UX Designer

Social Design: Design With Colonsay

Added on by Erin Reeg.

We were given the 'Red Fringe of Scotland' as our research field. We used the lens of 'people, place and possibility' to form a process through our research. We used these lenses throughout the project to focus our ideas and cluster our insights.  We began our Desk based research of Colonsay with looking through the lens of ‘place.’ We investigated where was it in relation to other islands, what was there, and how people worked. this helped us to develop our field research approach. 

The Brief: Our project brief was to explore the possibilities for future living and working in Scotland’s’ remote rural areas- The ‘red fridge.’ We chose to base of research on the island of Colonsay in the Southern Hebrides. Colonsay is both remote and rural but accessible enough for our research requirements. What was most interesting to us were Colonsays’ small, stagnant and aging population, unusual educational provision, lack of employment opportunities and the imminent instillation of high speed broadband. Our initial design task will be to predict the kinds of changes the island and its inhabitants will experience on it’s own and in conjunction with encroaching technology in the next 10 years. From then we will propose future forms of living and engagement between people living and working on Colonsay and from there critically evaluate the effects and affordances any design interventions may have going further into the future.

What is Social Capital: This year is the first year where more people live in cities than in rural areas. This means that often, efforts to implement new technologies to rural contexts sometimes get neglected.   

Critically for this project, technology is too often seen as the miracle cure for creating resilient communities. Our approach to will be to seek out the points at which the community is already functioning resiliently, or with strong social capital, before we start to propose interventions to support community resilience. For us, the key to a successful implementation of new technologies lies here. Resilience in a rural and remote island community is about strong networks of shared assets, knowledge and problem solving skills. We hope our research into the future applications of technology to remote, rural Colonsay will inform a wider understanding of technology, connectivity and remote rural island life.


After returning from the field we worked with a design ethnographer to translate transcribed interviews into simplified codes. We clustered these codes into a bank of key insight themes from which we could design distilled snapshot stories. 


  • Population
  • Education & Children
  • Farming
  • Estate vs Community
  • Fish Farm
  • Housing 
  • Employment
  • Connectivity 
  • Community spirit   
  • Heritage
  • Local food
  • Local knowledge 
  • Self sufficiency  
  • New technologies 
  • Tourism
  • Island Character 

Analysis: For Our analysis stage we devised personas and imagined drivers for change. This allowed us to design possible future scenarios for Colonsay and devise opportunity areas to design from. We looked into who might be living on the island in the future, and what that socio-cutural, technological and environmental influences would be, and how they will effect the future.  


Design Aims: Any solution/tool we designed needed to meet the following aims: 

  1. Keep Islanders on the Island
  2. Attract new islanders to stay on the island

We can meet these aims through: 

  1. Establishing where Colonsay is heading
  2. Connecting people
  3. Establishing sustainable economy: new jobs, new businesses
  4. New homes
  5. Self sufficiency through: energy and food security
  6. Improved education provision
  7. Improving access in and out of the island 

Guiding Principals: 

  1.  Design solutions that speak to human moments
  2. Design solutions that enhance but don’t interfere.
  3. Enable networks
  4. Support the island’s long term goals
  5. Recognise that people use services differently
  6. Build on good practice that’s already happening
  7. Build in flexibility for how services can be used
  8. Ensure the solution is community centred.
  9. Mix of online and offline solutions

The final design broke down into two pieces. A online platform for sharing and connecting people called called Colonsay Make and a book called "The Islanders Guide to Everything" that islanders put together periodically within Colonsay Create.