Second Skin: Co-design for advanced textiles for health and wellbeing

Lead Research Organisation: The Robert Gordon University
Department Name: Research and Enterprise Services


The network aims to develop new advanced textile solutions directed at alleviating some of the most chronic medical conditions which have a direct impact on an individual's self esteem. This project explores how clothing and technology can be designed to improve mobility amongst individuals with associated health conditions, leading to improved confidence and subsequent improvements in self-esteem which are key factors in improving an individual's wellbeing and quality of life. Through the application of advanced technology and design, this project seeks to develop new wearable smart clothing concepts with direct relevance to a range of mobility and health issues. Current textile products do not provide satisfactory solutions for individuals with serious health issues wishing to maintain an active and independent lifestyle. They may alleviate certain aspects of a medical condition, however they don't address the full range of an individual's needs. The proposal seeks to investigate a range of new technologies including micro-electronics and new materials in order to develop advanced clothing that can be used to improve particular aspects affecting an individual's ability to participate in normal everyday activities. The project will adopt a co-design model in which end users are involved at the start of the project to ensure a close fit between need, technology and eventual implementation. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers will share expertise across the fields of fashion, textiles and product design, advanced materials, computing and life sciences. A unique aspect of this project is the bringing together of participants with debilitating medical conditions, designers, technologists, together with industrial collaborators with a view to developing a direct mechanism for the commercial exploitation of design outcomes. The approach involves the use of both lo-tech and hi-tech tools, both virtual and real, to rapidly create concepts for immediate feedback and further development for commercialization and potential customization. Understanding how conditions affect people's lifestyles is of fundamental importance in providing solutions. A focus group comprising of individuals representing different age groups and medical needs and mobility issues will be used to provide insights into key issues that need to be addressed by the designed outcomes. They will also be asked to assist in the evaluation of concepts. Concepts might include both passive and active technologies designed to have a direct effect on the individual's mobility.
This project will provide an opportunity to look for synergies between advanced technologies and new materials. The project will prototype and visualize new solutions which can be implemented with the aid of commercial partners. Developing new products to tackle some of these problems can be very expensive and long-term, and is often seen as not being commercially viable however this project will provide a mechanism for developing new concepts in a way that is not open to a standard development route and therefore is much more likely to result in practical solutions with a high probability of adoption. This will involve adopting an open innovation approach, creating an 'ideas bank' website to showcase the concepts. Anyone wishing to develop the concepts will be encouraged to contribute via the ideas bank.

Planned Impact

Individuals with a health condition which directly affects their physical mobility
The project will provide insights into how technology can be used to customize clothing in response to an individual's particular needs
Providing manufacturers in both textiles and advanced technology with opportunities for new product development
Providing insights to this group on the use of co-design and the open innovation process.
Wider societal benefits resulting from inclusion in society and reduction in personal isolation caused by a lack of physical mobility


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Coulter J (2018) The Designers Leap: Boundary Jumping to Foster Interdisciplinarity between Textile Design and Science in Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice

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Fairburn S (2016) Spheres of Practice for the Co-design of Wearables in Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice

Description The project developed a number of prototypes exploring the use of micro sensors for clothing for health application. The main output for the project was the development of a methodology that could be adopted to explore user requirements and to develop new products by responding to these needs. The use of body scanning to and rapid prototyping to provide bespoke solutions to individuals with health needs was explored.
Exploitation Route The approach explored during the project could be of particular value for developing one-off prosthetic devices and solutions for example.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Healthcare

Description The findings have been used to provide a use case example for an FP7 project called ConCept. Details can be found at
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education
Impact Types Cultural

Title The Design Scenarios 
Description Scenarios developed based on the needs of individuals. The key information from this is extracted to provide a detailed design brief. The design brief is shared with an interdisciplinary group who are given a range of technologies to incorporate into a design, and rapid prototyping is used to create lo-fidelity prototypes that can be evaluated by participants in the process. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Too early to assess 
Description Collaborative Design Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact A set of key issues were identified, that were faced by individuals with health needs following gastric band surgery which could result in a number of medical consequences.
A list of appropriate technologies was also developed based on body scanning and micro sensors that could be incorporated in clothing.

This workshop was very helpful in informing the scientific group on how to address the emotional needs of individuals and how end-users could help inform the design process.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Maklab Rapid Prototyping Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact 6 different prototypes were developed during the day which made use of micro sensors that can be incorporated into clothing, or earpiece sensor. Sensors could record, respiration, heart rate, core body temperature and movement.
The prototypes were designed in response to 3 detailed scenarios that described the needs of an older individual with severe health issues (e.g. stroke)

It is too early to assess the impact from this project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Technology Clothing Applications Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact 3 scenarios were developed which highlighted the needs of older individuals with particular health issues. These form the basis of the development of design briefs that can be acted upon by an interdisciplinary team of designers to explore new prototype solutions.

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013