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The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art was set up by Roger Coleman and Jeremy Myerson in January 1999 with a purpose to explore the design implications of social and demographic change.

Modelling the Inclusive Gown
Inclusive Gown
Photographer: Marc Broussely
The centre built on an earlier partnership between the Helen Hamlyn Trust and the Royal College of Art – the DesignAge action research unit, which was active at the RCA between 1991 and 1998 under the direction of Roger Coleman.

The purpose of DesignAge was to alert industry and the design profession to the far-reaching implications of rapidly ageing populations across the developed world.

DesignAge was successful in mobilising a generation of young designers behind an age-aware approach to design, via a stream of conferences, seminars, workshops, publications, competitions, design exemplars and the establishment of an international Design for Ageing Network (DAN) and a Special Collection of research papers in the Royal College of Art Library.

In addition, DesignAge participated in the European Union-funded Presence project, which explored the use of new technologies to raise the profile of older people in their communities.

DesignAge was recognised nationally, with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 1995, and internationally, with a Ron Mace Memorial award.

Many of its key activities were extended under the aegis of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre, which was established in 1999 with core funding from the Helen Hamlyn Foundation, now the Helen Hamlyn Trust.

Whereas DesignAge was a single-issue action research unit focusing on the needs of older people, the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design has a broader perspective based on advancing the concept of inclusive design - an approach to designing that includes the whole population - all ages and all abilities.

It has also augmented a focus on inclusive design for ageing populations with expertise in working life and healthcare design.

"The Centre is one of the research jewels in the RCA's crown, a well-established player in inclusive and interdisciplinary design research dedicated to improving the lives of all generations." Dr Paul Thompson

Rector, Royal College of Art