Better times ahead

27th October 2020
Written by: Lucy Richards, StudioLR

Sixteen years ago I started the creative agency StudioLR with my former colleague, now husband, Andy Gray. We didn’t have a big plan or a clear value proposition at the time, but we definitely wanted to use our skills and experience to create great, effective work for our clients that would somehow make a difference to them and their customers.

Years later at a tourism conference, Andy met a colleague of Dr Siobhán Jordan during a coffee break. This chance conversation inspired Andy to learn more about successful collaborations between academia and industry. The next thing we know we’re being supported by Interface, in collaboration with Edinburgh and Stirling Universities, to radically overhaul dementia signage design.

From tiny seeds …

What had been a seed of an idea could now, with the benefit of rigorous academic research, be developed into a sought-after product. Rolled out in care homes across the UK and Ireland, our signs now help increase the independence and confidence of people living with dementia as they find their way around.

The success of this collaboration led to another idea and a funding opportunity with Life Changes Trust. This time to co-design a new range of everyday symbols with the expertise of people with dementia.

This week we launch the outcome of that work with the Inclusive Symbols website – the home of 15 new symbols that will help people navigate public places more easily. Over the course of the project, we consulted more than 2,000 people with and without dementia living across the UK – they influenced and validated the design as we developed and tested the symbols.

From the start we were aware of the campaign started by Scottish schoolgirl Grace Warnock to raise awareness of hidden disabilities. It became clear that there was no universally recognised symbol to indicate facilities and services designed for people with hidden disabilities, so we created the Any Disability symbol to build on Grace’s campaign.

#AnyDisability beats #BackBoris

Last summer the campaign was launched by Martin Whitfield MP (previously Labour MP for East Lothian) at the House of Commons. It received full cross-party support from 50 MPs who pledged to promote the Any Disability symbol in their constituencies. The day of the event coincided with Boris being declared Prime Minister, and the hashtag #AnyDisability was the most frequent hashtag shared amongst all politicians, even more than the #BackBoris campaign.

We live in difficult times with a pandemic that has impacted on all of our lives. Here’s to better times ahead – with the help of Interface we can improve lives and make a lasting difference to society.

If you would like to find out more about partnering with a university or college, please contact Interface.