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Key details


  • 12 December 2020


  • RCA

Read time

  • 4 minutes

From a wearable device that aids urban navigation to the application of socially inclusive design to assist nursing mothers in refugee camps, the winning projects propose solutions to specific challenges. They also raise pressing issues and reveal possibilities emerging in our increasingly technologically mediated lives. From highlighting the importance of inclusive thinking in a digital-first world, to proposing ways technology can be used to integrate traditional and western medicines to provide healthcare in South Africa, and applying service design to improve the flow of digital information between public services, practitioners and local authorities in the UK.

Fourteen projects were shortlisted in the 2020 Awards with the five winners chosen from across the themes of disability, diversity, inclusion, technology and creativity, with a total prize money of £8,000.

TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) Award for Digital Inclusion

Winning project awarded a prize of £2,000

Finlay Duncan, MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering

StaticType is a typing system for users with physical disabilities that offers improvements in both typing speed and comfort. Early user testing enabled typing up to five times faster. With a strong emphasis on adaptive design to ensure that the system adapts to the user and not the other way around, StaticType reminds us of the importance of inclusive thinking, enabling design, and physical interaction in a digital-first world. 

‘Communicating with others is at the core of what it means to be human, and Finlay’s work opens up that ability to everyone.’ – Robert Grant, Lead UX Consultant, TCS and Awards Judge

Snowdon Award

Due to this year’s exceptional circumstances, the Snowdon Trust have generously chosen to award two Snowdon Awards, both with a prize of £1,500.

Neloufar Taheri, MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering

Shir is a frugal device designed for mothers in refugee camps that have lost the ability to lactate. One Shir pouch is equivalent to one daily feed, each pouch contains clean drinking water, dried human milk, and a re-lactation aid. Shir utilises freeze-dried technology to dehydrate human donor milk that would otherwise be thrown out and turns it into a powder that can be delivered to mothers in refugee camps. The re-lactation aid helps mothers regain their own breast milk while ensuring their infants are receiving the nutrition they require throughout their transition.

‘This socially inclusive design is full of humanity, for women struggling in extremely stressful circumstances, a design focused on offering an idea for a solution to both mothers and babies in physically and mentally challenging environments.’ – Frances von Hofmannsthal, Trustee of the Snowdon Trust and Awards Judge

Lwanga Mayola Tikaka, MA Architecture 
Democratising Healthcare

This project investigates the emergence of the use of data in South Africa’s healthcare system. The research frames the legacy of apartheid town planning, its political and social implications on access to healthcare, and subsequently proposes an intervention that allows for alternative medicinal practices.

Through the use of augmented reality (AR), the project posits traditional practitioners who have been excluded in South Africa’s healthcare system to contribute to Universal Healthcare. The architecture aims to manage their production and build knowledge regarding their inventory - which in turn is shared amongst patients and western and traditional practitioners. 

‘A fascinating proposal to include and support traditional medicines within a mainstream healthcare system, while using spaces to bring communities and generations together… an inspiring idea and an incredible inclusive, positive design proposal.’ – Frances von Hofmannsthal, Trustee of the Snowdon Trust and Awards Judge

Helen Hamlyn Award for Creativity 

This award is chosen personally by Lady Hamlyn from across the shortlisted projects. This year, Lady Hamlyn and the Trust chose two outstanding projects, each receiving a £1,500 prize. 

Sophie Horrocks, MA/MSc Global Innovation Design

Connecting to low vision communities across London, Tokyo and New York, Sensaura frames the need for intuitive and inclusive urban navigation. The concept is a novel and aspirational wearable device that uses sensors to translate visual information into spatial audio and tactile feedback. It communicates in ways that allow subtle and natural navigation without depending on visual cues. 

Sensaura is a very beautiful and brilliant solution for the visually impaired. It brings together hi-tech with human-centred design in a really sensitive way. I would imagine [Sensaura] will give people great confidence when using it to find their way, improving their quality of life and independence. A very promising design.’ – Lucy O’Rorke, Director of Projects, Helen Hamlyn Trust

Emilia D’Orazio and Saumya Singhal, MA Service Design 

AcrosSilos is a knowledge bank of service design tools and guides that improve the flow of digital information between public services, practitioners and local authorities. A collaborative, low-tech and inclusive process resulted in smart solutions that can be embedded within existing channels and ways of working, to make use of available resources and increase uptake. A prominent example of the power of people-centred design to bridge need and opportunity for systemic change.

AcrosSilos, a brilliant name, proposes clear timely information sharing between agencies in the area of child safeguarding is crucial, complex and highly sensitive. We were thrilled with this simple-to-use system which was piloted with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. We felt this really has the potential to be used in any local authority area.’ – Lucy O’Rorke, Director of Projects, Helen Hamlyn Trust

Fixperts Award

The Fixperts learning programme – which has taken place in 45 Universities and Higher Education Institutes across 23 countries since 2013 – sees student teams work on extraordinary design projects that positively impact the daily life of a real person.

Each year, the Helen Hamlyn Design Awards presents a Fixperts Award for the best of these Fixperts student projects from the global network. This year there were two winning teams: one from Brunel University, England and a team from Holon Institute of Technology, Israel.

The Helen Hamlyn Design Awards is an annual event that recognises the best RCA postgraduate student projects and rewards creativity that addresses pressing and emergent needs around the globe.

We would like to thank the sponsors of the 2020 Helen Hamlyn Design Awards: Helen Hamlyn Trust, Snowdon Trust and TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) for their generous support.

Helen Hamlyn Trust

The Helen Hamlyn Trust is an independent grant-making Trust. The trust initiates medium and long-term major projects linked to the shared interests of Lady Hamlyn and her late husband Lord Hamlyn. Its core ethos is to develop innovative projects, which aim to effect lasting change, improve quality of life and create opportunity for the benefit of the public.

Snowdon Trust

The Snowdon Trust is a charity that assists physically and sensory disabled people to access vocational and academic courses in the UK by awarding grants. Since 1981 the Trust has given grants of over £3.5 million to help more than 2,500 people achieve qualifications and futures that might otherwise not have been possible.

TATA Consultancy Services (TCS)

TCS helps its clients create the future by combining tech expertise and business intelligence to catalyse change and deliver results. It works with a whole range of industries, ranging from manufacturing and retail to banking, financial services, travel, transportation and hospitality.