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Creative Differences: Dyslexia and Neurodiversity in Science, Art and Design

6–7 October, 10.30am–5pm
Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, SW7 1PU
Open to RCA students and staff or by appointment only: please email [email protected]

To coincide with Dyslexia Awareness Week (3–9 October) and World Dyslexia Day (6 October), the Royal College of Art – where 30% of staff and students are dyslexic or dyspraxic – is co-hosting an exhibition and panel forum with Imperial College London to highlight some of the different experiences of these extraordinary people.

The exhibition will present the work of students and staff who identify as dyslexic and/or dyspraxic. Dyslexia affects approximately 1 in 10 people in the UK, so the concentration of dyslexic and dyspraxic staff and students at the College is statistically notable. The work on display in this exhibition by RCA painters, sculptors, animators and designers will demonstrate how living with a dyslexic brain requires a leap of intelligence, and highlight the power of visual metaphors.

Henry Franks (MA Design Products, 2015) has created a range of Dyslexia Objects that reflects his take on the world with humour. His Muglexias, are inverted mugs that appear to be upside down from a distance – they illustrate inversion, a symptom of dyslexia, yet this design has a number of benefits; they are less likely to be knocked over because they have a lower centre of gravity – the handle is lower down, and their shape means they keep tea and coffee hotter for longer. In response to chronic distraction, another symptom dyslexics have to battle with daily, Franks will display Confused Coat Hangers, these coat-hangers have a double hooked head and are specially weighted so that they can hang either way round. Lastly, he created Poor Memory Pen Pots that force you to only have one or two pens or pencils rather than a mound of unused ones and will also (hopefully) prevent them from being lost.

Kate MccGwire (MA Sculpture, 2004) presents Fume, a book with with a burnt out hole in the middle to reflect her life-long struggle with books. While she is almost getting her own back on books, in this case, the book has become a canvas or an object and takes on new meaning that a non-dyslexic person may never have considered.  Likewise, for artists such as Julian Roberts (Tutor in Mixed Media Textiles) dyslexic or dyspraxic thought patterns are integral to his practice. Traits that are traditionally seen as limitations, such as confusing opposites – left, right, back, front, inside and outside – help him to re-orientate patterns in less conventional ways. For him, disorientation is geometrically very useful, allowing him and his students to design unpredictable silhouettes never constructed before.

Denise de Cordova (Tutor in Sculpture) presents two pieces, one of which is a black-and-white print featuring one of her characteristic sculptural figures standing in front of a mythical-looking waterfall with the words ‘pour, pore, paw, poor’ hovering next to her, highlighting the bewilderment that words with vastly different meanings and different spellings yet that sound the same can cause a person with dyslexia. Animator and Illustrator, Josh Saunders (MA Animation, 2016) will present his first animated short film, The Grey Hound, drawn on paper with pen and ink. Communicating visually has helped him overcome the incredible frustration of brimming with ideas with no clear way to get them out.

The RCA and Imperial both offer targeted support for those with learning differences, this joint project is a focus for interest in the relationship between creativity and neurodiversity (a term that locates neurological differences like dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD as normal, natural variations in the human genome).


For further information or images please contact Bethany Bull, RCA Press Office on t: +44 (0) 20 7590 4114, e: [email protected], or [email protected]

Notes to Editors

The Royal College of Art is the world’s leading university of art and design, placing at Number One in the 2016 and 2015 QS World University Rankings. Specialising in teaching and research, the RCA offers the degrees of MA, MPhil, MRes and PhD across the disciplines of applied art, fine art, design, communications and humanities. There are over 1,500 Master’s and doctoral students and more than 1,000 professionals interacting with them – including scholars, art and design practitioners, along with specialists, advisers and distinguished visitors.