From the margins to the mainstream

The Trading Places exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum marks ten years of the Design Business Association’s Inclusive Design Challenge at the Royal College of Art.

Over the past decade the challenge, which sees designers work with older and disabled people to develop more inclusive projects, has led to products such as Factory Design’s Milkman milk carton for arthritis sufferers, and Seymour Powell’s ’ello mobile phone for older and disabled people.

Factory Design’s Milkman milk carton
Factory Design’s Milkman milk carton

How the milk carton works
How the milk carton works

Speaking at the exhibition’s private view last night, Julia Cassim, senior research fellow at the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre, said, ‘By understanding the extreme you innovate for the mainstream.’ She pointed out that the typewriter has its origins in a design for blind users.

And Inclusive Design Challenge users noted that designing for disability need not mean eschewing good aesthetics. Charles and Ray Eames’ plywood leg splint, designed in 1942, is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Seymour Powell’s ’ello mobile phone
Seymour Powell’s ’ello mobile phone

Trading Places runs at the V&A’s Sackler Centre until 16 May. It will then move to Boston’s Institute for Human-Centred Design in the US.

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