Thursday, 11 August 2016

Design for Dignity & AccessAbility: 2 Swedish exhibitions at NID

Estimated reading time : 3.5 minutes

Hej Hej Tjena!

The National Institute of Design and the Consulate General of Sweden in Mumbai have organised a Swedish exhibition ‘Design for Dignity’ which showcases products that are designed to improve the quality of life for differently abled people. Produced by the Swedish Institute, the exhibition encompasses 22 products and highlights the importance and benefits of being inclusive while developing products for the future.

A photo exhibition titled ‘AccessAbility’ based on the everyday life stories of differently abled Swedish and Indian individuals, is on display as well. ‘AccessAbility’ consists of personal accounts of 14 individuals from Sweden by Swedish photographer Markus Marcetic and 11 individuals from India by Indian photographer Sunil Thakkar. These images tell stories of their dreams, hopes, sorrows, love, family, daily life, work and spare time.
(source : NID mass email)  

(a flyer from the exhibition)

<Design inspiration is something that lives in the intersection of 3 things : satisfying a curiosity, defying the expected and touching an emotion.>
(source :

How can design thinking be applied to designing for people who are specially abled? Sweden's National Disability Policy focuses on human dignity and universal accessibility. People with special needs sometimes require specialised and unique solutions. The other approach is to design products which can be used and understood by everyone, which is the foundation of universal design. The country treats people not as patients but as citizens. They are focusing on finding  solutions where everyone can contribute according to their own ability.

<All of us have some things that we find easy while experience other things as more difficult. Sometimes what comes easily to us falls outside the norm. We call that talent. Sometimes what we find difficult falls outside the norm. That could be termed as disability. The combination of our abilities in different areas creates our multifaceted personalities. If we can appreciate diversity and support all abilities, then all people will have an easier time contributing to our society.>
(source : Lena Lorentzen, Professor in Design for All, Mid Sweden University)

Let me share a personal experience from Stockholm from December 2015. I had gone shopping at LIDL, one of the famous grocery stores there. A lady had come on her Permobil and had some trouble filling vegetables in a bag attached to her vehicle. I can only remember her warm and bright smile in the cold winter of -15 degrees when I helped her arrange the grocery in her bag.

How can design for special needs be commercialised? Technology can surely assist in the development of these niche products. It is not as if there is a lack of consumers. For instance, India has 20% of the global blind population which equals 10 million people. Sometimes, products designed for niche areas can become a part of everyday life too. Ziploc bags had originally been invented to be used by astronauts, but now, all of us must have used it at-least once.

Swedish companies have taken ownership to develop products for the specially abled. Their goal is that everybody should be able to use products with style. Some of these Swedish companies are BabyBjörn, Martall, Panthera, Somna, The world famous - TetraPak, Twicegrip Sweden etc.

A kettle designed by Ergonomi Design Gruppen now renamed to Veryday for the Scandinavian Airlines SAS is an apt example of Design for All. The design is stable, simple and drip free.

The exhibition is up and running till 24 August 2016 in the Design Gallery at the National Institute of Design in the Paldi Campus at Ahmedabad in India. If you happen to be in Ahmedabad and happen to read this article, I hope time and places coincide to bring you here. Till then Hej då, Vi ses senare.

About the Curator :
Margarita Bergfeldt Matiz, Industrial Designer MFA

Margarita is a Colombian-Swedish industrial designer whose portfolio includes a variety of design fields such as design for space, product design, exhibitions, crafts and curatorial work where she uses her profession as a tool to contribute and enrich our lives.

Margarita holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Konstfack, the University College of Art and Design in Stockholm, Sweden and she is the curator behind ’’Design for Dignity” touring exhibition presented at The National Institute of Design NID, India. She has also conducted a workshop at NID on 11 August 2016 with students of Semester 7 to make them sensitive to the cooking abilities of people affected with arthritis or blindness.

The bright yellow guy with the Go- Pro is the coordinator of Product Design - Praveen Nahar with some students from Product, Exhibition and Furniture design in the Design for Dignity and AccessAbility exhibition at NID.  (Picture credits: Praveen Nahar )

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