Using participatory design and co-creation to develop a new educational paradigm for dental health education promotion
Wenbo Ai
Project overview —

Design draws from a multi-disciplinary approach and offers a means for systematic, and creative thinking. Design strategies when applied within disciplinary-based subjects aids researchers in ways of approaching and solving complex problems. This is especially significant within a context of higher education. 

I am researching dental health education through a participatory design approach and with students, parents and teachers affiliated with an art school located in Wuhan, China. My practice is the result of undertaking design research in higher education at a UK university; working with participants in elementary design education at an art school in Wuhan; and applying this to health promotion practices/strategies at a dental hospital in Wuhan. 

This design research practice has three main stages:

  1. Literature review and preparing the curriculum
    This includes understanding current art and design curricula and dental health promotion in that context, having regular meetings and making participatory observations with both students and staff at the arts school and dental hospital and then collating the data from these encounters.
  1. Three-week art and dental health promotion course
    The creative activities ranged from drawing, crafting, gaming, making sculptures, dolls and fashion bags. These activities covered three weeks and parents and children could choose which sections they would like to participate in, depending on their interests and timetable. Through this art and design course, students were encouraged to learn dental health knowledge in the processes of making rather than passive medical lectures and books.
  1. Interactive exhibition as an evaluation
    As a final stage, we held an exhibition – including a mini-fashion show and an interactive game – as a platform to evaluate and receive feedback from children, parents, teachers, dentists and researchers.

My work discusses how the new health-promoting curriculum is formulated through different stages and explores how this participatory design course can benefit each of its stakeholders. 


I am a PhD student at Royal College of Art, where my research is looking at participatory communication design and health promotion. I studied for a BA in Visual Communication Design at Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in China, and an MA in Service Design Innovation at University of the Arts London. My research areas include visual communication design, service design, design thinking, design anthropology, participatory co-design, inclusive design and social design.