It is often hard for an organisation to redefine itself once it is established. This is particularly the case in academia, where habits tend to stick more easily than they do in the commercial world and change can be slow.
But not so the Helen Hamlyn Centre. The unit, set up within London’s Royal College of Art to consider design issues relating to older or less able people, continues to evolve. It is best known for initiatives such as the annual Design Challenge it runs for design consultancies with the Design Business Association, but its work with RCA students and client companies on research or real projects goes largely unsung.
Originally set up under the direction of professors Roger Coleman and Jeremy Myerson, the HHC is now headed by Myerson since Coleman’s retirement last year. Myerson is also director of Innovation RCA at the college and plays an active role as a board member of Design London, the organisation set up last year that links the RCA with London’s Imperial College and Taneka Business School and is directed by Nick Leon.
It is this forward-thinking, joined-up approach to research and practice that sets educational establishments such as these apart from the rest. The HHC’s involvement ensures that they are grounded in the reality of addressing social concerns.