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This timeline gives a snapshot of Lab4Living’s design for health research activity and key events since its inception in 2007, within a broader backdrop of significant events. We highlight a selection of milestones in arts, design, health and wellbeing research and education. These are just some of the events which have helped shape and drive our practice and our communities.


The beginnings of design and health

Leonardo da Vinci uses drawing to interrogate and build knowledge of anatomy
Jan 1510

Art and design education supports industry

A UK government select committee is appointed to look at increasing fine art and design education to support industry.
Jul 1835

Sheffield School of Design

Sheffield School of Design is founded to provide skilled designers to support Britain's industry.
Jan 1843

Sheffield School of Art

By the 1850s Sheffield School of Design has grown to around 1,000 students and changed its name to Sheffield School of Art. At the Great Exhibition, we are the most successful art and design school in the country, with Sheffield students winning four gold medals - no other school won any.
Jan 1851

Flockton and Gibbs

Future architect Edward Mitchel Gibbs (1847-1935) studies at Sheffield School of Art from 1865 – 1870. His firm, Flockton and Gibbs, later designs The White Building in Fitzalan Square, Sheffield, now home to Lab4Living.
Jun 1865

The White Building

The White Building, designed and owned by Sheffield architects Flockton and Gibbs, is built in 1908 as part of the remodelling of Fitzalan Square in Sheffield. It has several connections to Sheffield Hallam University’s Art and Design history and later becomes home to Lab4Living. (Image: The British Newspaper Archive)
Jun 1908

Relief frieze on The White Building

Architectural sculptors Tory & Sons design and produce relief friezes for the facade of the White Building, now home to Lab4Living. The friezes depicting Sheffield trades are modelled by twin brothers Albert Tory and William Tory, who were pupils at the School of Art in the 1890s,
Jun 1908

Head Post Office

Two years later, in 1910, the new Post Office Building is built nearby. After lying empty for more than 15 years, this Grade II listed building is given a new lease of life when it becomes the home of Sheffield Institute of Arts at Sheffield Hallam University in 2017.
Jun 1910

Former student pioneers art therapy in Sheffield

After volunteering during WWI, former Sheffield Art School student Annie Bindon Carter starts a company helping men severely disabled in the war to produce painted fabrics, sold around the country. An early example of art therapy, the business employs 70 ex-servicemen.
Jan 1917

Stainless steel scalpels

Building on a 1915 design patented in the USA by Morgan Parker, Sheffield-based Swann-Morton become world leading manufacturers of two piece stainless steel surgical scalpels.
Jan 1932

Art & Design Research Centre founded at SHU

A new research centre is founded at Sheffield Hallam University by Prof Jim Roddis, providing a catalyst for creative practice based research and knowledge transfer.
Sep 1993

Design Futures

A commercially focused product & packaging design consultancy group, the Advanced Product Development Centre, now known as Design Futures, is developed by the ADRC in collaboration with Uni of Sheffield to support the regeneration of the Sheffield sub region.
Jan 1997

TacTile Sounds

Millennium Product Award winning TacTile sounds system, a modular vibro-acoustic furniture system, is an early example of using design and creative practice to understand complex user needs.
May 1998

Nurse Communication System - Mediplan

Commercial production of a new hospital communication system begins, the first R&D project with medical equipment manufacturer Mediplan. Through its long-term collaboration with Design Futures researchers, Mediplan has successfully adopted design at a strategic level.
Jul 1998

1st practice-led PhD

The first practice-led design PhD at SHU is awarded to Graham Whiteley for his research: "An Articulated Skeletal Analogy of the Human Upper Limb".
Nov 2000


Art & Design performs strongly in the 2001 UK research assessment exercise. 5* rated research includes Chamberlain's TacTile Sounds vibro-sound product development for clinical use.
Dec 2001

Design Futures accredited as a CIC

As a result of its strengths in research and knowledge transfer, Design Futures is accredited by the EU as a Centre of Industrial Collaboration (CIC) to support regional regeneration. It is the only non-STEM CIC status granted.
Jul 2004

Patented Medical Connection System

Paul Chamberlain brings new approaches to medical drug delivery connectors, using a haptic/cognitive approach to reduce problems of mismatching which could lead to fatal accidents. Funded by UK Health Technology Device Agency
Jul 2005


Lab4Living is launched as a multidisciplinary research initiative bringing together expertise from SHU's art & design and health & wellbeing research communities, and industrial design consultancy Design Futures.
Sep 2007

War and Medicine

Prof David Cotterrell's photographic & written accounts of the militarised healthcare pathway informs development of new training materials for personnel going into combat zones.
Nov 2008

Art & Design research rated highly

50% of SHU's A&D research rated internationally excellent or world leading, including Chamberlain's Medical Connectors, TacTile Sounds, Dulake's visualising Nanotechnology, and Yoxall's improving Packaging Openability.
Dec 2008

Exhibition in a Box

'exhibition in a box' is developed as a tool to engage communities in co-creative activities, informing much subsequent Lab4Living work.
Jan 2010

1st European Design4Health Conference

Launched in the Art & Design Research Centre and Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery at Sheffield Hallam University in July 2011.
Jul 2011


The development of an iconic tactile language for use in the production of tactile maps led to Lab4Living's first Spin Out Company
Jan 2013

2nd Design4Health conference

150 delegates from 16 countries attend the second conference in Sheffield. The themes are invention, adoption and diffusion.
Jul 2013

24-Hr Design Challenge

Kyoto DesignLab's Julia Cassim runs a 24-Hour participatory Design Challenge during the Design4Health2013 conference.
Jul 2013

Best performance yet in UK REF

81% of SHU's Art & Design submitted work, which includes L4L, is judged world leading or internationally excellent in 2014 research excellence assessment. Art and Design research is ranked 2nd in modern universities and in top ten of all UK universities.
Jan 2014

European Network of Living Labs

We're awarded Membership of ENoL and are one of the longest established living labs in Europe.
Jan 2014

AHRC Network Award

A consortium led by L4L publishes an expert-led review of the extent of the art of design theory and practice in health and social care.

Jan 2015

Design4Health2015 conference

The 3rd conference in Sheffield welcomes 177 delegates. 90 papers, an exhibition and - for the first time - posters respond to the theme Synergies of Practice. The 24-Hr Design Challenge explores the theme of Parkinson's disease.
Jul 2015

Future Bathroom

EPSRC-funded project outcomes are awarded ‘Most Innovative Design’ in 2017 by the Over 50s Housing Association, UK.
Jan 2017

Joe Langley NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Fellowship

Joe Langley’s NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Fellowship is the first to be awarded to a researcher from outside the health disciplines. The fellowship explores the added value of design and making in the context of co-produced research, seeding several ongoing projects.
Jan 2017

Design For Health journal launched

Design For Health, published by Taylor & Francis Online, is launched in Rome. It is led by Lab4Living and an Editorial board drawn from across the world.
Apr 2017

10 years of Lab4Living

The Lab celebrates 10 years with an exhibition at Sheffield Institute of Arts, in the Head Post Office building.
Apr 2017

Lab4Living Symposium

The Lab invites a range of researchers, practitioners and service users to join us in Sheffield for a day of seminars and workshops.
Sep 2017

Design4Health17: Melbourne

Hosted at the famous Melbourne Cricket Club by Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.
Dec 2017

Head Up

The neck support collar goes into production at partner healthcare company, Talarmade.
Jun 2018

Design4Health2018: Sheffield

Back in Sheffield once more, the 5th conference themes interrogate meanings and assumptions relating to the terms ‘design’, ‘health', 'risk' and 'taboo’. Participants enjoy a candle-lit gala dinner at Sheffield cathedral.
Sep 2018

Support4All: UK’s 100 best breakthroughs

The Support4All project, a Radiotherapy bra designed to improve breast cancer treatment, is named as one of #MadeAtUni's '100+ ways universities have improved everyday life'.
Dec 2018

Journeying Through Dementia

The support programme and kits for those beginning their journey with dementia are piloted with partners in Scotland and Wales.
Jun 2019

Research England Award

In recognition of its track record in design-led research, Lab4Living receives £4m funding award from Research England's Expanding Excellence in England (E3) fund to support strategic research into the 100-year life and the Future Home.
Aug 2019

8 new PhD students

Funded through the recent major Research England award, 8 new postgraduate students begin their studies, supervised by members of the Lab4Living team.
Oct 2019

Lab4Living at The White Building

After more than a decade, Lab4Living gets a new space inside one of Sheffield's most interesting heritage buildings. A workshop, studio and exhibition area provide flexible space for the expanding team to work, meet, build & test, showcase work and engage with service users and the public.
Dec 2019

Life Café

Kits developed and produced by Lab4Living and Design Futures Packaging are now available to purchase via Marie Curie.
Feb 2020

A rebranding exercise

After more than 10 years, we undergo a rebrand.
Jul 2020

Connecting People, Connecting Support Online

A web-platform for people living with dementia and their families, informed by Journeying through Dementia research, is created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has over 30,000 views in first 2 months.
Aug 2020

Is the Patient Breathing?

Lab4Living hosts the first public event in the White Building, a new play tackling mental health.
Sep 2021

Medipex Innovation Awards

The Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) mask project is runner up at Medipex Innovation Awards for projects designed to improve the outcomes for patients.
Oct 2021

Design Futures: a retrospective

Design Futures, SHU's packaging and product design group, celebrates 20 years of design impact with an exhibition in the White Building.
Apr 2022

ADMRC and Lab4Living launch Research Archive

The new online archive details over 70 research projects by 30 members of staff.
May 2022

Lab4Living and ADMRC perform strongly in REF2021

REF2021 rates Lab4Living and ADMRC research impact and environment as 100% 4* and 3*. 83% of impact case studies are judged world leading. This places us third among modern universities for the Art and Design unit of assessment.
May 2022

How good design research can save lives

Sheffield Hallam showcases Lab4Living's REF21 Impact Case Study, highlighting how our innovative products and interventions are improving quality of life for people with long-term health conditions
May 2022

GRIHA Council, India

Lab4Living signs Memorandum of Understanding with GRIHA Council, India’s national rating system for green buildings, to formalise proposed collaborations.
Jun 2022

Festival of Design4Health

Lab4Living hosts four days of symposia events in the White Building, themed around the Future Home, Remote Co-Design, the 100 year life and the Design4Health Global Network.
Jun 2022