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The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design announces the 2021 Design.Different week of online events

The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design celebrates thirty years of pioneering inclusive design with a magazine and a week of online events exploring a future where design can make a difference.

The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design (HHCD) celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, 2021, making it the longest-running centre for design research in the history of the Royal College of Art. ‘Inclusive design’ is a term that has gained traction as organisations rush to reconsider what inclusion means. 

From the 11–15th October 2021, the HHCD will host Design.Different, a week of public online events open to all. See how design can affect pressing issues around age, ability, gender, race, sanitation, architecture, fashion and business. The events speak to a deep, global yearning to be more equitable, and inclusive. The HHCD invites you to come and help set the trajectory, and share your voices. We need to hear them.

Throughout this week a number of ideas and projects demonstrating the power and potential reach of inclusive design will be showcased including the launch of Designing a World for Everyone, a new book by Professor Emeritus, Jeremy Myerson published by Lund Humphries charting 30 years of inclusive design at the RCA. We will also release the second volume of our annual Design.Different Magazine.

This year’s Design.Different events are:

  • 11 October, 2pm - Design.Different: Why inclusive design should speak across age, ability, gender and race
  • 12 October, 2pm - Design.Sanitation: There is an urgent need for inclusive design to consider the climate crisis whilst also considering user needs and abilities
  • 12 October, 4pm - Design.Fashion: Can fashion futures be inclusive?
  •  13 October, 2pm - Design.Neuro: A panel of neurodivergent creatives discuss their work and the future of neurodivergence and design
  • 13 October, 4pm - Design.Wicked: The 21st century is besieged by ’wicked’ problems - problems that are plagued by confusion, complex interconnections, and conflicting diverse needs of multiple stakeholders and decision makers 
  • 14 October, 2pm - Design.Architecture: Should ‘inclusive architecture’ be a recognised term as ‘inclusive design’ is?
  • 14 October, 4pm - Design.Agency: Some Wise Words on Design and Ageing
  • 15 October, 4pm - Design.Continuity: How can inclusive design enable businesses to recover, transform and thrive in a post-pandemic Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) world?


Lady Hamlyn, CBE, said:

‘My trust’s partnership with the RCA began 30 years ago when the Design Age Centre was established. As an RCA alumni and fellow, I am well aware of the wonderful opportunities offered to postgraduate students there.

The Centre, firstly under the directorship of Roger Coleman, was joined shortly afterwards by Jeremy Myerson as co-director. Now under the direction of Rama Gheerawo the centre is progressing research and design on many diverse projects, it is highly respected and advises governments and companies around the world.

With the recent accolade of a £4.9 million grant from Research England, the newly created Design Age Institute at the centre, in partnership with the University of Oxford’s Institute of Population Ageing, the National Innovation Centre for Ageing at Newcastle University, the International Longevity Centre and the Design Museum, will advise the government on appropriate design thinking for the growing ageing population.   
Perhaps the most significant achievement of the centre is that over the last 30 years it has become a global influence underlining the need for socially inclusive design for a more equitable and better future for everyone.’ 

Dr Paul Thompson, RCA Vice-Chancellor, said:

'So often, health outcomes and life chances are driven by social determinants that can be shaped by designers, architects, and engineers working in concert with sound policy making. Design has a vital role to play in creating an inclusive and equitable world in which life chances are enhanced through inclusive design interventions - building low carbon cities, designing better environments for social care of our ageing populations or pre-school learning facilities. The Helen Hamlyn Centre at the RCA continues to drive the agenda in these areas of vital concern.’

Rama Gheerawo, Director of The Helen Hamlyn Centre of Design, said: 

‘New calls for activism and action line the pathways of the global conversation, and the Centre has to play its role and respond to responsibility. 

Inclusive design is an answer. With its people centred ethos, it can enable inclusion across all people, regardless of their differing characteristics and contexts. The ideas in both the Design.Different week and magazine are really tools for conversation that represent an aspirational future for design. 

None of this would be possible without the support of the Royal College of Art which defined the term in 1994, and now breathes life into its humanist, expansive and experimental expression. Helen Hamlyn and her Trust have given staunch and stellar support over the last three decades. Our collaborators and contributors have ensured that our projects are deployed in a way that adds diversity and value.

The same sun rises and sets on us all every day, but that day can bring a radically different experience for those marginalised by design. Inclusive design is our humble way of achieving greater balance and positivity.’ 

Jeremy Myerson, Professor Emeritus, Chair of The Helen Hamlyn Centre of Design, said:

‘Looking back on the past thirty years, I believe that our approach has been marked by a combination of social activism with creative design and commercial application. With a targeted approach, we’ve been able to collaborate widely with business and academia, experiment with new research methods and coach designers at all levels in the empathic techniques and ideas of inclusive design. 

We’ve never viewed inclusive design as a fixed entity, preferring instead to embrace its fluid character. Design practice has evolved from physical artefact to digital experience, and social inclusion has broadened from a focus on age and disability to newer forms of inclusion based on race, health and social equity. Our job is to keep pace.’

Design.Continuity Hero Image - person drawing on white board
Photographer: Sara Hibbert