Designs on justice

Is our criminal justice system broken? Increasingly it is suggested that it’s expensive and sometimes simply doesn’t work.

Designs on Justice aims to apply design thinking to the problem and develop radical new approaches. This initiative is a partnership between the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, Dundee Law School, Duncan of Jordanstone College and Open Change.

Like many cities in the UK, and beyond, Dundee devotes a lot of scarce and expensive resources to its criminal justice system. And like everywhere else, there continues to be problems of repeat offending, pockets of urban infrastructure that themselves contribute to crime rates, and acute frustrations with the inequities of the system. Simply put, justice is not just – it favours the more affluent. So how can the UK’s only UNESCO City of Design respond to the challenge of thinking of new ways the criminal justice could work to better meet the needs of communities, offenders and legal professionals That is the question that Designs on Justice has been exploring.

This initiative brings together students and academics, experts from the Scottish Institute of Enterprise, the city’s service designers and community representatives, policy makers and interested parties from across the criminal justice landscape. Design thinking is already having a transformative effect across areas like healthcare and other public services. Criminal justice is an area that is ripe for a serious re-think of how we approach it, from the wider community level to the specifics of how people interact with the law and legal services.

The aim of this initiative is to begin the process of building a whole new urban landscape for Dundee and to broaden its approach to justice. We create events that develop new ways of thinking and propose real practical alternatives. An event held in Dundee on 16 March 2016 brought together a range of different specialists and students to explore new approaches in redesigning criminal justice. Hazel White and Mike Press of Open Change led the facilitation of the workshop that applied service design methods to the challenges of justice. This video captures the views of participants.

Following an introduction on the potential of design in addressing the issues and challenges of the justice system, and a concise view of local issues and opportunities, participants were divided into cross-disciplinary teams. The teams were then led through a clearly defined process. We will follow one team to see how their ideas developed.


The initial empathy mapping exercise involved teams identifying and defining a specific individual based on their professional experience. In this case, Team 1 identified ‘Brian’, a ten year old boy lacking adequate security and protection and with poor future prospects: “you’ll end up in jail”.


Using the Rip+Mix method, the team selected the problem faced by ‘Brian’ that education was not valued by his family or close friends, and thus provided no alternative to a future that would inevitably lead to offending. This ‘pain point’ was collided with that of a personal trainer and led to the idea of a neighbourhood engagement bus.


The team presented this idea back along with a customer journey map that explained how ‘Brian’ would join and make use of the bus.