Fixperts: a teaching model that partners designers with people in need of solutions for everyday problems

Fixing everyday problems has driven creative problem solving, social values and user-centred practices in design and engineering students.

Man in workshop measuring a plastic cylinder.

Fixperts is a design methodology and teaching model created by Professor Daniel Charny MBE of Kingston's School of Design. It is centred around collaborative partnerships between designers and people requiring solutions to everyday problems.

The process is simple. Fixperts, or problem solvers, work with Fix Partners, individuals or group who provide feedback and play an active part in a creative problem-solving process. The Fixperts method starts with the person, working with them to identify a problem and then creating the 'fix'.

Fixperts is taught in different configurations (primary, partnerships, community and public) to offer different design contexts, from a home to an institution to a work context.

Fixperts can be applied to a wide variety of human needs, such as to address personal challenges faced by people limited by age, illness or disability (e.g. dressing oneself or preparing food). Equally, projects have explored innovation and improvement to the usability and accessibility of workplaces, retail and learning environments.

Fixperts has created over 1,000 fixes around the world in different situations.

These include over 500 designs for people with lived experience of disability. The core principles of sharing, adaptation and open access are embraced by the Fixperts programme to broaden and increase its impact. Participants document all stages of a Fixperts project in short films, following the Fixperts template and over time this has built into a searchable archive of over 750 ‘FixFilms', which have been viewed over a million times. Guidelines to run a project are freely available through the Fixperts website and have been adapted for universities and schools.

Fixperts has had a significant impact on teaching practices across the world.

40 higher education institutions in 25 countries have used Fixperts and the accessible, adaptable framework to introduce students to the vital skills of creative problem solving and social engagement.

The impact of the Fixperts project also extends to STEM and design teaching in UK secondary and primary schools, offering teachers a flexible and accessible means to teach design, engineering and science by providing a benchmarked, quality assured teaching and learning framework. Fixperts has also been used as a Covid-19 home learning resource by Potential Plus UK, an independent charity that works with families and schools to benefit young people with high learning potential.

Moreover, Fixperts is linked to numerous innovation challenges and awards. Since 2013, the Royal College of Art's Helen Hamlyn Design Centre has run an annual Fixperts Award. Fixperts has also influenced the Centre's approach as it now uses videos more consistently to document and disseminate its projects. One RCA professor commented: "The impact of Fixperts has been significant—we now direct our students and researchers to the Fixperts site to study its solutions for people with the frailties of ageing or disabilities. Fixperts is also educating a whole generation of young designers to look at social challenges of everyday living right on their doorstep".

Independent evaluations by The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations demonstrate that the project helps students develop technical design skills relating to prototyping and making, and transferable skills around communication and working with clients. In 2020, Fixperts received the prestigious Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education, further demonstrating the project's commitment to user-centred design and education.

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