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Sensory Storytelling

Key details


  • 6 July 2023


  • RCA

Read time

  • 2 minutes

In this article, we showcase exceptional student projects that demonstrate the power of design to empower and uplift. Experience these projects at the RCA2023 Graduate Show, at London’s Truman Brewery from 13–16 July, and explore more on our RCA2023 platform.

1. Joy Lu (MA Design Products)

We are all in this together

Joy Lu’s RCA2023 project for MA Design Products is a ‘communal inclusion plan that welcomes everyone into the conversation surrounding disability and neurodivergent minds.’ WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER helps users in art and design higher education through a handbook, curated discussion objects and a set of activity cards that prompt talking points to assist self and peer reflection.

‘As a person on the autistic spectrum, I think it would be my utmost privilege to design for and advocate with people who have different support needs’ Joy Lu writes in her statement. She also argues that we need to bring in people with those needs into the design process itself so that products relate to the actual experience.

2. Nicole McIntosh (MA Architecture)

Diverse Relations

‘How can a space provide comfort?’ asks MA Architecture student, Nicole McIntosh. Her research project ‘Diverse Relations’ focuses on ‘neuroarchitecture', and takes the architecture studio as a case study for investigating how educational spaces can be better designed for neurodivergent individuals. Nicole considers how designs that prioritise tactile sensation and the shape of the body would help reduce anxieties in neurodivergent individuals.

The ‘neuroarchitecture’ project proposes ‘allowing the user to prescribe the use of the space.’ A space for seating wraps around the seated body, while the cork overlaying it provides a comforting tactile sensation. This is a space that puts its users at the centre and ‘provides both the student and tutors the opportunity to change the dynamics of their interactions with each other.’

3. Beatrice Sangster (MA Visual Communication)

Irregular Systems

With the help of the RCA Neurodiversity Society, Beatrice Sangster has been developing a Neurodivergent Communication Study. The study explores how systems of linguistic meaning develop, and the need to acknowledge more diverse linguistic practices across cultures.

Much of this work is informed by Beatrice’s role as a co-lead of the RCA Neurodiversity Society. Earlier this year, Beatrice curated an exhibition for Neurodiversity Awareness Week at RCA Kensington in collaboration with Joy Lu. The exhibition brought together practitioners from across disciplines to explain the challenges and opportunities that neurodivergent individuals face in art and design education and in the industry.

4. Keke Zhong (MA Service Design)


Around 1 in 100 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum, making autism part of daily life in the UK for 2.8 million people. As part of her study for our MA Service Design, Keke Zhong has been developing ComPASS - an app that helps carers of autistic children navigate the assessment journey while caring for their own needs.

Through her research, Keke has built an understanding of the difficulties of the process for both carer and child. The app mediates between key stakeholders and presents information accessibly. ‘The support platform empowers carers, schools and health services to collaborate effectively and support children with special needs’ Keke explains her statement.

5. Monika Dolbniak (MA Textiles)

‘Art-making has the most soothing and therapeutic effect on participants’ writes Monika Dolbniak. She’s proved this during her time studying for our MA Textiles through working with the disability charity Share Community on multisensory stimulation workshops to improve adult autistic users’ wellbeing through active engagement.

Monika designed sensory textile pieces for the workshops that ‘have hooks and Velcro buttons for attaching them to the mat or tangling together in 3D objects.’ The sessions helped users to shape their own sensory identity, and to communicate and visualise their own needs,with the aim of improving access and creating conditions for empowerment in other settings.

Discover more in ‘The Neurodiversity Society presents’ collection at 2023.rca.ac.uk