Design for the Mind

The Alzheimer’s Association reports more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and that by 2050, the alarming number could rise to 16 million. In collaboration with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and CaringKind—Pratt Institute industrial design students have created products and accessories to help those affected by memory loss from the disease. Their work earned an Editors' Award at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) 2017 in New York City.

The students—taught by Alex Schweder, a visiting associate professor of interior design and industrial design in Pratt's School of Design—worked with medical experts and spoke to Alzheimer's patients and caregivers about their needs. "Good research breaks the assumptions of the researcher" says Schweder.

Each item helps its users complete everyday tasks, or avoid complicated or confusing situations: "Objects and furnishings are understood not only as aesthetically pleasing, but are responsible for producing relationships, thoughts, ideas and ways of being," announced Pratt.

Kate Cutlip's Portable Garden is greenery on the go. Mirror Table by Sean Wang helps users relearn simple tasks by mimicking the actions of others. Alzheimer's patients see caregivers through an open wooden frame, and copy tasks such as brushing teeth or spooning food together. "In the later stages of Alzheimer's, familiar tasks like eating and hygiene have been forgotten and need to be relearned every time," says Wang.

Jeff Yang's Sun/Moon Clock helps distinguish day from night. Light behind its face illuminates in the shapes of the sun and moon depending on the time. Aaron Ethan Green designed the Clothing Organizer. Hanging storage compartments separate garments so they are easy to see and access, and are color coordinated for each day of the week. "For many people with Alzheimer's, remembering to change their clothes is a challenge," explains Green. "This product addresses that issue by combining the organizational clarity of a weekly pillbox with a hanging clothes display system."

Braden Young's patterned Velcro Wall Covering allows users to store objects on the wall, while Caitlin McIver's Out of Sight Drawer slots over a kitchen drawer to conceal sharp objects.

See more in Dezeen.