SVA advances inclusive design in school restrooms

Inclusive Restroom Design

Adriana Valdez Young, acting head of the MFA Interaction Design program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), is spearheading a school washroom remodeling project that champions person-centered and inclusive design. This initiative is driven by sophomores aspiring to enhance everyday life with their innovative design approaches. Their mission carries implications beyond the school walls, potentially setting new public restroom design standards.

The plan draws on SVA’s commitment to being responsive to societal shifts and using education as a tool for genuine societal transformation. The program is partnering with Pinar Guvenc, a leading international design company figure, to pioneer the US’s first all-encompassing annual, graduate-level course in Inclusive Design.

This course aims to embed diversity and inclusivity within the design education’s core. The students receive an extensive overview of inclusive design methodologies and learn how to address issues faced by individuals usually overlooked in conventional design considerations.

The Guvenc-Young collaboration introduces uniqueness and innovation to the classroom. The collective expertise is translated into practical knowledge for students, pushing design boundaries and endorsing a more empathetic design approach. The course equips students with necessary real-world knowledge, better understanding of diverse user needs, and broad industrial exposure.

Since November 2023, major tech and design firms have experienced significant job losses, highlighting the importance of both corporate resilience and social responsibility.

Inclusive bathroom design initiative at SVA

Young believes that companies need to focus on creating people-centric solutions, listening to community needs, and implementing innovative strategies to tackle new challenges, thus ensuring long-term business sustainability.

Additionally, Young emphasizes that design carries societal impacts regardless of designers’ awareness. Thus, she encourages designers to ponder their work’s wider consequences, engage with ethical considerations, and use their influence positively to shape societal trends, norms, and behaviors.

In response to modern challenges, Young and Guvenc recommend inclusive concepts, cooperative creation, and active design process participation. The aim is to equip students with necessary tools to create designs accommodating a more diverse population. They believe that transformative design emanates from the accessibility of design process for everyone.

The year 2024 has seen Inclusive Design II students tackling the formidable task of remodeling their studio bathrooms. This novel project is a testament to the project’s dedication to extending interactive design beyond its traditional realms. Despite COVID-19 challenges, the project has achieved groundbreaking success, showcasing human-centered design principles’ power.

Looking ahead, SVA plans to refine the Inclusive Design II course’s methodologies and outcomes based on this practical experience. Young and Guvenc’s innovative approach underscores the fluidity of design process and the promise of a future where designers aren’t just creators but are advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.