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Intuitive wayfinding beyond vision

Thursday 17 December 2020

A photographic 'portrait' of a woman with eyes closed using an over earpiece and necklace to 'see'.

About this event

Join us for our 2020 seasonal soiree. It won’t be our usual in-person festive gathering but no matter, we conclude this year’s series of seminars with a cracker of a virtual celebration. So put on your festive jumper, pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple, and pull up a ‘fireside seat’ to hear talks by human-centred designer and researcher Sophie Horrocks, and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at De Montfort University Dr Meredith Wilkinson.

The design of our environment has the power to enable or disable all of us. How intuitively we’re able to navigate that environment impacts all aspects of our lives: how we live, work, and play. For people who are vision impaired, there is yet to be a fully integrated, intuitive solution that enables independent navigation and wayfinding. Many technological innovations entering this space focus heavily on technology, rather than considering the user experience and neuropsychology of how visual information can be perceived through other senses.

Sophie Horrocks shares her research into how we might alter our sensory perception by translating visual cues in the environment into a tactile-audio experience. Sophie will address key issues of how we can affordably and attainably adapt our existing environments to make them more inclusive – rather than needing to redesign our entire world. Her presentation highlights how future forecasting tools, participatory design methods, and the latest findings in neuropsychology research help us to develop inclusive navigation solutions. One such example is Horrocks’ award-winning project Sensaura which proposes a spatial audio language, communicated through wearable technology, to enable independent, hands-free navigation of indoor and outdoor spaces. The project’s engagement with wider stakeholders has shown Sensaura’s potential to transform hands-free navigation for millions of people worldwide beyond vision impaired users. Horrocks will share her design philosophy and process to stimulate conversation around how these approaches can be adopted for future innovations in the field.

Meredith Wilkinson gives first-hand insights into vision impairment and briefly discusses some of the extra challenges that those with a vision impairment face during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. She will then present some suggestions for how wayfinding designers can optimise their designs to be more accessible to vision impaired individuals.

About our speakers

Sophie Horrocks is co-founder of Sigmamu Studio which she set up with co-founder Math Whittacker, after finishing her MA/MSc in Global Innovation Design at Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. Sophie has lived and worked across Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Manchester, and London, bringing a global perspective to design challenges. Her work has gained recognition across academic and commercial platforms, including research articles published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology, exhibiting her work at international design festivals including Dutch Design Week, as well as gaining industry acclaim from design leaders such as Sir Jony Ive KBE and Professor Gerry McGovern OBE. Sophie’s work strives to use people-centred design to human improve quality of life. She believes that to achieve this though, we must recognise the value of empathy-driven design, not just evidence-based design. Her work applies this principle to the design of research, interfaces, and environments, promoting inclusion and accessibility to make a better tomorrow.

Sigmamu Studio is a recently established UK-based multidisciplinary studio working to make the world inclusive and accessible through research and design. Co-founders Sophie Horrocks and Math Whittaker bring a shared understanding of craftsmanship to a digital landscape. They are on a mission to make innovative design solutions to global societal challenges more accessible, inclusive, and ethical. Their work uses pioneering technologies to empower people to live and work more effectively and intuitively to create a better tomorrow for everyone.

Dr Meredith Wilkinson is currently a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at De Montfort University. Her current research focus is on the relationship between self-esteem and counterfactual thinking, as well as potential barriers that individuals with auditory and/or vision impairments may experience when accessing mental health services. She has recently published an article for The Conversation on the impact of COVID-19 on vision impaired individuals.

De Montfort University (Leicester) has its origins in the Leicester School of Art, established in 1870. It subsequently became Leicester College of Arts & Technology, renamed the City of Leicester Polytechnic in 1966 before becoming a university in 1992.  The university is named after Simon de Montfort a 13th-century Earl of Leicester who was credited with establishing the first Parliament of England in the 1200s. With approximately 27,000 students and over 3,200 members of staff,  the university is organised into four faculties: Art, Design, and Humanities; Business and Law; Health and Life Sciences; and Computing, Engineering and Media. The institution has a Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework and has Centre of Excellence status for its performance practice teaching and student support. In 2019, the first ever Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings, a global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, ranked De Montfort University 50th in the world. Notable alumni include: actor, Charles Dance; author Louis de Bernieres; Zimbabwean politician, Simba Makoni; and businesswoman/lingerie designer, Janet Reger.  

Register for this event

This talk is free for SDS members. For non-members, the ticket cost is £10 per person. To join our Zoom talk, please get in touch with our administrator Kate at for the event link, ID, and password.

NEW! Not a member, unable to join us for the live-streamed event but would like to watch it at a time convenient to you? We now offer the option to watch the event recording on a time-limited basis for the cost of a £10 ticket. Please email Kate at for more information.

[Note: this event will be recorded and available to paid-up SDS members via our Talks Archive within a week of taking place.]



17 Dec 2020 18:00

Price : £10.00

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