Show 2018 School of Design: Inclusive, Tactile, Future Facing Innovations

Students and researchers in the School of Design engage with design on multiple levels – as a cultural and societal activity, and as an innovation process that delivers new products, services, ways of running or creating businesses, and ways of living. Armed with human-centred strategies, responsible, ethical approaches and an awareness of impacts on global communities, the graduates of 2018 have the solid foundations to be future design leaders

Design Products takes a wide-ranging approach to design for purpose, bringing together many different design cultures: from making and manufacture, sustainability and circular economies, to innovating ways materials can be used. As a way to help reduce material consumption, Eddie Hamilton has designed a rental platform for shareable domestic and everyday products. These products address key issues for shared economies including durability, and consider how products can become social, community assets, as well as prompt reconsiderations of convenience.

In Design Products there are diverse approaches to technology, from designs that aim to reduce screen time to those that use technology to address real-world challenges. Nikeisha Nelson has created a motion capture suit for swimmers. The wearable technology provides swimmers with an alternative form of performance analysis. Unlike most fitness trackers, this feedback is based on biomechanics rather than biometrics, and provides a visual representation of the efficiency of strokes, rather than numerical data.

Considering new ways of mass manufacturing, Zhekai Zhang has been working with a fabric that can be hardened, reshaped and remodelled in organic ways. For the Show he is displaying a series of stools made from this material, that express the unique beauty of textiles. Also innovating a new approach to mass production, Francesco Feltrin has devised a type of mass ceramics manufacture: ‘dip casting’ as opposed to slip casting. Each vessel produced through Francesco’s process is unique, with over-casting allowing for layers to be built up, with drips and dribbles forming distinctive marks on the interior.

Discussing this year’s Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) and Global Innovation Design (GID) Show, Head of Programme Stephen Wang said: ‘It's very rare to see such a broad range of design interests and all the outcomes have achieved a high level of accomplishment. I believe the future of these two extremely exciting programmes will focus on contributing more as a catalyst to establish dynamic linkages between design with various fields, such as computer science, information technology, engineering, business, economy, sociology, nano and advanced material technologies, and even politics.’ 

Group work and individual projects from GID showcase this multidisciplinary, international and innovative approach. Augmented Thinking by Johannes Mutter, Alexander Davies and Jeffrey Pickett, imagines a form that collective intelligence might take in the future. It presents a process of knowledge discovery that augments human capabilities to think through an interactive presentation of facts and data. 

In response to the polarisation of politics Enni-Kukka Tuomala has created an empathy toolkit for politicians. Working with six members of parliament from the Finnish government, she developed ways to introduce elements of play and fun to improve dialogue and conversation, challenge the rules, roles and space of politics, and enable new ways of thinking that could change the outputs of political decision making.  

Mikhail Wertheim Aymès’s project aims to remove prejudicial bias from AI. Looking at algorithms that have been developed and put to use in a regulatory vacuum with no ethical due diligence, he has devised a way to make the use of algorithms in decision making processes more transparent, so users can make decisions about how they use and trust technology. Considering human decision making, Alejandro Ramos Saavedra has developed a fully operational physical recommendation engine, which proposes a way to reduce consumerism by creating hyper-personalised objects through quantifying and analysing user interactions.

Similarly to GID, IDE students work on group and individual projects, to innovate new products, services, and technologies through human-centred design. Highlights of the group projects include Voice Blox by Matthew Rice, Dougie Mann, Yang Gao and Willa Crolus – which provides a tactile form for spoken language, to help language learners use the correct pronunciation and intonation. Finite, by Carolyn Tam, Hamza Oza, Matteo Maccario and Saki Maruyama, is a new building material made from sand, which is as strong and durable as concrete but can be broken down and reused in a way that concrete cannot therefore tackling the environmental problem of architectural waste.

Many of the individual student projects look at ways physical interaction can be utilised to engage with and gain better understanding of new technologies. Viraj Joshi has created a system that makes programming electronics easier by enabling users to code just using finger gestures. A real-time camera feed identifies the best practice code for the elements that need to be connected in electronic systems and allows users to understand the code for each component while it is being inserted. 

Saki Maruyama has created a toy that encourages creative play and provides a way for children to understand simple coding through physical interactions. Input and output blocks can be tied together with a rope, then respond to specific stimulus, such as sounds or movement, to produce outputs such as a spinning motor or light. The use of haptic feedback in a virtual reality environment is used in Dongyuan Li’s tool for clinical palpation training, teaching doctors and healthcare professionals to identify the feeling of different tissues and tumours with a physical model and VR headset.

MRes Healthcare & Design graduates are part of the School of Design Show for the first time this year. Drawing on more than 50 years of healthcare design and research at the RCA,  MRes Healthcare & Design is a two year, part-time programme in collaboration with Imperial College London that offers a unique opportunity to approach healthcare issues from a design perspective. 

Students come from a range of backgrounds from healthcare professionals and designers, to anthropologists, architects and scientists, and each focus on a specific healthcare challenge. Working with Great Ormond Street Hospital, Pip Batey has created an activity book and backpack to help children communicate the pain and emotions that they are experiencing with those caring for them. Tim Allan has tackled the challenges faced by young adults with type-one diabetes, as they transition to caring for themselves after being cared for and supported with their condition as children.

Also on display is work in progress from a live project with the Helix centre that has gained support for further development from the NHS Trust, redesigning the Charing Cross Hospital Breast Screening unit. This project is looking at ways to improve the patient journey through the screening unit, both in terms of the design of the physical space and the interactions between patients and staff.

The Service Design MA Programme at the RCA is embedded with industry. Working across six themes the students engage and collaborate with industry partners, gaining experience in ‘live’ projects and making tangible differences. They address the pressing issues of our time, from health and wellbeing, to the future of work, urban mobility and energy and the environment.

Considering the future of education Bethan Mitchell has devised an embedded system for inclusive learning with a focus on dyslexia in primary schools, that encourages and enables teaching for neurodiversity, seeing it as a strength rather than a limitation. Considering how Service Design can help the delivery of health care, Vasiliki Karaoglou and Ji Young Lee have created a system to support brain tumour patients during their treatment, with an app, a kit, and a support network that is personalised and tailored to the patient’s needs.

Working in South Africa with the charity Butterfly House, Hazel Scrimgeour has developed a system to help reduce high levels of youth unemployment. In particular she has focused on ways that young people in care can be supported to find employment, through making links with local businesses and providing training in soft skills and business skills. 

Similarly Judah Armani has created In House Records, a music label based in several UK prisons that helps to rehabilitate prisoners, provides a support network into employment after leaving the prison system, and reduces levels of prison violence, through providing a positive, creative and aspirational activity for inmates to engage with. 

The Textiles programme demonstrates an impressive level of inventiveness and challenges the preconception of textiles as passive. The work considers many different contexts, from the domestic interior to the stage, but also presents textiles as a medium for self-expression and identity. Students work with a surprising variety of materials, addressing new techniques for making as well as readdressing traditional ones, demonstrating the medium to be a vital, intimate and multisensory part of our lives. 

Matthew Briggs has been programming computer knitting machines to create garments that combine the visual languages of wrestling with pearly kings and queens. These colourful garments are contemporary in their construction and influences but playfully refer to the traditions of handcrafts.

Focusing on the multisensory Arun Sispal has worked with scent, transforming the visuality and tactility of textiles into perfumes, and then responding to how scents change and dissipate over time through colour and texture within textiles. 

The impact we are having on our planet is explored and reflected upon by many of this year’s graduating students. Sustainability is at the core of Elizabeth Ranson’s work in which the way fibres are used to form her raw materials, the natural materials used to colour them, and the way that stitches are developed and applied to knit garments, have all been reverse engineered to minimise waste.

Marie Bach Holm has considered how plastic waste can be rethought, re-valued and utilised. Using plastics collected from the Thames, she has created samples with a wide range of physical properties, from softness to flexibility and resistance. Sam Wilde has created a series of vibrant textiles prints, featuring species threatened with extinction and the fragile environments that they inhabit. His combination of imagery raises awareness of the danger these species are in. 

MA Vehicle Design students are looking to the future, travelling towards a new age of personal mobility. Through in-depth research, expert design direction and industry-based projects, this year’s graduate work extends the boundaries of the mobility sector – considering sustainability, socio-economic imperatives, political realities and a radical aesthetic.

Stavros Mavrakis has created a sustainable vehicle for the modern explorer. Designed for the landscape of a Mediterranean island, his autonomous service vehicle, which he describes as a form of moving architecture, uses recycled and local materials to have as little impact on the environment as possible.

In collaboration with the legendary British brand Bentley, six students have created diverse proposals that look to the future of luxury in 2050. Irene Chiu has considered the role that sound will play in future luxury mobility, with a vehicle that can block undesirable and stressful sounds, while allowing pleasurable and desired sounds to remain part of the experience. Kate NamGoong has identified the unexpected and the emotional as qualities that will continue to be appreciated in 2050. Her design focuses on the hand crafted, and draws on her previous training in jewellery and metalwork to create a design that places importance on materials and making.

The aesthetics of future vehicles are explored by Bin Sun who has designed an electric car, that re-imagines what this kind of vehicle should look like and Shyamal Kansara who has created an aerodynamic vehicle with tilted wheels that allow it to move close to the ground.

Researchers in the School of Design are both theory-and practice-based, and focus on a wide range of leading-edge design technologies including machine learning and artificial intelligence, nano-materials, micro aerial vehicles, soft robotics and the internet of things. They also focus on researching social, cultural and educational themes and collaborate with, or are supported by, industrial partners.

One example featured in this year’s Show is Julia Lohmann who during her research founded the Department of Seaweed, at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a future looking department, that considers materials we will be using in the future, rather than how materials have been used historically. Participation is embedded at the level of making to engage visitors in co-speculation and design methods within a context of public learning and inclusive knowledge exchange.


Show Kensington
23 June – 1 July 2018 (closed 29 June)
12 midday – 6pm daily
Darwin and Stevens Buildings, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

Find out more about the School of Design and how to Apply.