A watch which tells you the time through touch rather than sight, walking canes that are designed for their look and feel as much as their practicality and a pair of trainers that don’t need laces… What do these products have in common? Different insights. The most creative of designs come from different places and different points of view.
Interestingly, product design has moved massively forward due to a very simple, lesser known fact. A high percentage of product designers share traits such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, therefore approaching things like, for example, a phone interface differently to how others would. For someone with dyslexia, remembering a telephone number is almost impossible but if the making of the call involved the numbers having sounds and even shapes made as a hand glide across a screen, then the idea of remembering a set of numbers becomes almost redundant. The beauty of such designs is not only how they shift and change like the people and world around them but also how they can accommodate almost anyone.
High-end brands are reacting to the needs of more than just the able-bodied and are helping to create more unique products for people with a different set of requirements to the average man in the street.
One product which features game-changing design is the FLYEASE shoe from Nike. The story behind it lies in who inspired its creation. In 2012, Matthew Walzer was preparing for his junior year of high school. Walzer, who has Cerebral Palsy, felt increasingly pressured by the independence asked of him as university years approached. His inability to tie shoelaces by himself was becoming a growing frustration and the teenager decided to write to Nike expressing his regret that shoes which provided ankle support and were easy to put on did not exist. Imagine his surprise when the brand not only replied, but welcomed his point of view. From their interaction, the FLYEASE trainers were created. The shoes’ zip up feature at the heel allows for easier slip-on access for those with muscular of flexibility issues that limit their ability to tie laces. This makes for a big step in the evolution of sportswear.
Another innovative brand is Eone, a stylishly modern and unique watchmaking business which realises that current watch designs are not accessible nor practical to some groups of people. First of all, Eone acknowledges that the visually impaired cannot tell time if they cannot see the hands or numbers on their watches. However, the brand has not limited its marketing to targeting just the blind; they humorously reference the occasions when one cannot look down to their watch, such as in meetings, for fear of coming across rude. Eone’s signature design, named the Bradley Timepiece, is a one-of-a-kind creation which allows its wearers to tell the time through touch. Minutes and hours are represented by magnetic balls that are recognisable simply by the light brush of a finger. Notice how small features such how as the triangular marker means twelve make this design stunningly simple.
Another brand gaining recognition for their designs is Top & Derby, who aim to rid the world of cold and clinical walking sticks. A nod to the elegant canes of the past, Top & Derby is injecting a world of colour into their walking cane designs by blending premium materials with striking aesthetics. Again, the fusion of practicality and beauty is always a welcome addition to the world of design.
Think Designable are a collective striving to have discussions of inclusivity heard by the public. They do not believe in tokenistic attempts of inclusivity; they communicate directly with brands and businesses to see how the opportunities for the disabled can be widened. “In an environment or society that takes little or no account of impairment, people’s activities can be limited and their social participation restricted. People are therefore disabled by the society they live in, not directly by their impairment,” says Dr Graham Pullin, author of Design Meets Disability who is quoted on Think Designable’s website.
On 17 November, Think Designable host Designable 2016, bringing together a premium group of people in disability inclusivity to discuss the issue and debate ideas on how to make an impact and difference in the modern world. There will be a range of talkers who have a variety of experiences and qualifications, from TV to academia to fashion. The sheer range of these people just goes to show how much design and creativity is evolving.
Designable 2016 takes place at King’s Place in London’s King’s Cross on Thursday, November 17th. Book your place here.
The Eone Bradley Timepiece can be purchased here.
The Nike FLYEASE collection can be browsed here.
Top & Derby’s cane designs can be browsed here.