Two second year students on the BA(Hons) Sustainable Product Design course have been invited to pitch their product concepts to LDA, a UK supplier of special educational needs resources. The students’ designs have developed in collaboration with Joanna Grace, a special education needs and disability consultant and founder of The Sensory Projects. Her projects look to improve the mental health and wellbeing for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). She has worked on several strategies, including Sensory Stories, a crowd-funded project to develop stories that partner concise text with strong sensory stimuli to convey a narrative.
Based on Joanna’s research, and working with local organisations that support people with PMLD, the students developed sensory toolkits that provide stimuli to evoke interaction and engagement. The design development focused on objects that provided single or multi-sensory activities. The concepts were lead through user-centred design activity where specific materials, textures, shapes, sounds, etc were identified that stimulated a positive response for a person with PMLD.
Daniel Vorley and Drew Spathaky were shortlisted from nine students on the course to pitch their designs to Helen Pritchard and Gemma Simpson from LDA. They presented concept visuals and prototypes to the LDA team and discussed the potential to develop the ideas further. The company were impressed with the quality of the ideas and have agreed to review both concepts further with input from the students.
With both concepts, initial development and testing lead to more refined design proposals for a product that fulfils the needs of users, including people with PMLD, but also carers and health professionals. Consideration of economic, environmental and manufacturing constraints were also developed as a key element of the project.