Design Forum

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Who we are

Design Forum draws on the resource of a Design Forum Panel and other specialist staff at A&DS.

The Design Forum Panel includes up to 30 practitioners and academics who bring a wide range of knowledge and experience to the programme. Its members represent a broad variety of design and development professions, but all have a thorough understanding of design and a track record of achievement in that area, together with the ability to engage in critical dialogue in a constructive manner, and to express ideas and views positively, clearly and concisely.

New members are selected through an open competitive process on the basis of a written submission and interview. Panel membership continues to be regularly reviewed for quality and balance of skills, and an open invitation to interested parties to apply to become panellists is maintained with new members appointed as required.

What we do

The Design Forum programme provides two types of support to its user groups. These can be split between Project and Wider Support.

Project Support

Design Forum provides dedicated, project-specific mechanisms for engagement. To deal effectively with some of the most important development projects across Scotland, Design Forum have established the following means of prioritising the selection of projects for direct engagement in order to match these to our available resource. These are:

  • National and Strategic Projects (NSP)
  • Locally Significant Projects (LSP)

Engagement Types

  • Design Forum Workshops: Support provided through an interactive and informal series of design workshops. Critical design aspirations and desirable outcomes will be considered and then revisited at subsequent stages of the design process concluding at the point of submissions for planning consent. This process will include engaging with lead commissioning bodies whilst design briefs, concepts and sketch schemes are still being formed.
  • A Written Scoping Response: A form of support available as an alternative to the workshop process. A scoping response will provide brief written advice that highlights critical outcomes for the design process and relevant examples of good practice.
  • Outputs: In addition to the informal advice provided by panellists at workshop engagements A&DS will provide a written advice note reflecting the outcome and key pointers from each workshop event in a series. An Appraisal Report will determine how successfully the project is considered and the level A&DS is able to apply.
    • Potential Exemplar – Supported
    • Well considered – Supported
    • With potential – Unsupported
    • Outcome at risk – Unsupported

To find out more about the Design Forum process please see our Design Forum Guidance.

Wider Support

Local Panels

The Design Forum Support to Local Design Panels by hosting an annual meeting of the existing Panels, together with those interested in setting up panels in others areas. This will provide the opportunity and the potential for cross working between panels and to address issues of capacity, training, and the sharing of good practice.


Masterplan training for local authorities, working with partners to deliver training to local authorities based on our publication Lessons Learnt from Masterplanning.

Design Forum Training

Design and Placemaking have become increasingly prominent issues for planners, and the need to provide support for skills development in this area has prompted A&DS to offer a number of “working together to deliver better masterplans” training events in association with the Key agencies. The objective of this programme is not to create designers, but rather to develop an ability to derive important elements of a brief by considering the desired outcomes as key principles which will shape the masterplan process.

The events to date have included policy overview, a practitioner presentation, a practice case study, group workshop and peer review and feedback. Via these we seek to improve understanding of the public sector’s leadership role in creating better places, and consider how agencies might work together to support this by using ‘design thinking’ to solve problems and communicate.

Design Advice workshop guidance

Our Design Advice workshop Guidance document and with contact details for those seeking to learn more about our programme of work.

Design Forum Report: Dallas Dhu

A&DS Design Forum Report on workshop relating to Housing Masterplan for Dallas Dhu, Forres - a development on the edge of Forres, Moray.

Rowett North (AECC)

Draft Masterplan for the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre

Millerhill RERC

Recycling and Energy Recovery Centre (RERC) at Millerhill, Midlothian


Masterplan of new build residential neighbourhood at Broomhills.

Marischal Square

Mixed use redevelopment on the site of former Aberdeen City Council offices (St Nicholas House)


Masterplan and design code for new housing at Cammo

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