Archive for the ‘ Debate. ’ Category

Vision Products


Since 2006 our team have travelled the UK and Ireland researching and designing projects which span between Secondary and Higher Education and Healthcare are recently we began working in the commercial sector exploring how to improve the experience of the working environment. During this time we have interacted with literally thousands of participants from students to professionals, and this has provided us with unique insight into how people use their spaces and the links between space and wellbeing.

To capture this valuable knowledge our team have been busy creating several products aimed at providing advice and practical activities to assist those in the early stages of a project to take a people-centred approach from the outset. Two of these products has now reached the prototype stage, and we will be testing them over the coming months before announcing its release.

The first product, called Vision Cards is a pack of cards containing information that is intended as a design aid to assist educators, architects and other interested parties to understand the people who use learning spaces and how to create appropriate places for those people.

The information on the cards draws upon knowledge gained from projects undertaken with twenty-seven Universities across the UK and Ireland and includes over 16K+ online interactions, 1000 soft interviews, 600 + maps, 70 + workshops, 50 + Cultural Probes, 12 Social Networks, and countless days of observation.

Throughout our practice, we have been reflecting and refining our participatory design workshops, and we now have a core set of workshops which we know deliver valuable results which translate into useable, concrete design strategies. This information is the basis of our second product, The Vision Workshops which is a package containing all the instructions and materials that you need to run a set of Nomad workshops.

We will be testing the Vision Cards and the Workshop Package over the next few months and are hoping for a late summer/early autumn release. If you would like to know more about the Vision Cards or take part in the testing email us at


Client Interviews – Kings College London, Anne-Marie Canning | Director of Widening Participation

Ann Marie Canning is the Director of Social Mobility and Student Success at King’s College London and our client for the experimental teaching and learning space located in Somerset House. The space has been in use for just over a year now, and Ann Marie has been keeping a close eye on how it is functioning. Here is what she told us about the learning space we designed with her.

  1. Tell us about the background of your project?

King’s College London had plans to establish an outreach Learning Centre in the basement of Somerset House for a number of years. In my role leading widening participation, I was asked to make progress on bringing the Learning Centre into reality!

  1. What were your hopes and dreams at the outset

I always dreamed of walking through the Learning Centre and seeing different activities bustling away in each room. This happens on a daily basis – when I walk around I see community groups, revision sessions, debating, 121 coaching. A whole range of activities helping young people and co-located together. It’s a dream come true and inspires me every time I walk through the space.

  1. What were the high and the low points of the process?

A low point was seeing the state of the space prior to works. It was flooded and dark and had rats scarpering around. It was hard to imagine we could turn it into something magical for young people. A high was the launch of the space – there were times when I lost faith that we’d get to the finish line. It was a real moment.

  1. Which part of the project makes you proudest?

Thousands of young people from our local community get to enjoy dedicated top-class facilities at our university. It’s beautiful when they first walk in and gaze around at the space in awe! This term we ran a ‘favourite campus spot’ activity and the Learning Centre was nominated by lots of undergraduates at King’s. It’s a sanctuary for learning.

  1. Where do you feel your project is most innovative?

I love the dynamic between the terra incognita corridors and the mind-themed rooms. Each room is named after a brain function (our IOPPN colleagues advised) and the space works around that. The learning textures are great for trying out new forms of teaching practice. And the space stimulates beautiful conversation between children – especially the unicorn on the windows!

  1. What kind of reaction did you get to the completed project?

The space is in high demand – everyone wants a piece of the Learning Centre. Students love the different rooms and themes and are really happy to move things around and make the space work for them. I have a collection of photos of people using the space in different ways.

  1. If you had to do it again, would you do anything differently?

Our upcycled furniture would be less 80s!

  1. Are there any anecdotes or stories that stick out in your memory?

The space is underground– making it great for the odd leaving party as noise doesn’t travel!


Client Interviews. Glasgow Caledonian University – Douglas Little Head of Estates

Main Restaurant

As a reflective practice, we often revisit projects to review them in operation. Recently we have been asking our clients to take part in a quick questionnaire to find out how they feel about the places we have created and we will be featuring these mini-interviews over the coming months. The first interview is with Douglas Little, Head of Estates at Glasgow Caledonian University and the man who led the construction of the Heart of Campus Project for the University – this is what he had to say,


1. Tell us about the background of your project? 

In 2016 , work was completed on the flagship Heart of Campus project, a £32 million investment in the Student Experience which has changed the face of the Estate and has introduced inspiring new teaching spaces and social areas. The two-year redevelopment which centred on two of the University’s main buildings –The George Moore and Hamish Wood-has increased learning and teaching provision and added a host of exciting new elements.

Outdoors, three new courtyard gardens with fluid and organic designs bring colour to the campus and offer space for reflection and engagement.

2. What were your hopes and dreams at the outset?

To transform a 60s/70s ”college look university” into a modern university with inspiring places you would want to come to!

3. What were the high and the low points of the process?

Having to break it down into phases was the low point as you just wanted to get the work underway.  The highpoints were when you opened up the phases one by one.  This was a magical moment for all to see!

4. Which part of the project makes you proudest?

The complete Heart of Campus project but the best part is the Student eating area with the large connection stretching down George Moore into Saltire.

5. Where do you feel your project is most innovative?

Creating interesting spaces out of space that you would not think possible!

6. What kind of reaction did you get to the completed project?

Not one negative comment so that says it all

7. If you had to do it again, would you do anything differently?

Shout out to everyone the successes at each handover phase and celebrate each accordingly.

8. Are there any anecdotes or stories that stick out in your memory?

Plenty stories but you will have to wait until my book comes out!


Model Making

GM 18

The fabrication of maquettes, models, and prototypes is, and always has been, an integral part of our design and development process. Clients and stakeholders often have different levels of spatial perception and their ability to interpret plans and drawings can sometimes create confusion or fail to convey a full picture of the proposed solution.

GM once

Employing models to describe objects and interior spaces allows the client to easily read and understand the designs presented. Various iterations of a design can be easily compared and measured, and the client can provide valuable feedback with the confidence that they have a firm grasp of the options in front of them.


Recently, working with a client in Germany, we have produced far more models than is usual. The financial institution, based in Frankfurt wanted to investigate various ways to improve their workspaces. Following a series of workshops, we developed a number of solutions for the key areas highlighted in the research and consultation. The workshop participants were drawn from departments across the institution and each had brought a distinct set of values and requirements to the process.


Using models and maquettes to illustrate the proposed solutions enabled the stakeholders to understand how the various elements could work together and provided them with clear, tactile examples of how their particular requirements could be addressed, developed and satisfied.



New Year – New road trips.


We had a very busy end to 2016, and an equally busy start to 2017 with the completion of several people-centred design and consultation projects and project wins.

Now that we are well into the new year we thought it was about time that we dedicate some time catching up with folk who enjoyed our recent N.ewspaper. Over the last few weeks, we have been on the road travelling quite a bit – it is always inspiring to visit new places and meet new people, and after ten years of practice, we still find the best way of explaining our unique methodology and practice is through face to face meeting.

This said, our recent meetings have highlighted a need for a Nomad Menu. Our practice is a little unconventional, and the various uses of our services are numerous and differing, so we have produced a Menu that illustrates six of our people-centred research projects. Each of these projects was commissioned for different reasons, were different scales and each was commissioned at a different stage of the project programme or academic year – the Menu illustrates this and the methods employed on each project – and of course it includes projects where we were commissioned as both specialist researchers and designers.

This Nomad Menu focuses on people-centred research and design projects for education, but we will be producing two more menus which focus on, 1. people-centred research and interior design and 2. people-centred research and illustrative artwork.

If you would like a copy or one of our Menu’s or if you would be interested in setting up a meeting to find out more, please drop us an email to, and we can check our diaries.

In the meantime keep an eye on our twitter feed to see when these Menus will be available and where our latest road trip takes us. You can also check out or latest Nomad N.ewspaper to read what we have been up to lately.

Merry Woolly Jumper Christmas Card!


It is the most magical time of the year again, and as usual, we have been having lots of fun trying to come up with a Christmas Card to send to our friends, family, clients and contacts. This year we combined our love of two things, A. our people-centred design process and the uniqueness of each of the people and places we work with and B. the classic Christmas woolly jumper! We have wrapped these ideas up in the hobby trend of 2016 – needlework to create our very own Woolly Jumper Christmas card. The card comes complete with a kit providing everything you will need to create your very own unique cross stitch snowflake bauble. We have asked every recipient of this year’s card to Tweet a photo of their finished snowflake, and throughout the run-up to Christmas, we will upload each and every one to our woolly snowflake gallery here:





Don’t worry if you have received a card and don’t know how to cross stitch it is very simple, and Neil in our studio has created a tutorial video which you can access here:





Most importantly the best snowflake submitted will win a special Nomad treat!

We hope that everyone has fun with the card and that all of our clients, contacts, friends and families have a very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

Nomad Team

University Facilities More Important than Academic Reputation

Melbourne University Design School

Melbourne University Design School

As thousands of students around the country are beginning to find their feet at their new universities, a recent report from the Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) on student experience inquired into what factors are the most significant in the minds of potential students when choosing their university. There are, of course, many reasons why students would pick a university and most people would probably think that the institutions academic status would be the most important. Although important, the report found that the academic ranking and reputation of a university is becoming a less decisive factor. Instead, it is a universities facilities and social spaces, such as cafes and food halls, which are now considered more important than academic prestige.

We have been responsible for designing many new university facilities – both social and educational – up and down the country for many years and although interesting, the finding from the AUDE wasn’t particularly surprising. Due to our people-centred research and design process, we have talked directly with over a thousand students who have told us that the design of facilities and spaces has a direct impact on their satisfaction and well-being. The spaces and places in which we spend our time working, studying or socialising have an impact on us. We are, after all, products of our environment. Furthermore, through our own research over the years, we have found that a university’s facilities, from buildings facades to cafes and libraries, can reflect, uphold and reinforce the soft-targets of identity and community which are particularly important for students.

This finding from the AUDE also highlights a trend that, although not new, has become more apparent in recent years: students don’t go to universities just to learn, they go for the experience, and with the hike in tuition fees in England and Wales, they demand value for money. It is increasingly important, therefore, for universities to develop a clear identity which the facilities can reflect and uphold. Designing spaces and places in this way helps to create a strong brand that current and potential students can buy into. We are glad universities are beginning to recognise that the design of their facilities is extremely important to the student experience, and as chair of the AUDE, Trevor Humphreys says: “Effective estate management is key to ensuring higher education institutions deliver the best possible student experience, both academically and socially.”