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Designing Inclusive Solutions

Designing Inclusive Solutions

RISD’s chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America hosts an all-day makeathon focused on sustainability, accessibility and social impact.

RISD students at work in the studio

Industrial Design students worked in teams to design accessible products at this year’s makeathon.

Industrial Design students gathered in the Chace Center on a Saturday in early March to conduct research and design apps and products promoting wellness and accessibility as part of Zooming Out, an all-day makeathon organized by RISD’s chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

student welcome IDSA participants

“I was so happy that we were able to host the makeathon again this year, after not being able to last year due to COVID,” says IDSA Co-president Karam Yoo 22 ID. “We could not have made the event happen without our amazing RISD IDSA team members, the Center for Student Involvement, the ID department and support from many more staff and faculty at RISD who worked hard with us.”

Throughout the day, students had the opportunity to learn from professional industrial designers such as keynote speakers Marcel Magermans—CEO and founder of product development agency MMID—and ID faculty member Hannah Chung, founder of not-for-profit social innovation network Design for America and health-related design firm Sproutel.

IDSA mentors
Visiting mentors Max Reimann 17 ID and Steven Nijenhuis provided students with valuable feedback.

In his presentation, Magermans advised students to prioritize teamwork. “Being great as product developers has a lot to do with your team,” he says. “If you can really work well together then one plus one can make much more than two.”

Chung emphasized inclusivity in her early-morning talk. “You want to understand the user, define the challenge, ideate, prototype often and test,” she explains. “That approach really challenges the idea that design thinking is linear.”

“You want to understand the user, define the challenge, ideate, prototype often and test.”

Keynote speaker Hannah Chung 

After the keynote speeches, students raced against the clock to design innovative prototypes that they presented to alumni judges Grace Knight 18 ID, Nick Scappaticci 00 ID and Malaika Franks 00 ID at 5 pm. Throughout the fast-paced and intense competition, visiting mentors including other RISD alumni offered practical advice to each team.

inside a student sketchbook

“Students approached the prompt from many different directions,” says alum mentor Max Reimann 17 ID, a senior functionality and systems designer for MMID. “It’s a tricky design problem because so much of design is in the details as opposed to zooming out like this.”

Junior Tian Tian 23 ID, who attended Brown’s annual hackathon last year, finds RISD’s object-based approach more fun. His team spent the day designing textured, durable tape to help visually impaired people navigate shared kitchen spaces. “Eighty percent of the visually impaired can still see a little bit,” teammate Rui Jiang 23 ID/IL explains, “but it is impossible to tell a spoon, for example, apart from a knife in a drawer full of utensils.”

another student team at work
Juniors Rui Jiang 23 ID/IL and Tian Tian 23 ID considered designs to help visually impaired people navigate shared kitchen spaces.

Focusing on amputees and individuals with mobility issues, Linlin Yu 25 EFS and her teammates designed an app to build community and connect users with medical practitioners. Eduardo Mautner 24 ID, Sunjoo Park 23 ID and their teammates envisioned a first aid kit that uses imagery and icons rather than words to make it accessible to children too young to read.

“IDSA has supported my growth as a designer and instilled a sense of community that is incredibly valuable to me.”

IDSA Co-president Stephanie Park 22 ID

At the end of the day “Team Lobby” members Avantika Velho 22 ID, Connie Cheng 23 ID and Varun Mehta 22 GD/ID took home the first-place prize for their app that allows users to easily donate to worthy causes by rounding up their spare change from electronic transactions. But prizes aside, the experience was a win for all of the students who participated, including the event organizers.

a student discusses her idea
Sunjoo Park 23 ID and her teammates envisioned a first aid kit that uses imagery and icons rather than words.

"Leading the team throughout the planning process was an honor," says IDSA Co-president Stephanie Park 22 ID. "I wanted to make sure that everyone was able to work on a project they were passionate about, network with industry professionals they looked up to and contribute their opinions. IDSA has supported my growth as a designer and instilled a sense of community that is incredibly valuable to me."

—Isabel Roberts and Simone Solondz / photos by Isabel Roberts

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