TRANSCRIPT OF TALK by JEREMY MYERSON
Good afternoon everybody. It is very nice to be back and see a lot of familiar faces.
My talk the afternoon, 'All Together Now' is a nod in the direction of the interdisciplinary theme of this conference bringing in different disciplines to work together in design research. It is also a nod in the direction of the research question we are addressing at the Royal College of Art into social inclusion, and bringing people into the design process who, traditionally for whatever reason - age, disability and so on, have been excluded in the past.
The RCA, where I am based is, as many of you know, wholly postgraduate and has traditionally been the opposite of interdisciplinary, it has been a place where individual departments, like fiefdoms, have been operating in their own natural silos. It is a great strength but trying to do interdisciplinary work there has been difficult.
SLIDE 2 Cartoons
We have a resident cartoonist at the College called Henny Penny, and there is a certain amount of healthy cynicism about research through design, that is, instead of stepping back and looking at design in an academic way as a process, actually finding out things through the act of designing. There is confusion and cynicism. This goes right the way back to the history of the design profession. Designers, if not with disdain have viewed research with downright hostility. This goes back through the history of the design profession.
SLIDE 3 Salvador Dali
I was reminded by a story of Salvador Dali who was not just and artist but did commercial commissions, and in the 1940's was invited to do a new brand identity for a cosmetic of Max Factor. They wrote to him and said they would be most honoured if he would take this task on. He said he would take it on, but added "I do not want to meet any of you. I don't want to meet anyone from research, or technical people, marketing people, no customers, and no technologists. I don't want you to tell me not what to do. Just book me into the best hotel in four weeks time in a room. Invite the world's Press and on the that day at 11 am I will be there with your new 'brand identity'. Fine. They booked Astoria on the 5th Avenue and they waited, and they heard nothing.
The great day dawns and the Press were invited with cameras and flash bulbs at the ready. When you take photo in those days the flash bulbs shoot out of the back of the camera, molten. Anyway it was 11am and no Dali to be seen, "where is he" ask the Max Factor executives, perspiring heavily at this point. 11.15amŠ. no Dali 11.30 no Dali.11.45 no Dali. Then a single yellow cab arrives. It's door opens, and a man with a cloak and cane steps out It was Dali.
But no drawings, no models, nothing except his cane. He walks and the crowds part. Pandemonium. People are shouting questions. Photo bulbs are popping and flying. Just before he arrives at the Podium, he stops. Removes a red handkerchief from his pocket and stoops down to get molten flashbulb. Walks up to the lectern gingerly.. Stands at the lectern. Unfolds molten flash bulb handkerchief. Blows on the hot flashbulb. Makes sure its cool. Flattens its base, and holds flash bulb up and says. "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Max Factor's 'Electrique'."
Back then that was a way of producing a design. No research. No constraints. Just complete act of audacious creative genius. Designers love this story as it harks back to a simpler creative age of 'bu**er the user'. This story of Dali is in a way the story of anti-design-research.
The story I am going to tell you is in a way the opposite. Rather than reaching within, and snatching a piece of artistic genius, and presenting it to the world and defying the world, what I am going to talk about is interdisciplinary design research which is very much based around the behaviour traits and habits of particular groups of people..
SLIDE 4 RCA
What I am going to talk to you about the work of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre. The reason for the Centre is has its origins in the Royal Charter of the Royal College of Art. This was written in 1967 and is a key clause.
SLIDE 5 RCA History
It was supposed to teach supposed to research and supposed to do something about social developments. It has largely, apart from the 80s when there was a bit of a black hole of social consciousness in the arts. It has taken its responsibility quite seriously.
SLIDE 6 Research Purpose
In the early 70s a whole Unit was dedicated to research work under control of Professor Bruce Archer. Out of this was developed the Kings Fund hospital bed, which became the standard across the UK. In 1976 there was the Design For Need Conference, a landmark conference with people like Victor Papenek talking about a social issues, which had a non-corporatist agenda based upon social needs.
In 1991, my co-director Roger Coleman launched something-called Design Age, which has done an awful lot to alert the design community to the needs of the rapidly aging population across the industrialised world. Since 1999 Design Age has become a fully-fledged research centre.
SLIDE 7 Research Goal
We have a simple goal 'to promote a more socially inclusive approach to designing'
We are trying to promote a more socially inclusive approach to designing. We are trying to get people for what ever reason get their fair share.
So which social developments are we interested in. There are three basic strands.
SLIDE 8 Ageing Population
The first is the aging population.
1 in 2 adults in Europe will be over the age of 50 in 18 years time. The wealth and spending and savings of the over 70s is growing rapidly and having a huge affect on the sphere of design.
SLIDE 9 Changing Working Patterns
We are entering a period of change in technology and culture where work practices are changing. More people are working from home, there are issues of the work-life balance and so on. There are issues about people being technologically excluded.
SLIDE 10 Integration of Disabled People
We are particularly interested in the growing movement, led both culturally and by legislation, to integrate people with disabilities - visual, physical and cognitive into the mainstream of society. Not simply to say they are special needs group and need special needs design. They deserve the same high standards of design as everyone else and to participate in society fully. It is part of the political concept of a socially inclusive society.
How we do this? How do we address our research questions and pursue our research goal?
We are a practice based research centre. We set up design exemplars, case study projects, and follow them through the act of designing and then theorise the practice. We do this be working with three very distinctive design communities.
SLIDE 11 Three Design Communities
We work with RCA students, we sponsor the 'New Design for Old' Awards and work with other Awards at undergraduate level across the country.
We work with new graduates, and that is the core of what I am going to show you this afternoon, new designers fresh out of the RCA, who we team with industry partners.
We work at a professional level exploring inclusive design as a business strategy. We never push the moral argument but the business case when we work with a commercial company.
At the heart of the relationship with students, new graduates and professional designers and design managers we have one core principle, that is working with what we call 'Lead users', or 'critical users'.
SLIDE 12 Empathic Research Model
We have what is known as an 'Empathic research model'.
We believe that if you bring a designer together with three of four lead-users, who exhibit the traits, or the behaviour, or disability you are trying to address through design, then through this empathy will emerge design concepts that will address the needs of this user group
Research deals quantitatively with statistics, and a lot of design research deals with collecting data and analysing it, but that is not the point at which we come in. We work with other agencies and Universities collecting social change data, but we come at a point where we can match users with designers.
So in this research model the user is in the centre. The student, new graduate and professionals are working altogether for inclusive design on the same wheel with users. At the heart of it is a sense of 'empathy', which we think is an underestimated research tool.
SLIDE 13 User-Centred
The whole history of human factors and ergonomics in this country has tended to look at the physical and the cognitive. But if you think of why people use objects and what they think about them, how people react to the design on the social and emotional side of design is what we think is important.
So I want to take you through some of the projects we have been working upon.
The reason why Alec invited me today was probably because we work in a cross-disciplinary way. I hesitated to use the word 'interdisciplinary' as this is I believe where lots of people with different disciplines work on the same project.
We have packaging designers, communication designers, product designers and architects, industrial design engineers and we team them with industry partners in an individual or dual basis, so we are not creating multidisciplinary teams, but we are working across a range of disciplines and the unifying aim is to address the user group.
So in a sense it is the needs of particular groups in society who define the activity and not the traditional silos system of design education where you have product designers then communications designers then…and so on.
SLIDE 14 Helen Hamlyn Research Associates
The Research Associates Programme has been going for four years and in that time we have had over 35 projects and a range of partners. We have partners like Ford, Hewlett Packard, Levi Straus, and British Heart Foundation. I am going to show briefly some of the work.
SLIDE 15 The Lead-Users.
In this project, a talented furniture designer Loto Bananan worked with Leonard Cheshire, a disability charity who have a number of people in their residential care homes who wish to work with IT. The big problem was a lack of decent furniture for people with a disability to work effectively use with a computer.
SLIDE 16 Leonard Cheshire Desk.
A lot of work was done particularly with four users and we used the empathic model with them She came up with emotional insights.
SLIDE 17 Leonard Cheshire Desk.
A chap said what 'I would really like in my office is a chair that swivels', as not having that facility makes life very difficult. What came out of the project, which lasted a year, was a prototype that was taken up by BT. What it provided was a kidney shape desk and a revolving platform on which you drive a wheelchair. There is a groove around the edge of desk because one of the big problems we observed is picking things up after rolling off a desk. The groove stops things rolling off. It is this kind of empathic model that allows solutions to be developed by working with small groups of users.
SLIDE 18 Heathrow Terminal Five -the Users
So confident was British Airports Authority (BAA) of getting the green light that they started the design way in advance of the report from the Public Inquiry.
What we were asked to do was champion the idea of socially inclusive design in the terminal The Terminal was to be designed by Richard Rogers Partnership and they were worried about way-finding in the building what would be the largest airport in Europe. It is on a constrained site so it is an airport on two levels and people will get lost. You know from your experience that in an airport there is a heightened state of anxiety as you know.
We developed a research position within BAA. They had some 250 then and now some 600 engineers working on this project and our two graduates had to find a useful position in all this.
We picked a user group. We said the population of users is going to age rapidly on average over the next 30 or 40 years, and we looked particularly at visual impairment. The user group had different types of impairment from people who were older to those with specific types of blindness, and we asked them to carry out various tasks in the airport.
When they spent a day doing various things, in this inhospitable atmosphere of the airport - noise and light and shiny surfaces - we realised from our observations they were looking for a sensory landscape to guide them - an alternative reading of the airport. If you cannot read the signs you are in trouble.
SLIDE 20 Working with Information
We came up with a design strategy map involving, information to inform the process, orientation to confirm it, and comfort proposals to reassure - we came up with a whole series of 'sensory objects' in the visual landscape - giant seats, tactile pathways, launch pads and visual 'hot-spots'.
Some of the concepts came out of listening and observing.
We observed that some of our user groups were spending an awful lot of time in the toilets. So we asked them why! They said that when you are in the loo the sound is really clear, and they were listening for flight announcements.
Out of that came an idea - not loos in the environment - but what we called an Acoustic Arch - and this has been taken up by BAA. What it is, is a micro architectural element. If you walk into it you get really clear surround sound, and you also get a range of interactive facilities.
We developed semi-autonomous elements within the building envelope - a set of sensory interventions - tactile surfaces, micro-architectures and so on.
We proposed a whole range of things. For example, if you are walking and you reach a point where you have to make a decision between two equal alternative paths then visually there should be a fork in the road, and not a side turn. It is these kinds of design principles we have been developing.
Also at Heathrow there are enormous stretches where you have to walk, and we have produced 'chroma-walls' with the intention of trying to reduce the impression of distance, and created visual 'hotspots' where you need to make a decision and are illuminated in different ways.. If you go to Heathrow Airport this summer you will see some quite unusual experiments around Terminal 1.
The BAA project showed how we worked 'empathetically' with users.
New Products for Home Working
We did a project with Home-workers, and worked with three groups of home-workers.
Our researcher was Japanese and she had never come across home working in the UK. This is not white middle class professional home-working but manual processes in the home by people earning very small amounts of money from piece work.
1. The first were families in South Wales who were doing micro assembly of electronic components on circuit boards. They had to work on the kitchen table and our Japanese researcher, Yuko observed them and noticed that when they were about to eat they had to push it all away. So she designed a special working-tray with vacuum-formed surfaces, for putting on the floor when they were having dinner. She was influenced by what she had seen in the Japanese watch making industry.
2. In Gosport, Hampshire a group of women were working on simple rubber products like garden hoses, where they were shaving moldings. We soon realised that we could not do 'high-design' here as there is no-one to pay for it. What we did was design a better sack for them so it did not fall over and put rubber all over the living room, and we designed them in lots of different colours and shapes. We wanted their employers to pay for the sack.
SLIDE 24 New Products for Home Working - bag
3. In West Yorkshire women were working 8 hours a day gluing embroidery kits at the kitchen sink. So we designed a special rocker that would take the weight off their back for them as they work.
Low cost subtle design interventions are what we are talking about here that make quite a difference to the lives of these low paid home-workers.
Older People and design
I said earlier that we actually do a lot of work with people who provide social date. The Henly Centre for Forecasting has done a lot of work on leisure activities relating to older people. We know restaurants are more important than pubs for older people, unlike all the students here (laughter) , which is worrying for the brewers - how do make pubs more like restaurants for older people?
We have worked with the British Heart Foundation. Here we looked at 'walking' which as you get older from 55 plus declines rapidly, and driving increases.
If you know anything about heart functions, you should know that if you walk briskly for 30 minutes a day , 5 days a week you can reduce your chances of a heart attack by as much as 50%. The British Heart Foundation got some money from the Government to run a campaign called 'Walking your way to health', and we did a project for them. It was part of a National Campaign to get people to walk more and we did a poster for it.
SLIDE 31 Walking - the way to health
The poster prompted people waiting at a bus stop to think about walking instead of waiting. They were tailored to particular locations, such as at bus stops, waiting rooms and by lifts. Anywhere you are choosing not to walk when you could walk. In Keithley, a town in Yorkshire, there was a poster campaign where a poster said things like 'The town Hall is only 5 minutes walk away'. We also developed a series of walking maps.
SLIDE 33 Bullseye Walking Maps.
We did some research on why people did not walk and they said that they would do, but, they do not know the way or how long it would take, and they said they needed to know how much time it would take to walk. We produced Bullseye Walking Maps, with time and not distance as the major determinant of where you are going.
SLIDE 34 A Low-cost Pedometer.
Also we developed a low cost Pedometer - step counter. We found a bit of research that knowing how far you have walked is a major incentive to walking. If they know they have done say 3 miles this is a psychological boost as people can see how far they have walked and the good it has done them.
SLIDE 35 A Low-cost Pedometer.
The problem was that older people did not like the current pedometers on the market. They were expensive, black and 'toys for the boys' difficult to read and program. So with the British Heart Foundation we developed through an iterative process of research, design and development a Pedometer with a mobile phone aesthetic that will sell for less than a fiver (Ł5). The point of the 'vest' is that once you have programmed your pedometer you do not have to touch those buttons again and you put the vest on and they won't be disturbed.
Information design for packaging.
We have worked a lot in packaging for older people. Why is the front of the pack wonderful and the back of the pack terrible in 5 point type - that is really where you really need to know the information - what is in it, how much fat, what country is it from and so on. But marketing suggest the brand is everything and that is why the back is treated badly.
We worked on a range of Tesco products. One particular on Paracetamol and here you can see the difference between the front and the back. Interesting we tried some test on designs without the Tesco logo on them, just beautiful pure information designs on their own, and no-one would buy it because they thought it was from Latvia, or somewhere, and dodgy. So you can have beautiful information design but without the brand you are screwed.
One final project. Back to our chart.
SLIDE 39 DIY - A Market Opportunity
New products for B&Q
When people retire they think 'I can do all those things I need to do on the house'. But when they retire, as soon as they have contact with DIY products they realise that the tools and jobs are difficult and DIY activity drops off dramatically as power tools are too heavy, screwdrivers are too difficult to use when half way up a ladder, the ladders are wobbly and so on.
SLIDE 40 Power to the People
The work we did with B&Q lasted a year and resulted in five patents and four new products going on the market later this year. Not all the projects we do have this kind of success but this one did.
SLIDE 41 Development the Products
We did long term and short term tests with all type of users with B&Q products and products of others. We went through a whole process of research, design and development, led by an industrial design engineering graduate, a whole process of how people work with products.
For example, if you have any kind of arthritic condition, getting hold of a screwdriver is difficult - handles are too narrow, and you need a big handle if you have a problem with grip. This screwdriver removes the need to use two hands, as when you press on a screw the power comes on so there is no need to use other hand to switch it on.
SLIDE 42 5 New Patents 4 New Products
We worked out a way of using cordless kettle technology and this power drill was designed with a separated battery pack from the drill to make it lighter to handle.
This sander has a design to stop vibration on the hand with simple handle that dampens down vibration.
These examples are all basic and simple ergonomic approaches to shape and form, weight and strength and all those kind of things.
This project ended up not only producing products but with user group information and research context that convinced B&Q to go ahead with new product development. They source all their manufacturing in China.
We have designed many new products and there are many stories to tell you and I have only shown you a few of them. We have 10 - 15 graduates working for us each year. But I will stop there.
I am a great supporter of interdisciplinary work and cross-disciplinary teams. I do not think we are quite there yet with this as we are concerned primarily with integrating a social inclusion theme across a number of design disciplines.
But we are a long way from Salvador Dali and making progress in terms of design research and research through the processes of design.
(Laughter and applause)
Do get in touch for more information if you wish.
Thank you very much.
Please use the following to cite material from DD(R)3:
Jeremy Myerson, "All Together Now", in Procs. of Designing Design Research 3:The Interdisciplinary Quandary, at Cyberbridge-4D Design , Editor- Alec Robertson, De Montfort University, Leicester. 13 February 2002.