DBA reveals shortlist for ‘active ageing’ challenge

An adaptive surface, an online footnoting tool, a graphical ‘brackets’ campaign and a social networking project named after food stuffing are competing for the latest Design Business Association Inclusive Design Challenge award, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary.

The theme for the 2010 award is ‘active ageing’. Julia Cassim, senior research fellow at the Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Centre, which collaborates with the DBA on the programme, says, ‘We haven’t actually covered ageing as a subject before, and it seemed like a really timely issue – an important part of the Department for Work and Pensions’ policy is making sure that people are socially active, and also active in the employment world.’

The brief calls for teams to look at how design can ‘combat negative stereotypes of ageing, embrace [elderly people’s] diversity and communicate their aspirations and needs’.

Four schemes have been shortlisted, with a winner to be announced on 4 March. Each scheme has been developed through a process of mentoring from the HHC and focus groups supported by awards-sponsor Sanctuary Care.

For its submission, 1HQ developed a product called Move, which it describes as having as an ‘active surface’, using shape-identification and nano-fibre technology to allow surroundings to adapt to the user and be ‘more helpful or more engaging’. The consultancy says the product could be commercially available within 15 years.

BWA Design’s project allows users to add footnotes to Internet pages, through what the consultancy hopes will eventually be a Wiki database. Creative director Webster Wickham says, ‘We were responding to that fact that more Government services are going online, and some age groups can be resistant to that.’ BWA discovered that the main concerns of elderly people using Web pages were security and confusing design. The Footnote scheme proposes footnotes for websites that can be accessed through a browser toolbar, and can be seen and edited by other Footnote users.

Clinic’s submission is the Sage & Onions scheme, which will enable people of different age groups to exchange advice and experiences. Clinic’s Tim Dobbs says, ‘[First] there is the brand creation. Then the service will start as a central organisation, on a website or on the end of a phone, which will offer advice and set you up with other people until you can run your own network without support.’ The scheme’s name developed from the idea of sage meaning wisdom, and from the phrase ‘knowing your onions’.

Epitype’s project is a graphics scheme called Open, which uses a brackets device in an ad campaign to highlight common misconceptions about ageing, culminating in a voluntary accreditation scheme. Epitype creative director Martin Roach says, ‘We wanted to create a positive symbol. If you look at a lot of the existing ads, they feature rather patronising photographs of older people.’

Roach says the scheme would aim to discredit widely held myths about older people at work, such as that they are a waste of investment, or not very good at picking up new skills, and could be used to denote companies that have worked to combat ageism.

2010 inclusive design challenge Timeline

26 September 2009 – deadline for entries
5 October 2009 – first workshop takes place
October-December 2009 – project development mentored by Helen Hamlyn Centre
January 2010 – final judging
4 March 2010 – winner to be announced
19 April to 16 May 2010 – Victoria & Albert Museum to host an exhibition marking ten years of the Inclusive Design Challenge

Latest articles