The inclusive design research programme builds on an earlier initiative - the DesignAge action research unit, which was active at the Royal College of Art between 1991 and 1998 under the direction of Professor Roger Coleman.
The purpose of DesignAge was to alert industry and the design profession to the far-reaching implications of rapidly ageing populations across the developed world. DesignAge was successful in mobilising a generation of young designers behind an age-aware approach to design, via a stream of conferences, seminars, workshops, publications, competitions, design exemplars and the establishment of an international Design for Ageing Network (DAN) and a Special Collection of research papers in the RCA Library.
In addition, DesignAge participated in the European Union-funded Presence project, which explored the use of new technologies to raise the profile of older people in their communities.
DesignAge was recognised nationally, with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 1995, and internationally, with a Ron Mace Memorial award. Many of its key activities were extended under the aegis of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre, which was established in 1999 with core funding from the Helen Hamlyn Trust. Whereas DesignAge was a single-issue action research unit focusing on the needs of older people, the Helen Hamlyn Centre had a broader perspective based on advancing the concept of inclusive design - an approach to designing that includes the whole population, all ages and all abilities.