Co-designing a new Gardening tool with a Kingston Student

My name is Leo, and I am a product design student at Kingston School of Art.

For my final graduation project, I am designing some gardening tools made from recycled metal, for users who are blind and partially sighted.
Most importantly, the products aim to explore touch and texture as the priority in function - because I feel that the sense of touch is often overlooked by product designers.

I am currently creating a variety of prototypes in the workshop and would really like to get some first hand research and feedback from gardeners who are blind or partially sighted.

What are some of the common problems you encounter when gardening in general?
What are some of the problems with products designed for blind and partially sighted people?
In which ways are the sense of touch useful in gardening?
Are there any products which are typically problematic because of the materials they are made from?

Product design is all about problem solving, so it's very important to me that I am addressing real needs. I would greatly appreciate any feedback or advice to guide this project, which I hope will push forward inclusive design at my university!

All the best,

Leo Russo

Comments (3)

Nick's picture

Reply to Leo Russo by Nick

Hi Leo,

It may not be exactly what you have in mind but I would find a warning very useful wneh I'm about to run over the lawn mower cable.

speers's picture

Reply to Leo Russo by speers

I've been listed as having a macular dystrophy of some sort, though the damage goes beyond that part of my eye, for the time being I'm still working as a gardener.

The problems that take up the most time for me, and that take most of my confidence, are things like cutting a shrub to a balanced shape, cutting a hedge to a line, cutting a straight line on a border, levelling the soil on a bed. My sight is particularly distorted, and even if a surface has been left flat I cannot see that it is flat, if a line is straight I cannot see that it is straight, I usually have to rely on my technique of working being as good as it was once, that because I've worked along in a set way the finish will seem professional.

I'm doing less digging, sweeping or anything else, standing up these days because I cannot see clearly enough what is at my feet, so I am using a small hand-fork a lot of the time, and a pair of very very large scissors. You might want to consider designing a hand-fork that doesn't bend but is precise and has a handle that doesn't mark hands. Or an over-sized dust-pan and brush for outside use.

speers's picture

Reply to speers by speers

(continued, sorry, I was cut off by the machine due to inactivity while typing, yes)

Or a straight-handled, blade in line with handle, flat bladed, stainless steel border spade, in other words a narrow two thirds size spade. I have felt at odds with spade design even when I was younger and could see perfectly.

Before you start designing new tools though you might give some thought to making existing ones easier to see. I frequently end up wandering about gardens looking for tools that I have put down and can't find again. To see things, to find them in the first place, they usually need to be of a contrasting colour or moving, and on occasion the most glaring yellow or orange can be the wrong colour to notice in a garden, if it's much the same colour as the shrub I've been pruning, and blues, even purples and reds, can stay hidden a shadow on a bright day. A two or three colour pattern might work, either extract of Marimekko or just a large three colour stripe, at least one colour certain to be noticed.