The 2014 Enabled by Design-athon


48 hours, 12 design teams, one goal - "design: a tool for social equality”


The 2014 Enabled by Design-athon was an event like no other. It had it all, 12 interdisciplinary design teams consisting of professionals, students, social workers, and muses (people living with disabilities), design challenges, lightning talks, empathy sessions, rapid prototyping and fast paced product proposals. The event was the combined efforts of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, the University of Technology, Sydney, UK-based Enabled by Design and FutureGov. D+I was represented by Angus Bean, an industrial designer and UTS alumni. 


The Enabled by Design-athon was held at an extremely topical time for Australia with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) continuing to be rolled out throughout the country creating a new $22 billion market as sighted by Cain Beckett from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC). This new financial incentive will generate opportunities for ‘Universal Design’. Universal design is defined as inclusive or ‘barrier-free’ design that is usable by the greatest extent of the population possible, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. 

The design process employed by the 12 teams was dynamic and user focused. Using interdisciplinary teams, the boundaries of the design process were pushed to the limits within the tight time frame. The use of empathy sessions to drive design decisions was a powerful tool to ensure that the design resolution fulfilled a real need. The greatest design results were achieved by blurring the lines between assistive technology (devices or products to enable people with disabilities) and universal design.


D+I assisted as the professional adviser to a team that went on to develop a wristwatch concept which enabled a carer to implement a structured daily plan for people with disabilities who are living in a shared home environment. The wristwatch was designed using the principles of universal design resulting in a prototype that would be useful to all, even those without disabilities.

If there was an overarching principle to take away from the event it was expressed in one of the lightning talks by Con Georgiou from One Million Acts of Innovation. Con implored the design community to “focus on significance, not success.” A statement that D+I strives to apply through all our projects. Success is a consequence of directed, significant and disruptive design.

We are looking forward to future events of this caliber, a big thank you to all those involved.


Design + Industry