While London waited for a lit up shard of the sky, at Northumbria University London industry and academics talked about thinking about touch, ranging from sensory therapy to concert costumes for the Black Eyed Peas.
‘The Touch Signpost as Educator’
Bruce Montgomery, Fashion Designer / Research Professor, Northumbria University
Bruce, longtime champion of touch in design, kicked off the day with examples that may answer through touch the question ”can we break the chain of dissatisfaction and consumption?”, including:
‘Touch Inspired Routes to Health and Wellbeing’: The Feather and the Toothbrush project
Katie Gaudion, Textile Designer / Technology Researcher, Royal College of Art and Anne Toomey, Reader for Materials in Design, Northumbria University.
While designers have been told in recent years to pay attention to extreme users, Gaudion paid attention to people with extreme sensory sensitivity: autism suffers. She noted that the sensory rooms and kits used by occupational therapists is very plastics based and general (for example, sensitivity to grip is only split between a feather and toothbrush) and has been working on more fine grained kits to enable families to understand which materials are suitable and not suitable).
‘Design Driven by Multisensory Experience’
Nancy Tilbury, Product Designer / Technology Researcher, P3i, Northumbria University
Reporting on work going on upstairs in the Northumbria London campus, Tilbury emphasised the importance of not only doing research but going beyond critical work and actually getting it to market. The work her team has done includes performance gear for the Black Eyed Peas and JLS, and is often published and getting the attention of stylists.
‘Engaging with Touch for Better Products and Business’
Jill Hawkins, Marketing Manager, UVU Sportswear
How do you convey the material properties of a high end niche sports product when you sell online? That’s the intriguing question that UVU (the name means ‘you versus you’, a nod to most extreme sports being psychological as much as physical) have to deal with. Having identified a particular niche—ultramarathon runners (ultramarathons are the new marathons, with more people signing up for half or ultra marathons than the traditional full ones since the latter now seem passe)—UVU have created a niche product that is getting a lot of success through word of mouth. However, given a lot of their point of difference is through the materials they’ve created and the effect this has (for example, their coats don’t overheat, meaning that the runners don’t have to take them off and put them on again), their ongoing challenge it so sell these benefits via their online store.
The afternoon had workshops based on the following themes:
- Education—Touch as an Educator
- Wellbeing—The Role of Touch in Wellbeing
- Sensory—Can Touch Take Design into New Spaces?
- Industry—Engaging Touch for Better Products.
(Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to note down the thoughts that came from the talks, but did do remember some interesting discussions about getting training set up in design schools).