Designing a better experience for later life.


Transform Ageing.

The Business Challenge.

It is widely understood that, in the UK, people are living longer. But whilst an extended life expectancy is clearly something to relish, an ageing population does bring economic, societal and public services challenges too.

The Office for National Statistics predicts that by 2020, over 50s will make up nearly half of the adult population, which will have an overwhelming impact on the country’s finances, infrastructure and communities. Nobody is precluded from the implications of this ageing society, whether at a government or individual level.

Acknowledging the need for change, Design Council, with funding of £3.65m from the Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, launched Transform Ageing.

Transform Ageing takes a community and design-led approach to improve people’s experience of ageing. It brings together people in later life, social entrepreneurs, and health & social care leaders to define the challenges and to support the development and delivery of new approaches to ageing in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. The Engine Room was appointed to help bring it to life.

“By placing people in later life at the heart of the design process, along with their friends, family and carers, social entrepreneurs and public-sector leaders, the programme aims to actively engage their insight to deliver solutions that better meet their needs.  In this way we can empower communities to influence their local services, making them more personalised, connected and preventative. Design Council engaged the Engine Room at the very beginning of the process to create the brand’s proposition, visual identity and personality, and develop and produce the brand guidelines for the key stakeholders”

Deborah Kellard, Head of Marketing, Design Council

Transform Ageing designed by The Engine Room

The Difference.

This is not the first socially-driven project that we have been involved in – in fact the use of design thinking to instigate positive change is one of the mainstays of The Engine Room’s own business purpose. We therefore readily accepted the brief to support this exciting programme.

With everything centring upon the launch of a trial in the South West, we sought to establish a solid brand identity that everyone could get behind. We began the initial exploratory process with a strategic workshop at Design Council, in collaboration with social entrepreneurship charity Unltd, designers, and healthcare professionals from the region. Our goal was to better understand what, at the time, we called ‘Communities of Care’.

Having extracted a number of powerful stories – or lived experiences – we utilised the resulting workshop insight to shape a brand that we hoped would begin to radically change attitudes.

Whilst the name was only one component part of the story, we knew it would act as a powerful cornerstone of everything that followed. We explored more than 100 names and presented what we felt were the most significant 10. The one that stood out the most, was Transform Ageing.

“We felt that this name acted as an empowering rallying cry for communities to influence their local services, so that they could become more personalised, connected and preventative,”

Darren Evans, Design Director, The Engine Room

The brand identity that emerged was – among other things – bold, inspiring, life-affirming and enabling. It encouraged the reframing of questions so that more meaningful answers could be uncovered. Rather than asking ‘How can we combat dementia?’ for example, the people-centred approach would nurture thought processes such as ‘What is dementia?’, ‘What are the challenges..?’, ‘How might we..?’ and ‘What might this look like..?’

The bright colour palette is not what people may expect for something aimed at an older generation, but the brand’s visual identity had to be as transformative as the mission it existed to support – otherwise it risked being mistaken for a public sector initiative.

We also developed the brand language, which – with ‘transform’ as the key word – is rich in future potential. And, our managing director Lesley Gulliver was involved in the delivery of the trial programme’s launch workshops.

“The Engine Room provided support in the programme’s communication strategy and helped us navigate the complex range of audiences that the programme needed to communicate with, by delivering us with a clear brand framework of visual identity and language. The brand proposition and identity was powerful, engaging and worked right across all of the multichannel campaigns used by Design Council and the partners.” 

Deborah Kellard, Head of Marketing, Design Council

Transform Ageing designed by The Engine Room

The Returns.

  • Transform Ageing has so far brought together the communities of Cornwall, North Devon, Somerset and Torbay, to learn from those with first-hand experiences of later life. These stakeholders have included individuals themselves, as well as their friends and relatives, carers, and service providers.

  • Six innovation briefs have been devised as a result, ranging from ‘Steps to a positive future’ to ‘Life transitions’ and ‘Making connections’.

  • 19 social entrepreneurs have so far successfully responded to these briefs and have received funding and support to deliver lasting social impact in the region. Once Transform Ageing has been successfully implemented in this part of the UK, the aim is to replicate the model nationwide.

“The Engine Room not only answered what was a complicated brief in a professional and efficient way, but went beyond in terms of providing research, creative development and options and recommendations”

Deborah Kellard, Head of Marketing, Design Council.