When Enabled by Design met the New Designers

Being a hotbed of emerging design talent, it seemed only natural for EbD to go along to New Designers to see what was on offer in the way of inclusive/universal design. And it didn’t disappoint!

New Designers is an annual graduate design showcase held every July at the Business Design Centre in Islington in north London. This event is dedicated to promoting the work of over 4000 young designers, covering every design discipline from architecture to ceramics, furniture design to illustration and photography to textiles (to name but a few).

In the Product Design zone we met some fantastically talented and passionate designers, who had focused on developing products that not only look good, but also made people’s lives easier. Exactly what EbD is all about!

It was great to meet such enthusiastic designers that wanted to use their skills in such a positive way – to improve people’s lives in more ways than one (not just aesthetically). Here’s a quick run down of some of the projects we were inspired by:

Both David Stevens and Jay Rayat had based their final year design projects on meeting the needs of someone close to them.

David Stevens’ ‘Arthritic Solutions’ project explored ways in which design could be used to make his Gran’s daily tasks more manageable, for example a simple yet effective key turner that used the principle of turning moments to reduce the strength and power required to turn a key in a lock.

Jay Rayat’sPower Stick‘ was designed to provide stable support for her Mum, while she was out and about walking. Its design incorporates a non-slip rubber foot and hand grip and is cleverly tapered and weighted so that it can stand alone when not in use. The ‘Power Stick’ is a beautifully crafted object in its own right, while its design provides the user with added stability and confidence. Jay has also designed the ‘Wing Pen Holder’ (an arthritis writing aid) that supports the fingers and palm for pain free writing.

There were also products that had not been solely designed as assistive equipment, but would still make a difference to people struggling with fiddly tasks.

Duncan Ledingham’sPresence Series‘ project focused on designing a series of texturised wallets to hold small objects such as money, MP3 players and phones. These wallets help their owners to be able to distinguish them from other objects, by touch, while rooting around/patting down their pockets. While this project was concentrating mainly on security issues, these wallets would prove extremely helpful for people suffering from sensory difficulties for example numbness of the hands or fingers.

It was then on to the search for the Holy Grail that was the ‘One Year On’ showcase – recommended as one of the event’s highlights. This zone exhibited the work of cutting edge designers pre-selected by a respected industry panel. It was well worth the trek, here we met dynamic design duo FauvelKhan, Warren Fauvel and Luke Khan. Based in Swansea, their product design house specialises in ‘Human Focused Design’ (does exactly what it says on the tin). “It’s all about empathy” says Warren “putting people above process and creating objects that will be cherished”. Their approach is refreshing and fun and very much in keeping with the EbD ethos. I was especially interested in their ‘Snail’ design, which is a brightly coloured moulded plastic ‘bridge’ that protects fingers while chopping/slicing food with a sharp knife – a simple yet indispensable idea.

FauvelKhan embraces inclusive design and for this reason EbD would very much like to work with them in the future. We had a good chat about how the traditional NHS crutch could do with a much needed makeover, so this could be as good a place as any to start making a change. Watch this space!

We’re also hoping to persuade the organisers of New Designers to host an Enabled by Design award next year, in recognition of young designers that have incorporated inclusive design to best effect. We think this will be an important step towards universal design being established as best practice, while encouraging young designers to take this on board too. All very exciting stuff!