3 Mar 2014
Student designs cutlery for Parkinson’s sufferers
A Loughborough University Design School student is hoping to get a manufacturer to produce the ‘inclusive’ cutlery and crockery she has designed for Parkinson’s sufferers.
Emily Lukes designed a plate, a bowl, a mug and a spoon, that look ‘normal’ but are easier to use, as part of her final year project for her course in Industrial Design and Technology
Emily hit upon the idea for the project by accident. She said: “I was struggling to find a project, but whilst I was at a friend’s house, we popped in to see her granny and she showed me the cutlery and crockery she had bought for her husband and said how terrible it was.
“It sounded like the perfect thing to do. There are a lot of products out there already to help people with Parkinson’s but their designs are very different from mine; cutlery often has thick handles, but none of the groups I spoke to wanted that which is fantastic because the whole point of the project was that the products should be inclusive and look as normal as possible.
“So although the cutlery and crockery will help people with Parkinson’s to eat and drink and hold their cutlery, the most important thing is that it must look good and people must all be able to use it together as a family.
“They still want to be included in the family, so ‘medicalising’ their lives doesn’t make anyone happy. They often don’t use things designed to help them because they make them feel different.”
With the help of Parkinson’s UK East Midlands Research Support Network, Emily had about six meetings with Parkinson’s sufferers and their carers.
Emily said the feedback she got from her meetings was positive. “They loved it,” she said. “They liked the fact that someone was thinking about them and making something better for them, so they don’t have to put up with ugly designs.”
She designed a bowl with a lip, to help with ‘scoop eating’, a plate with vertical sides, a mug with two handles, and a spoon with a deeper bowl than normal and a handle that is slightly bigger and tapered to fit in the hand better. She used stoneware for the crockery rather than porcelain and the products have non-slip bottoms.
She visited pottery firm Denby and she is hoping to eventually find a firm to produce them.
She said: “I would love that. I have really got into this project. I did not realise when I started how much of an impact it would make on people’s lives, but it’s huge.
“If you are embarrassed about eating you are not going to go to a restaurant or invite people round. Being able to have a meal together reduces your isolation.”
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system whose main symptoms include a tremor at rest, stiffness, and a slowing of movement.
Emily’s designs earned her third place in Device Design Award 2014, an international EU funded award of excellence in designing for vulnerable generations.