Design Futures Packaging designed ‘Kids in Court’ game wins European award

Kids in Court

A research project and evidence-based board game designed to help prepare children for court through play has won the Crystal Scales of Justice Prize. The game has been designed with Design Futures Packaging.

The game builds on research by Dr Marilena Kyriakidou, a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), and has been developed with the Design Futures Packaging team. The Design Futures team has previously worked with SHU researchers on initiatives such as the Life Café and Journeying Through Dementia to create sets of guided activities and resource kits.

In this post, we explore how Design Futures Packaging has supported research in the case of the Kids In Court game (KICgame).

A prototype of the Kids in Court board game used in Cyprus

A prototype of the Kids in Court game edition for older children (12-17 year olds)

Supporting Children’s Appearance in Court through Playful Activities

Dr Kyriakidou is a researcher in SHU’s Centre for Behavioural Science and Applied Psychology. Her work focuses on young people who need to give evidence in court, and the roles of the police and court officials in supporting them. Her research in 2020, supported through the University’s Creating Knowledge programme, highlighted a need for a professional tool with a child-friendly approach to support children for their testimonies in court. With a second round of funding through REFUND in the Psychology Department enabled her to work with partners to develop a new support tool.

Multidisciplinary team

Marilena gathered together partners including lawyers and community partners in Cyprus, the Hope for Children charity, a children’s solicitor, clinical psychologists and academics from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. Through conversations with her Sheffield Hallam academic mentor, Lab4Living’s Prof Claire Craig, Marilena learnt about the creative possibilities of involving designers in this collaboration. In particular, Claire shared examples of sets of resources, developed with Design Futures, the commercially focused product and packaging design consultancy group based within Sheffield Hallam University. The examples she shared, Life Cafe and Journeying Through Dementia, support conversations about sensitive topics such as end of life care and living with dementia.

>> Related projects: Life Café / Journeying Through Dementia

Marilena met with John Kirkby, Creative Director of Design Futures Packaging to discuss ideas for the proposed support tool and John soon became a supportive and active collaborator. John Kirkby says:

“As with Life Café, Journeying Through Dementia and other Sheffield Hallam research projects, Design Futures Packaging has played a key part in this project. We have designed the interaction/game that Marilena and her team proposed from their research.”

Knowledge translation

Over the course of many meetings held online during the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, the team worked together to translate 65 pages of knowledge and theory into a set of co-designed games that would help prepare children for their court appearance. The first prototype Kids in Court game was developed, named KiCGame.

“We will add a playful touch to their long difficult journey to justice.” (Training booklet for practitioners)

The Kids In Court game: KiCGame

All the KICgame pieces laid out

All the pieces in the KICgame edition for older children

The Kids In Court game consists of four sub-games, each with primary and secondary purposes and to be played in order. For example, the first two sub-games primarily aim to increase children’s legal knowledge, reducing children’s court-related stress, and increasing happiness and wellbeing. In addition, the game comes with extra pieces which can be used throughout all the sub-games. The game is designed to be played by young people supported by appropriate practitioners. As noted in the training booklet given to practitioners during the trial, the team expected that the KiCGame would have direct benefits for some of our most vulnerable children.

>> Kids in Court Game: a research-driven psychoeducational tool 

Prototype trial and measuring the benefits

The game prototype has been trialled over a 12 month period in Cyprus with approved practitioners at the Hope For Children charity and eligible children (aged 7 to 11 years old who had been invited to testify in court).

A child sits on the floor to play the KICgame. The child is moving a game piece across the board and there are various game cards laid out on the floor.

A child playing the KICgame for 7-11 year olds

The trial found that stress for children is reduced, as evidenced by impact metrics. After participating in the activities their vocabulary is considerably richer, showing that they have a nuanced and confident understanding of the processes and people that they will come into contact with during their court experience. The practitioners feedback is that the tool is an efficient and structured way of having all the information in one place.

A supporter playing the Maze game with a child

A supporter playing the Maze game (7-11 year olds) with a child

Crystal Scales of Justice Prize

After a former supreme court judge in Cyprus saw the game being trialled, it was submitted to the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ). This led in October 2023 to Marilena and the team being awarded the Crystal Scales of Justice Prize, which rewards innovative judicial practices within European judicial institutions.

>> How a board game is helping sexual abuse victims find their voice

Benefits of working with designers

The Kids In Court game highlights some of potential benefits that working with designers and packaging specialists can bring to research.

Making complex ideas tangible

By involving Design Futures closely at all stages of development, the team was better able to change complex ideas into something that would work more effectively for the children at particular ages. For teenagers, the tasks included familiarizing them with relaxation techniques and understanding phobias. At John’s suggestion, the idea of Super Hero training was developed, in which the young person would develop their own composite image as a persona.

In addition, working with Design Futures has brought commercial advantages which could benefit other projects.

High quality professional finish

Once the prototype had been developed, the team wanted to trial the game in Cyprus. Having Design Futures’ commercial expertise was an advantage as the team was able to produce in house a high-quality finished product. The team has been recognised at the UK Packaging Awards on multiple occasions and won ‘Design Team of the Year’ five times. Most recently they won an award for their innovative packaging design for local chocolate company Trupig Vegan.

Flexible and small scale production

Since the scale of this project in Cyprus is relatively small (around 20 children appear in court each year), it is a significant advantage that Design Futures is able to produce small runs of KIC kits, something which would be much more costly with an outside consultancy.

Another advantage is that the kits can easily be adapted in house in response to feedback from the trial. It can be rolled out to different populations, languages, environments and legal settings. For example, Victims Support Europe is currently discussing the implementation of the game in seven European nations, and Europol is discussing possible implementation in Mexico. Design Futures has developed an edition aimed at older children (12-17 year olds) which will soon be trialled.

Designs for an edition of Kids in Court aimed at older children

Designs for an edition of Kids in Court aimed at older children (12-17 year olds)

Having high quality physical prototypes gives the team an edge in seeking funding to develop an English language edition for use in the England and Wales’s 253 Magistrates and Crown courts.

If you, as a private professional or as a member of an organisation are interested, please contact M [dot] Kyriakidou [at] shu [dot] ac [dot] uk for our action-oriented application UK strategy. 

Design to support research

This project exemplifies the potential of design to contribute to activities across the university alongside commercial design practice and supporting teaching. The game demonstrates how Design Futures has been able to support research across Sheffield Hallam, helping to generate research income and promote the University’s high quality research.

>> Read more about Kids in Court Game: a research-driven psychoeducational tool

To find out how design can support your research project, contact John Kirkby.