Enabled by Design-athon

Enabled by Design-athon

Imagination experience labs

Imagination's blog for industry insight, innovation, inspiration and general life contemplation.
  • harriet.fletcher
  • Intern

Enabled by Design-athon

I hadn’t been to the O2 site since it was the millenium dome. Though the white fabric is getting a bit grubby, the transformation of the area was impressive. One of the most striking additions to the site is Ravensbourne, a digital design college housed in the stunning campus building. It was here that the 24 hour Enabled by Design-athon took place.

Enabled by Design is a diverse community of designers, innovators and makers who are passionate about Design for All. You might have come across it begin called Inclusive Design, or Universal Design, but essentially, it’s the idea that products, services and environments should be designed with all users in mind, because when you do that, things end up being better for everyone. Take the famous OXO Good Grips measuring jug. Originally it was designed for people with poor dexterity and visual problems, but it turns out, it makes measuring liquid much easier for all of us.
The event kicked off with some inspiring talks from EbD founder Denise Stephens (who also happens to have MS). She told us about some of her experiences with clinical NHS assistive devices and staggeringly, that some devices haven’t changed in over 40 years!

Co-founder of Sugru James Carrigan explained to us how their product has allowed everyone to become a product designer, either by hacking their existing products, or fixing something that normally wouldn't be fixable. As Well of donating a mountain of Sugru for us to use, their ethos fitted in well with the mood of the event; When you crowdsource ideas, better ideas emerge.

Tom Hulme, Design Director at IDEO London and found of crowdsourced idea platform OpenIDEO talked about the importance of using observational exercises to build empathy with your users, and therefore, design better products.

Once the talks were finished, we broke off into our teams. As well as having an eclectic team made up of product designers, comms designers, human factors researchers and Ravensbourne students,  we were also lucky enough to be joined by Paul Carter, whom we quizzed about his home life until we found a need we could design from.

It turned out Paul was a coffee fiend, drinking up to 5 cups a day. With consumption like that, it became clear that Paul’s kettle was one of his most important pieces of kit. We were wondering how Paul used his kettle, so after stealing one of the Ravensbourne staff room, we got him to demonstrate. 


It turned out that though Paul’s process for boiling water was effective, it could greatly be improved. So we set to work. We looked at the user journey of using the kettle, the problems that arose at each stage and came up with ideas on how we might fix them.

One of the first questions we asked ourselves was why a kettle even has to look like a kettle. When you think about it, carrying a vessel of boiling water with an uneven centre of gravity using one hand, might not be the best solution to the problem of filling a cup with hot water. After some research, we found products which already addressed that need, such as the Breville Hot Cup.
The problem with this solution though, is that when Paul’s friend comes over and tries to make a cup of tea, they’ll look for kettle, not find it, come across this and wonder how on earth it works. It solves the problem, but it’s hardly taking design for all principles into account.

So we decided that whatever we came up with needed to look like a kettle. We came up with a lot of ideas, ranging from a kettle using a piston system to a kettle you squeezed to open the spout at the bottom. The next stage was to prototype to test our ideas.

Our most successful prototype was a kettle which gave Paul a pivot point to use at the front of the product.

So in 24 hours, we:
   - identified a real need for one person, but also for much larger audience of people with upper limb amputations.
   - designed a concept for a product which looked like a kettle, but was perfect for Paul to use
   - designed a kettle which pulled the centre of gravity for the kettle back towards to middle
Obviously, the idea needs more development, but the team (and Paul) were pretty pleased with the outcome! Our product went on to win one of the two prizes for the day, and we’ll be working more on it to see if it’s possible to take it to market.

The biggest things I’ll be taking away from the event was the importance of designing with your user group in the process, ideally designing with them in the same room. The process has a mutually beneficial outcome for the designer and the end user and leads to a faster design and iteration process.


Well done to Denise and the Enabled by Design team for a great event. We’re looking forward to the next one

Photos kindly supplied by: http://murtazaabidi.com/

Attended and written by James Turner @jamesasterisk
Innovation and Experience Architect


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