Design Core’s Annual Design Jam Challenge Tackles Inclusive and Accessible Designs

In collaboration with the College for Creative Studies (CCS) and Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), Design Core’s Detroit recently hosted their first Design Jam for adaptive apparel and accessories. Participants were challenged to use an inclusive process to create accessible new products for active people with limb loss.

Design Jams bring product development, which normally happens privately, into an open and collaborative space, allowing diverse voices to influence the process and resulting in more creative and effective solutions. Sixty five participants made up six interdisciplinary teams, representing students, faculty, professional designers, manufacturers, makers, entrepreneurs, business coaches and individuals from the limb loss community participated in this two-part prototyping challenge. 

To prepare for the Jam, teams were first trained in both anti-ableism and the practice of inclusive design. The anti-ableism workshop touched on the importance of using person-first language when talking about people with disabilities (PWD), for example, and emphasized the importance of seeing people as more than their disabilities.

The  inclusive design presentation included proven tips for taking  into consideration the full spectrum of human diversity and individual experiences at every stage of the design process. The result of which is often product solutions with broader social impact and commercial applications.

The winning team, made up of CCS product design students Katarina Evan, Hugo Arias, and Carla Langfeldt, Fashion Accessories Design Professor Wendi Magee, Eric Yelsma from Detroit Denim, and DeAdvaith Urs and Aurianna Turvold from Stryker Medical Corp, designed an aftermarket strap for backpacks so stroke patients and other people with limb loss in their shoulders and arms could easily put on and hold up a backpack. Another team designed zipper concepts to assist paraplegics in getting shoes on more easily.  Both this concept and the winning strap design caught the eye of CCS Product Design Professor Stephen Schock, who sees the potential for turning these ideas into semester-long design projects for his students and, possibly, working with local manufacturer Pingree Detroit to get them made. 

Schock found the strap project to be of particular interest because of the front buckle, which allows the user to buckle it with one hand.

The strap and zipper concepts are also things that could be produced in Detroit by the city’s growing apparel and accessories ecosystem, including Design Jam manufacturing partners Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC), Pingree Detroit, and Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics. So in all, Design Jam: Detroit 2021 achieved all four of its primary objectives:

  • To bring together design and manufacturing for the purpose of innovating new adaptive products that could be designed, prototyped and made in Detroit,
  • To raise awareness of the ableism biases that often exclude people with disabilities from the design process, 
  • To train students, faculty, professional designers, manufacturers, makers, entrepreneurs, business coaches and individuals from the limb loss community on the process of inclusive design and encourage them to adopt it in their practice, and
  • To facilitate new connections and business partnerships for local and national designers, manufacturers, partners and sponsors.

As stewards of the first and only UNESCO City of Design, Design Core is committed to positioning Detroit as a global thought leader in inclusive design. Programs like Design Jams are just one step in that direction. For more information on Design Core, Design Jams or the Detroit City of Design initiative, email info@


Partners and Sponsors
College for Creative Studies (CCS), Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC), Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics, Pingree Detroit, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Square, Carhartt, Detroit Pistons, State Farm, Best Tool and  Engineering, and Foot Locker. 

About Design Core
Design Core Detroit champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy. It offers services to strengthen, grow and attract design businesses, increase market demand for design services, and tells Detroit’s design story locally and globally. A  department within the College for Creative Studies, Design Core serves design-driven industries that specialize in design or utilize design as a central discipline of their business strategy.  As the steward of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, Design Core serves as the convener and backbone organization for the Detroit City of Design initiative.