RSA unveils winning projects in Design Directions scheme

A woven textile garment that helps people suffering from sensory processing disorder cope discreetly with anxiety in public places and a service aimed at encouraging workers to leave the office at lunchtime are among the winning projects in this year’s Design Directions scheme from the Royal Society of Arts.

Judging is continuing in the programme, which challenges student designers to tackle social issues, and all the winning projects will be featured on the RSA’s website at the end of this month. RSA design programme manager Ann Crawley says that there have been 69 projects shortlisted from almost 700 entries this year.

A total of 13 Design Directions briefs were set, including ’Designing out shoplifting’, which was supported by the Design and Technology Alliance Against Crime, and ’Working late’, which challenged entrants to develop projects to enhance productivity in an older workforce.

These were set alongside traditional briefs such as the postage stamp design competition, which this year challenged entrants to celebrate biodiversity or country definitives.

This year’s programme also saw the Design Directions Plus model, which was piloted last year, rolled out for a second time. Design Directions Plus uses elements of a co-design approach, and provides designers with feedback and input from user groups.

This year’s two Design Directions Plus briefs were ’Design for social inclusion’, supported by Designs of the Time Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly and the Design Council, and ’Independence days’, supported by the Technology Strategy Board, which challenged entrants to design a product or service to address the needs of someone living with a long-term health condition.

One of the products to result from the ’Independence days’ brief has been the Boa (body over autism) project, devised by Glasgow School of Art product design student Lauren Coleman.

The project addresses the sensory processing disorder condition, which is similar to autism. Like autism, SPD can be alleviated by using deep pressure to reduce anxiety. Coleman says she wanted to design something ’subtle, like an accessory’ as an alternative to the cumbersome weighted blankets currently used.

Coleman’s project was developed through what she describes as an ’intense’ process of workshopping, which involved input from the National Autistic Society, autism carers, and design consultancy Uscreates.

The winning entry for the ’Working late’ brief came from Kingston University graphic design students Rachael Ball-Risk and Jennifer Rice, who developed the ’Walking lunch’ project. The project, based on a health intervention brief set by Loughborough University, aims to enable people to take control of their health and fitness at work by encouraging them to leave the office at lunchtime to explore the local area.

Following initial research with medical professionals and employees at a Woking-based company, Ball-Risk and Rice developed a map, which can be updated by employees to highlight and alert each other to points of interest. Ball-Risk says the pair plan to show a version of the map in their upcoming degree show.

Crawley says that she sees the main themes throughout the challenge as the use of network-based methods, the use of place-centred approaches, and the appropriation of persuasive technologies, all of which she sees as tying in with wider RSA themes.

She adds, ’It’s quite encouraging to see that people are not relying totally on new technologies – they are understanding the need for contact between people.’

The Design Directions briefs

  • Design for social inclusion
  • Independence days
  • Working late
  • Body and mind
  • The resourceful supermarket
  • The resourceful architect
  • Designing out shoplifting
  • A matter of life…
  • Public spaces, safer places
  • Digitex
  • Later life wellbeing
  • Postage stamps
  • Sustainable metals

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