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Lady Helen Hamlyn on 30 Years of The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the RCA

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 post graduate students there.

The objective was to focus on the necessity and importance of appropriate design for an ageing population. In other words, 'designing for our future selves'. At that time there were very few products available commercially to meet the needs of older people in their daily life, at home, in public places, transport etc.

The centre firstly under the directorship of Roger Coleman was joined shortly afterwards by Jeremy Myerson as co-director. They started by introducing workshops where the graduate students could meet with older people from Age Concern and Help the Aged to discuss their needs by explaining the problems they faced in their daily lives. Thus, forming the concept of socially inclusive design which is the foundation stone of all the design thinking at the Centre today. 

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 to set up the 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.  The Institute 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. 

Lady Hamlyn CBE
August 2021

From Design.Different Magazine which will be published later this year.