The Enabled by Design-athon Part 1: Explore

On the afternoon of Friday 2nd November we launched the ‘Enabled by Design-athon‘ activity. The earlier talks had inspired with […]

On the afternoon of Friday 2nd November we launched the ‘Enabled by Design-athon‘ activity. The earlier talks had inspired with stories and ideas, but the assembled makers and Enabled by Design community were ready to prototype new accessible products. Products that attendees (whatever their background) had a hand in creating and informing.

Diverse teams were formed, each including a designer, maker, manufacturer, Ravensbourne design student and most importantly a member of the Enabled by Design community. Each teams’ goal was to design and build prototypes that demonstrated how products can rapidly be designed and built with people for people, in 24 hours.

The next part of this blog series will reflect on the ‘Ideas’ part of the event, but for now, here’s all you need to know about the ‘Explore’ activities.

The ‘Explore’ section used two different approaches to help teams create a persona that would be used in their design process. Half the teams were challenged to a ‘Whose Life’ activity, an observational exercise, and the other half an empathy activity, to help people put themselves in the shoes of others.

The goal of the ‘Explore’ section was to generate insight and empathy into potential challenges relating to accessibility, so that teams could:

  • Identify and think about real user needs
  • Create a persona to design for and against
  • Understand the persona and identify themes
  • Design for All – Accessible design is good design!

[1] Whose Life Activity

The goal of this activity was to build up a persona through detailed observation by studying a set of photographs which record a day in someone’s life. The person who took the photos didn’t appear in any of them, however, through careful observation the teams pieced together clues about who they might be and the kind of life they might be leading.

“Never cease to be amazed by how much richness comes from observation, even if it’s just from photos of the lives of strangers”  Lydia Howland, IDEO

Photo: Murtz Abidi @murtz_abidi 

Photo: Michelle Douglas @michellio 


[2] Empathy Activity

Empathy tools were distributed to teams, which impaired dexterity, mobility, vision and hearing, to help teams experience tasks with the needs of different users. Using them helped to prompt an empathic understanding for people who might be affected including older people and those with disabilities, while also challenging any preconceptions.

“We are all human… In the next 24 hours, it’s our job to empathise”  Tom Hulme, IDEO

The ‘Dexterity’ teams empathy tools

Photo: Murtz Abidi @murtz_abidi 

The ‘Vision’ team negotiating the Tube

Photo: Matt Dexter @matt_dexter


[3] Expert Users

The teams were then introduced to someone from the Enabled by Design community that had experiences to share relating to the assigned challenge. These expert users really helped to inform designs, ideas and most importantly challenge any preconceptions and assumptions made.

You can view more images of the ‘Explore’ activities here on the Enabled by Design-athon 2012 Flickr group pool.

The next two stages (Part 2: Ideas and Part 3: Make) of the Enabled by Design-athon allowed teams to build on the insights and experiences gathered from Part 1: Explore and we’ll be sharing these in blog posts next week, so see you then…

Team EbD