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The Emerging Designer Competition is back — and this time it’s exploring inclusive design in the hybrid space

Western Sydney University’s (WSU) School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment has partnered with Maxton Fox for a second year to present design students with a new kind of challenge.

The Emerging Designer Competition is back — and this time it’s exploring inclusive design in the hybrid space

The 2022 brief for WSU’s Emerging Designer Competition encouraged students to design an inclusive workstation which would cater to hybrid modes of working. The two winning designs were selected by a panel of industry judges and have now been developed, manufactured and launched by commercial furniture and joinery manufacturer Maxton Fox.

“This project will have an impact on people’s lives. It reminded me why I’m studying what I’m studying — to change the world by changing people’s lives for the better, one design at a time,” said Genevieve Bryant, designer behind the Grevillea.

The Grevillea.

The Grevillea is a considered workstation which aims to bridge the gap in the corporate market for blind and low vision users. Designed to blend with a modern workplace, the workstation is equipped to support low vision workers and their guide dogs via vision aid features and the reduction of obstacles.

“We’re particularly impressed by the focus on colour contrast. Modern design aesthetics often focus on neutrals, which can present challenges for many of our clients,” says Jodi Martin, senior manager of innovation and inclusion at Guide Dogs NSW.

“While many people think of blindness as no vision at all, that only applies to about 18 per cent of the global blind and low vision population. Most have some remaining vision and may be able to see certain lights, colours, or shapes — so the greater contrast there is in the world, the easier it is to navigate independently.”

The Stipule.

Key features that the workstation surface incorporates for improved accessibility include contrasting colours, gentle curves, indented grooves for accessories, designated points for tethering dogs, and a specifically designed gap in the edge for walking aids.

Heimy Molina, who created the Stipule, wanted to explore a similar concept of designing flexible freedoms — choosing instead to focus on the balance between connection and privacy which so often presents a challenge for the modern office.

The Stipule is a fixed dual desk screen workstation system which provides acoustic absorption at seating height and open communication when standing. Ideal for open plan spaces, the design draws heavily on the shapes and textures of the natural world.

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“Stipules are the smaller leaves that are attached to plants. These organic shapes made by their curves is what inspired me to build the panel in the middle of the two desks of my workstation,” says Molina.

The design addresses a critical need facing workplaces today: promoting social distancing while preserving connection in open-plan workspaces. Stipule’s workstation screen prioritizes the maintenance of a secure and healthy work environment without compromising collaboration and connection among employees.

Overall, the competition was a resounding success and brought to light many subtle elements of design which are often overlooked.

“It is extremely valuable for students to have the opportunity to take part in design projects like this one because it gives them an understanding of what it’s like to design for a real client who has a specific design brief, budget, manufacturing, and timeframe limitations,” says Genevieve Bryant. “It’s an experience that cannot be recreated by an average assignment.”

Dr Sasha Alexander, director of academic program industrial design at Western Sydney University, says the competition provides an extraordinary platform for innovation within the industry.

“In partnering with Maxton Fox we can provide students with a unique opportunity in work-integrated-learning to gain hands on experience,” she says. “These designs are a testament to their ability to drive innovation and become industry leaders.”

To learn more about this project and the competition process, take a look at the Maxton Fox case study video.

Maxton Fox

Courtesy of Maxton Fox

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