Crime initiatives boost bid to engage civil servants in design

Last week it was glassing, this week it is mobile phone fraud. The Home Office is on a roll with projects to combat crime through design, guided by the Design Council and the Technology Strategy Board.

A major brewery chain is said to be keen to trial Design Bridge’s prototype unbreakable pint glasses, created to cut down injuries in pub brawls. While the ’solid’ glasses still have the potential to do damage if an assailant is hell-bent on it, the fact that they don’t shatter could reduce severe injuries, particularly to the face.

Response from the industry to the latest venture – concepts generated through the Mobile Phone Security Challenge (see News, page 4) – will be gauged at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress next week. But the hope is that the initiative to make phones and the data stored on them harder to steal and to make mobile transactions safer will move the debate forward through physical examples rather than solely through awareness campaigns.

All three concepts may have shortcomings at this stage, given that they are breaking new ground, though Minima is confidently planning to further develop the prototype for its Touch Safe scheme to protect payments by phone regardless. But the important thing is that the initiative is stimulating debate, not just within design, but across the mobile phone industry, with designers and technology experts working together on ideas.

Recent months have seen ventures emanating from organisations such as the Audi Design Foundation and the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art to address social and environmental issues through design. That Government is supporting such ventures can only help to get the message across.

The Design Council is doing its bit – not least through Design Bugs Out and the patient dignity exercise with the Department of Health. But there is a role to play for the design community at large to convince civil servants that design can make a difference in such areas, particularly with a General Election looming.

LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR

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