Textile Design students create sensory designs for individuals with visual impairments

The students have been exploring sensory design with service users at My Sight

Students and My Sight service users discussing the design concepts
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Students and My Sight service users discussing the design concepts

Second year BA (Hons) Textile Design students have recently been working on a live project with My Sight, Nottingham’s charity for people who are visually impaired. The project has been inspired by the theme of ‘Enriching Society’ and has enabled the students to learn more about sensory design. This important area of design recognises that humans understand and navigate the world with all five senses, and by addressing multiple sensory dimensions, designers are able to reach a greater diversity of users.

The ultimate aim of the project has been to broaden the students’ design thinking to include greater awareness of sensory-based design, participatory design and inclusive design for health and wellbeing.

Working in teams, the students were challenged to undertake sensory research in order to develop concepts and to inspire and inform their samples. They were then required to devise outcomes using their chosen discipline (embroidery, print, knit, weave and multimedia). These ranged from interactive artworks and soft furnishings for My Sight’s new building, to interactive books and toys for visually impaired children, and also interactive exhibition pieces to teach sighted people about visual impairment.

As part of the project the students received specialist training from experts at the My Sight centre and had the opportunity to spend time with the charity's service users, to gain an understanding of their needs and experiences, and to inform the development of their project.

Students and My Sight service users discussing the design concepts
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Students and My Sight service users discussing the design concepts

The My Sight project was devised by Kevin Hunt, Module Leader for Design, Culture and Context across NTU’s Fashion, Textiles and Knitwear Design courses. Kevin explained: “At the heart of the project is the understanding that design really can make a difference to people’s quality of life. In order to enrich lives, designers must understand and empathise with the needs of the end users.”

He continued: “There is a tendency to make assumptions about people who are blind and visually impaired, such as assuming everything needs to be soft or delicate to touch and that visual impairment and blindness means having no sight at all. But these assumptions are usually wrong. People who are visually impaired have limited vision, and may also have other sensory deficiencies, but that doesn’t mean they want their experiences of the world to be wrapped in cotton wool or that they live in a state of pitch blackness. My Sight as a charity focus on the people, rather than focusing on their visual impairment.”

Jeanne Roberts, Arts Development Officer at My Sight, told us: "The coming together of these two groups of people whose paths may never have crossed is in itself an enriching experience. It gives everyone involved the opportunity to feel that they are making a contribution and broadens their understanding of other people's lives.”

Angela Phillips, Services Manager at My Sight, added: "The workshop was a fabulous success. The buzz in the room showed how much our clients appreciate this opportunity to interact creatively and innovatively with the students.  It is simply beautiful to watch their confidence grow as they realise the students are taking on board their ideas for development. My dream is that everyone in society gains an awareness of visual impairment and can understand how our clients see beyond sight loss to live life to the full; it makes me incredibly happy that the students have embraced this journey and can share their message through their creations."

Textile Design students create sensory designs for individuals with visual impairments

Published on 21 January 2019
  • Subject area: Art and design
  • Category: Current students; School of Art & Design

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