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Board game bags design student inaugural arts medal

16th January 2018

A Northumbria PhD student has become the first recipient of a new arts medal after designing a game which explores the role of democracy and how the electorate could become more involved in decision making in future.

Callum Nash was awarded the The Foulis Medal by the Glasgow School of Arts (GSA), where he completed his Masters in Innovation Design earlier this year.

The 30-year-old, who recently joined Northumbria’s School of Design, hopes to now develop the concept of his game by working with communities in Newcastle as part of his doctoral research.

His current PhD explores the application and potential of design methodologies and social innovation. It builds on his Master’s work, which explored how design can help people living in resource-deprived situations by supporting better communication, allowing them to more effectively have their voices heard, and to engage in public debate.

Callum said: “We live in an era defined by an unprecedented decline of public investment and social provision. The question for us as creatives is not how we replace those services with ineffective private sector incentives and yet more fragile voluntary labour, it’s how we can serve the collective action that demanded a social contract in the first place.

“My game, called UtopiaNOW, asked this question on a global scale, where we have no ‘civics’ - no means of voicing an opinion on global risks. An operationalised world map of human productivity allowed players from different nations to collaborate over how to deal with global risks, in a, not yet existing, global democracy. In this simulated environment, teams invariably did far more to deal with global risks, in economic terms, than the international community does today.”

Northumbria University has an international reputation for multi-disciplinary, design-led innovation.

Jo Briggs, Associate Professor in Northumbria’s School of Design, and Callum’s doctoral research supervisor, said: “Callum’s research extends our design interests within the School of Design across the creative and collaborative economies, civics, and social engagement. We’re now scoping out a pilot study with collaborators which includes using crowdfunding for public-making and social change, and which aims to apply and scale up some of Callum’s earlier interests, but in a real world situation.”

Dr Gordon Hush, Head of the Innovation School at the GSA, said: “Callum’s project exemplifies the use of Design to create innovation, subjecting the democratic decision-making process to the rules and processes of design-led enquiry. In designing his project as a game, he also created an educational tool to discover how we might consider the future of Independent Nations or Regions faced with issues and problems of global complexity.”

The Foulis Medal was designed by Helen Marriot, Head of Silversmithing & Jewellery at the GSA. The two-sided design is inspired by the Mackintosh Building and 18th century block print. It complements the Newbery Medal which has been awarded to the top student graduating from an undergraduate programme since 1921.

Find out more about Northumbria University’s School of Design and it’s Multidisciplinary Research Themes, including IDEATE.

Find out more about UtopiaNOW and Callum’s other work by visiting

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