Responsible design celebrated at RSA Design Directions

The elderly, the visually impaired and the environment are all set to benefit from the winning projects in this year’s Royal Society of Arts Design Directions awards competition.

The annual scheme, launched in 1924, is for socially inclusive design, and offers UK and international students a range of projects that comment on the changing role of the designer in relation to society, technology and culture. An exhibition of the winning work launched yesterday at

Sustainability was a key theme this year, with categories such as sustainable tourism, encouraging practice that is ecologically ‘light’ and culturally sensitive, and sustainable packaging, to find ways of ‘designing out’ waste to minimise environmental impact. Other subjects from the 15 briefs include: food information systems, for innovative approaches to reducing food miles; ‘inclusive worlds’, for creating an inclusively designed world; and designing public services, to address 21st century public service delivery requirements.

Two projects – food information systems and sustainable tourism – were launched in collaboration with the Dott07 festival.

As part of the inclusive worlds brief, one of the successful ideas was Template, by Sarah Ginn from Kingston University and Amanda Smith from Central St Martins College of Art and Design. The duo were tasked with looking at an area of daily life, and then rethinking or redesigning an existing product, system, environment or related service in a way that would enable it to become more accessible and enjoyable for users. They came up with temperature-controlled dinner plates that can be removed from the oven by hand without risk of burning – especially useful for older people and those with disabilities.

In the same category, but responding to a different challenge, Nick O’Brien and Paloma Reed – both from Kingston University – designed Osca (Oscillating sensory communication accessory), a wristband transmitting pulsating radio waves to remind users not to forget essential items. In this instance, the students were asked to focus on technology with a challenge to select a product, system, environment, communication or service that is not currently accessible or usable by a large number of people, and then to make it user-friendly and workable.

Three other Kingston University students – Rachel Pearson, John Short and Ainsley Rees – responded to the sustainable packaging brief, to design out waste in order to minimise the environmental impact of the packaging of any retail consumer product of their choice, with Solve. This is a range of hygiene products using water-soluble plastic that breaks down into carbon dioxide and water, thus solving the problem of plastics entering the sewage system.

In the categories co-sponsored by Dott07, Lucy Denham from Northumbria University was one of the food information systems winners for her proposal for an accreditation scheme to raise awareness of food miles. For sustainable tourism, Lorna Cochrane and Linzi Deprez from Napier University scooped an award for their project, an eco-friendly weekend as an alternative to a standard city break.

Among the nearly 1500 entries and 39 winning designs in this year’s awards, three have patents pending.

• The scheme comprises £100 000 in cash, travel awards and industry internships
• Past winners include Jonathan Ive, vice-president of industrial design at Apple, and Andy Clarke, designer of the Heathrow Express train

Start the discussionStart the discussion
  • Post a comment

Latest articles