The cluster brings together research and (critical) design practice in design and care, empathy and well-being. Including a strong focus and expertise in (participatory) design for people with dementia, the design and research work of this cluster includes the design participation of people with autism, intellectual disabilities as well as other defined communities. In this sense, we define care in its broadest sense, using Joan Tronto and Bernice Fisher’s definition in which ‘caring’ is viewed as “a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.”
Fisher, B., & Tronto, J. (1990). Toward a feminist theory of caring. Circles of care: Work and identity in women’s lives, 35-62. Design research in this cluster, then, is seen as a need to research and design for a world in which we all want to live in as well as possible.
The research and design work in this cluster happens both on a 'product' level and on a systemic level (how can design help to question and change the care system) combining reflective practice at the intersection of poetic and social design that challenges not only the the way design should function but how its processes can challenge the status quo (agonistic design). While there is a strong interest in digital and product design, our work is not limited to these creative outputs and we have been active in more visual work as well as in film making.
Designers of this cluster operate a living lab to test/evaluate products for people with dementia in the city of Genk.
Amber De Coen
Dr. Rita Maldonado Branco (research fellow)
Dr. Andrea Wilkinson
Dr. Niels Hendriks
The ‘Collect for later’-design is a series of collecting cards for a woman living in long-term care at a dementia ward. The combination of images of what used to be this resident’s daily life (poodles, a caravan, etc.) with images of beautiful young people not only ‘worked’ for her (as it was something she wanted to collect) but also stirs a discussion on sexuality with people with dementia.
Currently the research team is working in an international consortium on a European certification label for dementia friendly products As part of this project, the team is in collaboration with a wide variety of small companies throughout Europe and working together with the City of Genk (Belgium) to run a living lab that is testing products with people with dementia.
Andrea and Niels are the founders of the Dementia Lab Conference, the first conference fully focused on design and dementia that began in 2016. Now in it’s 6th iteration, the Dementia Lab Conference 2022, The residue of interaction will take place in Leuven, Belgium. Previous editions have taken place in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Canada.
The cluster’s designers/researchers are also teachers with a strong international expertise in modules and workshops on (participatory) design: including working with local diverse communities and people groups with special needs. We have worked in education and research in Germany, Hong Kong, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United States, the UK, etc.
Together with experts from psychology and biomedical sciences from the University of Leuven, the team is currently working on design interventions in professional care contexts for people with intellectual disabilities
There is a separate page to know more about all the dementia design work of the cluster.
We have a strong expertise in design (research) in the cultural sector, together with the (make-) industry and care sector and in support of policy makers.