A decade of inclusive design: 2002-2004


Inclusive design is often seen as relating to the built environment or products alone, but the DBA Inclusive Design Challenge wanted to demonstrate its relevance as a people-centred process to any design discipline. Coley Porter Bell’s ’c’ system, the 2002 winner, was the first entry by a visual communications firm. It provided a systematic way to enable visually impaired shoppers to distinguish the colours of garments, by turning the disposable swing tag into a functional interface through a tactile language of shapes. By learning 16 embossed shapes, those with low sight could identify 60 colours. The other shortlisted projects in a very strong year were: Kinneir Dufort and The Appliance Studio’s Shopsense – a rethink of the supermarket experience; Siebert Head’s stylish cup for nomadic drinking habits; Pearlfisher’s modular collection of heat-regulating clothing; and PSD:Fitch’s customised information system for commuters. It is interesting to see how so much of what the design teams predicted in 2002 has become common currency in mainstream design.


This was the time when two product design rivals went head to head and came up with great concepts, resulting in deadlock among the judges, and so the prize was shared. Seymour Powell’s ’ello mobile phone was designed to be easier for older and disabled people to use. It stripped the device down to its essentials, eliminating the screen to enable a larger speaker and extend battery life. A clam-shaped device with easy-to-open ’book edges’ for one-handed use, it featured a rising keyboard for increased tactile feedback. The other joint winner, Factory Wares by Factory Design, presented a saucepan that is easy to lift and use by older people and those with arthritis. This cookware concept would later be developed for production under licence by Gavin Thomson Design. Elsewhere on the shortlist, hearing loss was a big theme as Lewis Moberly designed a system called Eye Speak to aid communication in noisy environments, and The Team developed a wearable Buddy device to alert hearing-impaired people to danger. Sea Change designed a communication system to reduce error in prescribing medicines.

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