Designers are increasingly engaging in participatory co-design approaches to understand the needs and wants of the people who will engage with the artefacts produced. These approaches are particularly relevant for design that focuses on social change, work undertaken with vulnerable groups who may not be articulate, and for designers working across disciplines, engaging with, for example, health related issues. While these projects may have clear goals in terms of outputs, often outcomes are not as clearly defined. So, how do we measure, evaluate and understand what has taken place, and reflect and report the findings?
This paper reports on a UK-funded research project designing for people living with advanced dementia using mixed methodology research and evaluation. It explores issues around how designers self-evaluate and report on outputs and outcomes, and how robust evaluation can be undertaken throughout projects that use design research and thinking, or action research approaches. While, informal feedback in design projects can sometimes be dismissed as ‘anecdotal’, it suggests that unsolicited responses provide rich and valuable data to inform the overall evaluation and findings of a project. While designers may resist evaluation, feel that evaluation is imposed on them, or are not sure how to evaluate their projects, this paper suggests that by evaluating appropriately they can produce evidence to show the value and importance of their work.