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DesignLab Nation – Inspiration outside the Classroom

10 October 2018

​DesignLab Nation is the V&A's National Schools Programme. It links schools with local industry and partner museums to inspire the next generation of artists, designers, makers and engineers.


DesignLab Nation brings together secondary schools, local museums and locally based industry and designers to preserve the essential role of Art, Design and Technology education. Young people are encouraged to make their own contemporary responses to historical processes, and to gain an understanding of how collections from the past can inform new ideas. The programme has been designed to help support the new Design and Technology GSCE and deliver this subject in the most exciting manner possible.

Coventry is one of five cities with rich industrial heritage specialising on design industries of textiles, ceramics, glass and product design that the V&A are is working with.

To inspire local students, support the Design & Technology GCSE and boost the skills of young designers, Coventry Transport Museum partnered up with designer Julia Snowdin, and two Coventry schools – The Westwood Academy and Coundon Court School.

The four day workshop (19 – 23 July 2018) called ‘Unexpected Textiles’ had the theme of Innovation, and aimed to build confidence, as well as offering the time and space to develop creativity and skills. After visiting Coventry Transport Museum to look at innovation in vehicles and a special display of objects on loan to from the V&A to support the project, the students had the chance to spend a full day at the V&A to discover their fascinating collections and take part in skills workshops while trying out different textile techniques. With this experience in mind, the groups returned to Coventry to create a prototype outcome which met the creative brief. This work was then showcased, along with their sketchbooks and samples, at the wrap event at Coventry Transport Museum on the 19th of July.

The students created innovative products to solve problems you might encounter when travelling by bicycle, motorcycle or car, ranging from seats for dogs, to skirts that can transform into trousers for cycling. From ideas to drafts, the actual design and then the end product, designers, teachers and museum staff, including the Brose Learning Officer at CTM were supporting the students every step of the way.

Designer Julia Snowdin points out that the way the students worked on their briefs followed the same principles as her own design projects: “The challenge we are setting for students is to develop their own personal design briefs, inspired by design industries from their local area.”

Nicky McIntosh, Community and Learning Manager at the Coventry Transport Museum says: “We get to bring together our specialist collections with collections of the V&A for students locally to be inspired by these, and to take that into their own work and own creativity. It is incredibly important that this opportunity is there for students, particularly to boost design and technology skills for the GCSE level.”

Following this, the museum also held a CPD training session for teachers, including an overview of the project, networking opportunities, and a quick DesignLab style practical task. A STEM networking  group hosted by cultural venues in the CW10 group  has also been set up, exploring ways to help Secondary STEM teachers develop their skills and knowledge, as well as considering useful ways to share best practice with colleagues. Teachers interested in the DesignLab Nation project or joining the STEM network should contact Nicky McIntosh for further information

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for more fantastic projects from DesignLab Nation.


Further information about DeignLab Nation can be found here:

Further information about Julia Snowdin:

Further information about Brose:


View this film to follow Coventry Transport Museum’s recent partnership with DesignLab Nation.

About the V&A

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 5000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform.


The V&A was awarded Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016, and the prize money has been used to support DesignLab Nation.

DesignLab Nation is also supported by The Foyle Foundation.


With additional support from Sarah Nichols and other generous donors.

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