Conference Review: INCLUDE 2011

Last week (18-20 April) the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the London Royal College of Art conducted the sixth edition of INCLUDE, the biannual conference on Inclusive Design. This year’s theme: The Role of Inclusive Design in Making Social Innovation Happen.

The idea to complement the four conference strands (‘Public Life’, ‘Home & Health’, ‘Design Theory’, ‘Design Practice’) by a couple of hands-on workshops was a good one. Eventually one of the central conference topics was concerning the question of how Inclusive Design methods and tools could be a motor for social innovation. Unfortunately the workshops seemed to be too short after all, but for future conferences this could be nice format to dive deeper into a topic (maybe by half- or full-day workshops?).

Out of the three key note speakers, Stefan and I only saw Bill Morgridge, who first introduced his new place of work: the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (NYC), then basically talked about the recent shifts in design practice: From personal, to social, to environmental perspectives. Ezio Manzini had to cancel his talk on short notice. Gerontologist Sarah Harper (Oxford University) gave her keynote at the Gala Dinner, which was already sold-out by the time we wanted to order tickets.

Some highlights: Alistair Macdonald’s big picture thinking; Stephen Wilcox’ as humorous as bright moderations; the 24h design challenge (five student groups had to solve a design task within 24 hours and did all well); and not least the very well organized event, plus the comfortable prevailing mood amongst the staff and participants.

Congratulations to Lieven De Couvreur and Jan Detand (University of West Flanders, Belgium) and to Richard Goossens (TU Delft), who won the best paper award for “The Role of Flow Experience in Co-Designing Open-Design Assistive Devices”. Also congrats to Miguel Neiva (Philosophy Institute University of Porto), who won the best poster award for his Colour Identification System for Colour-blind People. The award for the Best Inclusive Design Innovation went to Wendy Key-Bright and Joel Gethin Lewis, for their Co-creating tools for touch: “applying an inspire-create-play-appropriate methodology for the ideation of therapeutic technologies”.

Overall impression: Even though the focus of the conference is quite clear, we still found a broad range of topics, which is good. However sometimes the definitions and interpretations of certain topics seemed a little fuzzy (In one session we found ourselves confronted with the bizarre formula of “Social Innovation = (Social Needs / Resources) x Creativity”). At least one fundamental consensus seems to evolve (not only) amongst the design community, which is the notion that design maybe can not solve all the problems, but it definitely can moderate, steer and enrich the discourse.

The conference proceedings can be found here!

We look forward to INCLUDE 2013, while thinking about Alistair Macdonald’s suggestion to live and design life more like a good dinner, when in his closing remarks he quoted Robert L. Stevenson (1850-1894): “There is only one difference between a long life and a good dinner: that, in the dinner, the sweets come last”.

Tom Bieling

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