Addressing alcohol misuse in the public realm: design led interventions

Jack Champ

Alcohol misuse student design workshop at Kingston University (Image Jack Champ)

Alcohol misuse student design workshop at Kingston University (Image Jack Champ)

Addressing alcohol misuse in the public realm: developing design led interventions to increase support uptake and reduce anti-social behaviour


There exists a significant need to develop strategies to encourage and maintain engagement with alcohol support services, for individuals with chronic alcohol misuse issues. A thorough investigation into solutions which could facilitate improvements in this area, could improve individual lives whilst reducing harm and the burden on public funding.


This research explores the use of design methods to address this social problem, with investigations being focused jointly on chronic entrenched street drinking and acute binge drinking, as two key groups in the spectrum of alcohol misuse in the urban realm. The project is employing a co-design approach to developing interventions and is using tools from the fields of graphic, service, critical, urban and systems design.


The goal is to foster innovation in socially inclusive ways, working closely with existing support services.  These services currently operate in a context where politically motivated enforcement measures are regularly prioritised, in order to disperse the street community, rather than engaging with individuals to tackle the core drivers of their behaviours. The project aims to foster a close working relationship with existing services and organisations, through the forging of strong links early in the research process and by championing co-design and inclusivity through design practice.


Currently co-design activities are being conducted with staff members at a substance misuse rehabilitation centre in Hove, to deploy a cultural probe with 22 chronic street drinkers, who are currently in the early stages of recovery. This design experiment has been devised to allow service users as ‘experts by experience’ to express their voice in the design process and uncover key new insights which will inform future research outcomes. Information gained from this and a series of other design experiments will aid in highlighting potential touchpoints for intervention, providing focus for the development of proposals, which will ultimately be piloted and tested in a live setting.