Helen Hamlyn Centre backs innovative inclusive design projects

A water filtration system for solid-fuel stoves and a physical toolkit to help disabled students navigate design education are among this year’s Helen Hamlyn Design Award Winners.

The 2023 Helen Hamlyn Design Award winners have been revealed, featuring a range of inclusive design solutions to real-world problems.

The annual awards are organised by the Helen Hamlyn Centre of Design (HHCD) and are open to graduating students from the Royal College of Art.

Following the selection of the shortlist, a panel of industry experts and Lady Hamlyn selected the winners, based on the project’s demonstration of inclusivity and meaningful engagement, its response to a particular opportunity or challenge and the involvement of people in the design process.

Entrants are also required to reflect on how the project can be improved, and all winners will receive prize money to support further development of the projects.

The Snowdon Award for Disability: We are in this Together by Joy Lu and Beatrice Sangster

MA Design Product graduate Joy Lu and Beatrice Sangster, who graduated from MA Visual Communication won the disability-focused award for their project We are in this Together, which looks to support disabled people undertaking higher education in art and design.

Lu and Sangster designed a physical toolkit comprising a handbook, set of discussion objects and activity cards that can both guide the students themselves and assist reflection by their peers – a “communal inclusion plan that welcomes everyone into the conversations on disability and neurodiversity”, says Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones, trustee at Snowdon Trust.

The Snowdon Award comes with a prize of £2000.

Experience Haus Award: Channi by Priyanshu Mukhopadhyay

Priyanshu Mukhopadhyay, a graduate of MA Innovation Design Engineering was awarded a prize for Channi, a robust, affordable and quickly deployable water-based filtration system for solid-fuel stoves. The system is able to capture particulate matter from the stoves, which are often used by food vendors in the Global South, reducing air pollutants while enabling users to preserve their livelihoods.

Experience Haus creative director Amit Patel explained the judges were excited about the “massive impact this can potentially have – all the way from workers to their families, to the neighbourhoods they live in and to the growing urban cities around the world”.

Mukhopadhyay will be awarded £1000 as well as a placement at Experience Haus.

The Northumbrian Water Award for Inclusive Innovation: Freespeak by Wanqi Wang

Language conversion service Freespeak uses phonetic matching to enable better communication between speakers of different languages, making use of similar sounds in each language. Wanqi Wang, a graduate of the MA Contemporary Art Practice course, created the system specifically to enable English speakers to speak Chinese without any prior understanding of the language – to remove the frustration at having names frequently mispronounced and reduce misunderstandings.

Jennie Collingwood of Northumbrian Water Group said the judges “praised the simplicity of this solution and were wowed by the potential to improve inclusivity and redefine language acquisition”.

Wang will receive £2000 for winning the award.

Helen Hamlyn Award for Creativity: Pleural by Yihan Dong, Daniel Hale, William Eliot and Fergus Laidlaw

A group of Yihan Dong, Daniel Hale, William Eliot and Fergus Laidlaw, all graduates of MA Innovation Design Engineering, won the Helen Hamlyn Award for Creativity for their airway clearance device Pleural – which was separately awarded the UK National Dyson Award last week.

Pleural’s tactile device not only allows patients to manage their condition by aiding mucus clearance, but allows them to monitor their health, thanks to Pleural’s use of AI to analyse breathing sounds.

Lucy O’Rorke, director of projects at the Helen Hamlyn Trust called Pleural an “empowering design with the person at its heart”, adding that “the object itself encapsulates a feeling of comfort, holding and being held”.

The team will also be awarded £2000 for its work.

HHCD Alumni Award: Ivelina Gadzheva

In addition, the HHCD Alumni Award went to inclusive design consultant Ivelina Gadzheva, who works with both public and private sector clients, is the founder of Design for All Bulgaria Foundation and co-founder of the Service Design Network’s Bulgaria chapter.

Gadzheva’s recent projects in Sofia, Bulgaria have included a pedestrian wayfinding system and its first hub for Social Innovation, and she is currently consulting on a kindergarten, school and community centre project.

Banner image: Channi by Priyansha Mukhopadhyay

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