'Everything you do has to be better than it was yesterday.' Sir Kenneth Grange.
The brief was to imagine the hypothetical meeting of Sir Kenneth Grange a British product designer and Louis Braille the curator of the literacy code ‘Braille’ for the visually impaired.
Kenneth Grange is famous for his classic Desk lamp designs and ability to create something completely practical, considering the tactile quality of his materials without compromising on aesthetics.
Louis Braille strived for equality describing old literacy systems for the blind as methods that are attempting to talk to the fingers with the language of the eyes.
I decided to focus on their shared ideas of functionality and communication and create a piece of design with equality in mind, that was as much about aesthetic as it was about it's tactile quality and the users experience.
The lamp is designed to relive the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, a condition that can go fairly untreated and unrecognised in blind and sighted people alike.
The name for the lamp Penumbra comes from the from the Latin paene “almost, nearly” and umbra “shadow. Which relates to the three distinct parts of a shadow, penumbra is the region in which only a portion of the light source is obscured by the occluding body, this refers back to how individuals with sight impairments all register different amounts of light.
The contrasting wooden textures, touch sensitive switch, opening mechanism and braille all add to the aim of creating a functional product that was also beautiful. I feel so often these products created as aid are often so ugly their function is overshadowed by their appearance or their unappealing tactile quality. So by combining function and design products can be made that will not only help people but bring joy as an object in themselves.
‘Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we [the blind] are not to go on being despised or patronised by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way this can be brought about.’ Louie Braille
By creating products that can be used by anyone and understood by anyone I feel is a step in the right direction to achieving equality between all spectrums of ability.
What is needed is more design with equality in mind.