Swaythe Band at Create 4 Dementia

2nd Jun 2015

"The Confabulators” win Best Project at the Create 4 Dementia hackathon at the Great North Museum, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

This exciting event brought together designers, coders, hackers, makers and researchers to share knowledge, experience, and create new digital designs for dementia.

We formed our design team “The Confabulators” with Kellie Morrissey a researcher from University College Cork, Ireland. At the beginning of the event, Kellie spoke about her experience working with a group of adults in a care home. Kellie painted a picture of the home's music sessions which immediately captivated us; this was a time full of emotion for the residents who were connected by a shared love of music.

Saturday began with guest speakers who presented their insights on designing for dementia: (http://create4dementia.com/speakers) and we began forming our ideas together based on our new knowledge about this complex problem.

We visualised the care home through the sketch shown here, and asked how we could support and encourage residents to enjoy music together, and what can we learn about desiging digital technology for people with dementia?

The three of us worked until the early hours of Sunday morning, and in the presentations the next day we showed our new digital prototype, which we call: Swaythe Band.

One of the most profound learning from the day, was that if you have met one person with dementia, "you have met one person with dementia". Correspondingly, we designed Swaythe Band for someone from the care home who loves traditional music. We picked the song Shrimp Boats by Jo Stafford (1951) based on a video of musical performance produced with people with dementia.

Swaythe Band is designed to help participants sway to the music by illustrating the tempo of the song. It uses a different colour light on every beat. In the example we presented, it changed between green, white and gold to reflect the colours of the Irish flag.

We were encouraged to consider the aesthetics of the baton so we designed a rope textured handle, drawing inspiration from the trawling nets on the ‘shrimp boats’. This made them easy to hold, pleasing to look at and soft, should they be dropped.

We were really happy with the reception of our musical prototype and even more delighted to be awarded the Best Project at the event. We are now looking to take this idea further and explore how we can use our design to support new experiences around music.
We would take this opportunity to thank the organisers, judges and speakers for making this an enjoyable and memorable weekend.