Enabled by Design-a-thon

The Enabled by design-a-thon was a two day event to prototype new products that are more accessible, attractive and easier to use.


The team started by building empathy for people with poor hearing. We did this by undertaking a number of every day tasks, like ordering a coffee, whilst wearing ear plugs.

Concept generation

We then developed a number of ideas for products and services which help improve the lives of people with poor hearing. Some examples were:

  • A smart lightbulb which changes colour in response to a fire alarm.
  • An alternative to induction loop systems, which uses smart phones and GPS.
  • Novel ways to customise hearing aids to an individual’s tastes.


We decided to explore ways to customise hearing aids, given the time constraints we had. The major pain points which Alison identified with current hearing aids were:

  • After you choose a colour of hearing aid, you are stuck with it for a long time. When the NHS takes it back, they might not be able to find another user who likes that colour, which can result in waste.
  • People have personality, and want to customise technology, in the same way they buy cases for their iPhones.
  • It would be nice to customise your look for different occasions.
  • We wanted hearing aids to be like glasses – people wear glasses even if they have no medical need for them, just because they look cool. If we could create a new design of fashionable ear piece, we might be able to do the same for hearing aids.


We decided to explore as many different alternatives as possible, using foam, cardboard and Sugru to quickly evaluate designs. For pictures see below.


This is one of Alison’s hearing aids:

Hearing aid

We started prototyping ways of attaching new designs to the hearing aid:

Adapter prototype

This prototype slips over the top of the hearing aid:

Attaching demo

Here the new design is clipped onto the hearing aid:


Here is the new design being worn:

Design being worn

One of our main inspirations was Iris van Herpen’s 3D printed dresses. Since the adapter clip would most likely be 3D printed, we were thinking about how we could exploit 3D printing to create a stunning design.

Iris van Herpen 3D printed dress

Here are some concept drawings which Dilukshi created.

Concept drawings

We began making lots of prototypes…

Gold prototype

One idea was to create a range of fashionable skins for hearing aids.

Patterned prototype

Here’s a selection of the prototypes we created.

Range of prototypes

One of the more radical prototypes :)

Red prototype

Here’s the team from day 2. From the left: Yuki, Dan, Sam, Dilukshi, and Alison.

Team photo