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What will your future look like? Student puts the pieces together

Published on: 1 August 2018

Invention by Newcastle University student helps find the answers

Visual and audio record

Visitors to the Idea of North exhibition at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art are being asked: What will your future look like? And they’ll be answering with an invention designed by a Newcastle University doctoral researcher.

Zander Wilson has developed JigsAudio. Made up of jigsaw pieces or tiles which have a chip embedded into them, people can draw or write on the tiles and then record their ideas with their voice.

It creates a visual and audio record of ideas which can later be uploaded to the internet to create a presentation of the results.

So far, suggestions at Idea of North include flying cars, buses running on hybrid energy, becoming a scientist and saving the environment

Zander Wilson with JigsAudio at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

Communicating ideas

“JigsAudio has proved just as popular with adults as it has with children”, says Zander, a Digital Civics planning student based in the University’s Open Lab. “And the reason for that, I think, is because it’s fun to use and it does what it’s supposed to well. Some people are better at putting their ideas verbally, while others are better at writing or drawing and JigsAudio captures both methods in a new way.

“It also gives you extra insight into what people are thinking. Sometimes the images on their own doesn’t make much sense but using two ways of communicating ideas gives them more meaning. You can really see this when you put it all together on a website.”

Zander was inspired to create JigsAudio by his town planning studies. “I found that a lot of feedback in town planning was using methods that have been around for a long time and that have failed to keep pace with contemporary developments in technology,” he said. “That got me thinking about whether there might be better ways to do it.” OpenLab colleagues Andy Dow, Samantha Finnigan, Gerry Wilkinson, Rob Anderson and Dan Jackson helped Zander develop it.

It was first designed for a national drawing event at Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books. It has since been used by public transport coordinator Nexus and was picked up by organisations including North Tyneside Council. JigsAudio has even gone global, with devices used at events in Colombia and Italy.

Zander is now looking at creating kits so schools can build their own JigsAudio devices.

Newcastle City Futures

JigsAudio is just one way Newcastle University is involved with Idea of North through its Newcastle City Futures (NCF) project.

Idea of North celebrates Northern identity through architecture, photography, music, design and culture.

A key part of the exhibition is a model of the Tyne Deck, an idea which was floated in the 1960s to build a platform on the Tyne which would feature an opera house. The plans were almost forgotten until the University’s Newcastle City Futures exhibition, held in 2014, unveiled them again to the public.

Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, the driving force behind NCF provided information for exhibition boards at Idea of North and features in a 20 minute Baltic Bites video about the Tyne Deck.

NCF also organised two fringe events, one a screening of a documentary about T Dan Smith, the former leader of Newcastle City Council who was a visionary, maverick but corrupt former leader of Newcastle City Council in the 1960s. A talk and screening about the work of architects Ryder and Yates in Newcastle, including the proposal for the Tyne Deck was also held.

JigsAudio will be at Baltic until 30 September. If you want to use JigsAudio for your project or are a school interested in receiving a JigsAudio kit, contact


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