Inclusive Design: Royal College of Art research creates significant, far-reaching impact in design, industry and education
Submitting InstitutionRoyal College of Art
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Built Environment and Design: Design Practice and Management
Summary of the impact
A sustained programme of research at the Royal College of Art (RCA) since
1994, led by Coleman, Myerson and Bichard, has played a leading role in
the emergence of Inclusive Design within design, industry and education,
defining its theoretical principles and developing relevant real-world
practice tools and business case studies. This research had made an impact
in four key areas: it has influenced the public discourse and the ethics
and methods of the design profession; contributed to national policymaking
for older and disabled people; enabled economic prosperity through
development of new products and services; and supported advances in design
The RCA's focus on Inclusive Design began in August 1994 with an academic
paper delivered by Professor Roger Coleman, co-founder of the RCA's Helen
Hamlyn Centre for Design (HHCD), at the 12th Triennial Congress of the
International Ergonomics Association in Toronto, Canada [s3.1]. This set
out the case for Inclusive Design as the most appropriate response to
population ageing and, in effect, defined the term. At the time Coleman
was directing the DesignAge research programme at the RCA, which focused
on the design implications of an ageing society.
Coleman argued that by treating the life-course as a whole, in which
ageing and disability can be recognised as normal rather than as
exceptional experiences, Inclusive Design could have value in improving
quality of life for all people, especially older citizens. Coleman's work
with DesignAge culminated in the EU-funded project Presence, which
developed a set of research tools (The Methods Lab 1999, s3.2). That year
DesignAge became part of the RCA's new Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design,
which Coleman co-founded with Jeremy Myerson. In 2000, the Centre embarked
on a ten-year research collaboration with the Engineering Design Centre at
Cambridge University to develop a practice base for Inclusive Design: the
i~design programme funded by the EPSRC.
The first phase of the i~design programme (2000-4) concentrated on
research that provided the data required to enable Inclusive Design.
Undertaken with Design for Ability at Central St Martins College of Art
and Design and the Design Council, this phase resulted in a number of
outputs, including a peer-reviewed conference series and authoritative
texts (e.g. John Clarkson, Roger Coleman, Simeon Keates and Cherie Lebbon
The second phase of i~design (2004-7) set out to engage the business
community in Inclusive Design, in collaboration with the Centre for Usable
Home Technology at the University of York and Applied Computing at the
University of Dundee. It produced a new British Standard BS7000-6 2005 — a
guide to managing Inclusive Design [s3.4], a series of workshops with UK
companies and a substantial body of case studies of Inclusive Design in
action in business. A Web resource for industry in the form of an
Inclusive Design toolkit went live in summer 2007, supported by BT.
The third phase of the programme (2007-10) was led by Myerson (RCA) in
collaboration with Cambridge University's Well-being Institute and the
Loughborough Design School at Loughborough University. Building on
previous work, the aim was to give designers more accurate, relevant and
up-to-date tools on capability in the population.
The i~design research laid down the theoretical framework and further UK
Research Council awards extended the reach of Inclusive Design research
into workplace environments for an ageing workforce (Myerson and Bichard,
Welcoming Workplace EPSRC-AHRC, Designing for the 21st Century, 2006-8)
[s3.5] and public environments such as public toilets for older people
(Bichard, TACT3, New Dynamics of Ageing 2008-11) [s3.6]. The output has
had international recognition, particularly in Japan, the USA and South
In 2013, the Centre is configured around three research labs: Age &
Ability, Work & City and Health & Patient Safety. Each lab takes
an approach that is inclusive and interdisciplinary, developing innovative
and empathic research methods.
References to the research
The rigour of the research and its originality are evidenced in the
significant use of inclusive design approaches in both the published
academic literature and in shaping professional design theory and practice
in the field. This in turn has resulted in models, tools, standards and
guidance all designed to influence practice and aid efficient and
effective delivery of Inclusive Design. Research in HHCD receives funding
from RCUK, EU, charitable trusts and other funders who undertake peer
review and award on the strength of research excellence commensurate with
3* and 4* levels.
3.1) Coleman, R., 'The case for Inclusive Design — an overview',
Proceedings of the 12th Triennial Congress, International Ergonomics
Association and the Human Factors Association of Canada, 1994.
3.2) Aldersey-Williams, H., Bound, J. and Coleman, R. (eds.), 'The
Methods Lab: user research for design', in Hofmeester, K. & de Charon
de Saint Germain, E. (eds.), PRESENCE: New Media for Older People
(Amsterdam: Netherlands Design Institute, 1999).
3.3) Clarkson, J., Coleman, R., Keates, S. and Lebbon, C. (eds.),
Inclusive Design: Design for the Whole Population (London: Springer
3.4) Coleman, R. (panel member), BS 7000-6 Design Management Systems,
Part 6: Managing Inclusive Design — Guide (London; British Standards
3.5) Myerson, J., Bichard, J. and Erlich, A. (2010), Myerson, J. and
Bichard, J. (2009), 'Welcoming Workplace: rapid design intervention to
determine the office environment needs of older knowledge workers' in T.
Inns (ed.), Design for the 21st Century, Volume 2: Interdisciplinary
Methods and Findings (UK: Gower).
3.6) Bichard et al., `Tackling ageing continence through theory, tools
& technology', Ageing & Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Details of the impact
The RCA's research, development and delivery of Inclusive Design has
achieved significant and far-reaching impact, as follows:
Research on Inclusive Design as cited in Section 2 has had a major impact
on the public discourse on design — influencing the methods and ethics of
the design profession (e.g. Design Business Association and Royal
Designers for Industry Inclusive Design Champion), and including
previously marginalised groups, such as older and disabled people, in the
design process. The building of a global network of academics and
practitioners in support of the `Include' conference series (one of the
results of the i~design research) has had a marked impact on the field. In
2011, for example, the `Include' conference at the RCA, London, published
the work of 120 academics from 29 countries, and attracted sponsorship
from BT and Audi; and in 2013, the conference extended its global reach
with `Include Asia', in partnership with the Hong Kong Design Centre
[s5.1]. The DBA Inclusive Design Challenges of 2008, 2009 and 2010 (the
RCA's knowledge-exchange platform for professional designers) attracted 15
leading design firms to develop new concepts related to dementia, ageing
and sedentary lives [s5.2]. In February 2010, Inclusive Design was the
specialist topic on the BBC Radio 4 You and Yours programme, recorded at
the Design Museum [s5.3]. The programme followed an Inclusive Design
Roundtable held in the BT Tower to brief the media on the business
benefits of Inclusive Design. In April 2010, a major exhibition, `Trading
Places', was held in the V&A Sackler Centre to mark 10 years of the
DBA Inclusive Design Challenge, prior to a tour of venues in Japan. This
large-scale interaction with the design profession has used many of the
tools developed by the RCA's Inclusive Design research [see Section 2].
RCA research has also fed into policymaking at a number of levels. From
the starting point of defining the term for the UK government and writing
a British Standard in Managing Inclusive Design, the RCA Helen Hamlyn
Centre for Design has issued design guidance on housing design for
autistic adults (based on Inclusive Design principles as cited in Section
2), which has been formally adopted as policy by the Welsh Government
[s5.4]. Findings on design for an ageing workforce from the Welcoming
Workplace study have been written into the BCO (British Council for
Offices) Guide to Specification [s5.5], defining the standard for the
industry, and into a guidance note from the Parliamentary Office of
Science and Technology (2011) [s5.6]. Research into how visually impaired
people navigate the streetscape has been incorporated into guidance by
CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Sightline
Section 2 showed how our research has focused strongly on business and
industry, leveraging economic value from Inclusive Design principles. In
2010 a new version of the www.inclusivedesigntoolkit.com website,
sponsored by BT, was introduced as part of i~design research. Since 2008,
the HHCD has generated economic impact by project engagement with more
than 40 business organisations through its Helen Hamlyn Research
Associates programme for new RCA graduates [s5.8]. Several innovations
have reached the market, including new designs for Osaka Gas in Japan and
Nordan in Norway. Inclusive Design research has also led to an extensive
programme of executive education for business and government, including
the Kinnarps, Procter and Gamble, Samsung (South Korea), Stannah, UK and
Hong Kong Civil Service, Blackberry and Vodafone. The Nordic region has
been a particular focus for the RCA's work on the business value of
Inclusive Design: a collaboration with the Norwegian Design Council led to
a joint conference, `Innovation for All', in 2010 and the `European
Business Workshops in Inclusive Design' (for 130 people) in 2012.
Alongside these events, which were both staged in Oslo, a major book of
tools for business was published, co- written by Rama Gheerawo, Deputy
Director of the HHCD [s5.9].
Finally, the RCA's work in Inclusive Design has had an impact on the
direction of curriculum development in UK design education generally
outside the institution. Building on the RCA's New Design for Old brief in
the RSA Student Design Awards, which first flagged the importance of
Inclusive Design to the sector, the HHCD has made its methods and case
studies widely available to students and tutors, most notably the
Designing with People website created as part of i~design3, which gives
practical guidance on the activities, ethics and methods of co-design
[s5.10]. Setting and sponsoring Inclusive Design briefs in national
student design awards (for example D&AD 2012) and giving guest
lectures in design schools around the UK have contributed further to the
impact in education. More recently, workshops and expert design courses
have been held in a number of global locations, e.g. Norwegian Design
Council, Oslo (2012) and Hong Kong Design Centre (2013).
Sources to corroborate the impact
Copies of all sources to corroborate the impact are available from the
HEI upon request. All URLs last accessed: 22/11/13.
5.1) For Include international conferences on Inclusive Design 2009, 2011
and 2013, see
5.2) For info on DBA Inclusive Design Challenge 2008, 2009, 2010, see:
5.3) BBC Radio 4, You and Yours special programme, `We are all different'
(2010), featuring Professor Jeremy Myerson (RCA HHCD) and Liz Williams
(Head of Consumer Affairs, BT):
5.4) Brand, A., Living in the Community: Housing Design for Adults with
Autism (Kingwood Trust/HHCD, 2011); Hugh Morgan/Welsh Assembly Government,
`The ASD Strategic Action Plan for Wales (2008): Evaluating the Foundation
Phase (Welsh Assembly Government, 2011).
5.5) BCO Guide to Specification (British Council for Offices, 2009).
5.6) Houses of Parliament: Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
PostNote — An Ageing Workforce (October, 2011).
5.7) For Sightline CABE guidance, see:
5.8) Myerson, J., and Lee, Y., 'Inclusive Design Research Initiatives at
the Royal College of Art' Chapter in Universal Design Handbook (2nd
Edition) (New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2010).
5.9) Eikhaug, O. and Gheerawo, R., Innovating with People: The Business
of Inclusive Design (Norwegian Design Council, 2010).
5.10) See <http://www.designingwithpeople.org>
for educational resource for students and tutors.