330569
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event13th International Conference of the European Academy of Design: Running with Scissors - Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Apr 201912 Apr 2019
Conference number: 13

Publication series

NameDesign Journal
PublisherTaylor & Francis
ISSN (Print)1460-6925


Conference13th International Conference of the European Academy of Design
Abbreviated titleEAD Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Workshop Design
  • E-textiles
  • Participatory Design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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