Dyslexic Objects win New Designer
of the Year Award 2013


News: a range of products inspired by a young designer's dyslexia has won the New Designer of the Year Award (+ slideshow).

Poor Memory Pen Pots by Henry Franks.
Poor Memory Pen Pots only hold two or three items

Northumbria University graduate Henry Franks won the award for a collection of re-imagined everyday objects, including an inverted set of mugs double-hooked coat hangerspen pots that only hold two or three pens and a set of cork plinths for cups.

Poor Memory Pen Pots by Henry Franks.

"The motivation was to utilise the power of unconventional thinking and apply my own dyslexia to objects to create products which have dyslexia and function better as a result," Franks told Dezeen.

Confused Hangers by Henry Franks.
Confused Hangers can be hung either way round

One of Franks' products is a coat hanger with two hooks, so it can be hung either way round. "The Confused Coat Hanger wasn’t paying attention when being told which way round it was supposed to be," Franks explains. "As a result, it has a double-hooked head and can hang either way round when hanging your clothes up."

Franks' Poor Memory Pen Pots can hold just two or three pens because they "have a terrible memory due to their dyslexia and can only remember a couple of things at a time," says Franks. Yet this apparent shortcoming prevents the pot overflowing with items and keeps just a few essential writing tools to hand.

Coaster Plinth, an oversized cork drinks coaster, ended up as an elevated platform rather than a flat disc because it "misread the dimensions it was supposed to be and hasn't understood the question," says Franks. Despite the apparent precariousness of a cup placed on top of the plinth, it makes the cup more noticeable so it's less likely to be spilled.

Franks' upside down Muglexia mugs
Franks' upside down Muglexia mugs

Muglexia, a range of mugs, are inversions of the traditional shape and refer to the way dyslexics invert and flip letters and words when reading. "These three mugs illustrate inversion and as a result are more stable and more balanced in the hand," Franks explains.

Franks was given the award at the New Designers Part 2 opening ceremony at the Business Design Centre in north London last night.

Franks receives a £1000 cash prize, £1000 worth of advice from intellectual property lawyers Briffa, £2000 worth of advice from accountancy experts Rhodes & Rhodes, and a half day with PR consultancy Four Colman Getty.

Dyslexic designs win New Designer of the Year Award 2013
Muglexia mugs refer to the flipping around of letters and words and keep drinks hotter

"Henry joyfully combines utility with human behaviour resulting in a clever, well rounded collection, brimming with unique ideas," said the award judges.

See Henry's winning design collection on Northumbria University's stand at New Designers 2013 until 6 July at London's Business Design Centre.

Coaster Plinth by Henry Franks.
Coaster Plinth makes a drink more obvious so you're less likely to spill it over

New Designers is an annual showcase of graduate projects from design schools around the UK. Previous New Design of the Year winners include boiled leather furniture and an extending shelving unit.

See our coverage of Graduate Shows 2013 »

  • I want it

    Love those cups.

  • Jane

    Totally useless in the real world, good luck getting anyone to buy them.

  • Dom

    I think the coaster plinth makes spillage even more possible unless the coaster and mug are one entity. It seems to only elevate the mug and the huge base of the coaster does not help in stabilizing the mug (his intention seems to be so).

  • Munchman

    Not sure about the pen pots, the hangers don’t amaze me but those Muglexia mugs are where it’s at.

  • judith

    Being dyslexic myself, I am failing to see how these products are related to dyslexia. Reading his own comments describing them seems to be more designer jargon than a real imprint from dyslexia.

    I like the idea of the cups but unsure if they would feel right in the hand as a useable cup, a three-pen pot seems unnecessary and the coaster would only cause more spills and damage than without one.

    I believe the hangers have design merit and are saleable but struggle to see how dyslexia is involved, only that a two headed hanger is idiot proof.

    I wish there was more of an effort in design to help dyslexia rather than trying to force dyslexia into products.

  • Tom

    His intention is clearly expressing his own view and daily experiences on dyslexia through products that he uses.

    • Valid point here, I think you're right. However, I think it makes the pieces more art than design.

  • Karl

    These products are getting a reaction and as explained are designed using his own take and experiences from dyslexia, not products aimed to aid dyslexia.

  • JUR

    In my opinion, the designer is using the theme of dyslexia as a value multiplier.
    The products without the value multiplier are just under designed.

    The cup has a bad handle. Of course a bigger base makes a cup more stable, but then use that as a design tool. The pen pot is an object for storage but you cannot store your stuff in it. The coaster makes it easier to spill your drink. And the hooks are just useful for lazy people.

    So the project is nice as a graphic explanation in 3D objects of his own experience, but they do not have a right of existence yet in the product world. If the graphic explanation is the designer’s goal, he succeeded. It is just that the message I get is that dyslexic people feel stupid all the time.

  • Kate

    Well done all of you nay-sayers. The designer’s intention has been met and your comments prove it.

    If you consider the adage ‘design follows function’ these pieces are exceptional examples of design. You are all considering the difficulty in using them. Function successfully addressed.

    Now spare a thought for the multitude of objects you use daily that those with dyslexia/dyspraxia might have difficulty with. If you are having trouble imagine using the coaster.

    The metaphor of the pen holders is delightful and contrary to many of you, I believe they are far more practical than a big container that gets over stuffed with odds and ends you don’t need. After all, how many pens can you use in one given time?

    Well done judges and Henry Franks. Congratulations on your awe-inspiring thought processes and very clever design.

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future.

  • Lizzy

    The fact is, a lot of thought has gone into his work and the pieces are well made. They provoke a reaction and whether that is positive or negative is irrelevant.

    I suffer from dyslexia and I connect with the humour behind Franks’ ideas.

    I would say this is more designed art rather than design, but regardless he deserved to win.

  • Lorette Matodes

    I’m not sure whether these objects would help dyslexic sufferers or not, but they seem well designed and sturdy.

    I love the raised coaster, which definitely makes the cup more visible. I don’t suffer from dyslexia myself but I know several people that do, and knocking things over or spilling things can be a problem. These cups do not look easily displaceable.

  • James

    I can’t believe this won new designer of the year!

  • Dyslexic Designer

    I am beyond annoyed by this “design”, as a real-life product designer and a full blown dyslexic person this misses the the point entirely.

    First dyslexia comes in many forms but in general, it’s a
    miscommunication visual parts of the brain and the language centers of the brain. Mostly it manifest in how symbols are nailed down to a specific “meaning” in the language centers of brain.

    For example (d,p,q,b) are all the same symbol but have different linguistic meanings. What is not effected is the understanding of objects so an apple is an apple and an orange is an orange. This misappropriation of backwardness is not at all what dyslexia is.

    For example you ask a dyslexic kid to assemble a Mr. Potato head he/she isn’t going to put the eyes where the mouth is or vice versa. This “flipping” of object is a
    profound misunderstanding of what dyslexia is. As a industrial designer the stuff is okay, nothing special.