Several years ago at a Courage Center awards dinner, Michael Graves, renowned architect and designer of hip Target house wares, rolled to the stage in his wheelchair, looked upon the crowd and declared.
“Welcome to the new normal.”
If you make it to 65 – and more people than ever will - there’s a nearly 70% chance you’ll live with a disability. In 2003, Michael Graves’ legs were paralyzed by a virus. He discovered many items available to help people live in their own home – such as a shower bench or tub rail – not only lack functionality, but are downright ugly.
Why can’t elegant, functional, cool design be brought to products that empower people?
Michael Graves knows it can.
His new Active Living Collection for Drive Medical eliminates the word “institutional,” including such offerings as an innovative folding cane in a bag, where you can carry your car keys, iPod, or other accessories; bath aids such as a bench marked by vibrant colors and built-in holders for hand-held shower heads, stock sponges and other accessories that make accessibility easier.
Designed to Work for the Whole Family
Graves’ sought to design products that work for the “whole family.” One person may be using it, but all have to live with it.
“It need not look like ‘medical equipment’ – it can look like a product that one would find in an upscale spa,” said Graves. That being said, the product must perform flawlessly and be competitively priced or what is the point?”
Prices are competitive with other top-line products in this category, ranging from about $30 for a backless bath seat to around $85 for one height adjustable tub rail with soft cover.
Opportunity for Target and Other Retailers
Currently these products are largely available online at sites such as allegromedical.com and costco.com, but they're not available at Twin Cities-based Target. One can see however, how Graves’ new Active Living Collection could fit into Target’s and other retail stores’ offerings. As people live in their homes with physical challenges, these products are as important to everyday living as food and clothing, opening the door to a number of cross-selling opportunities.
Graves says customer feedback to his designs is very positive. The products’ functionality is essential, but he adds “customers always conclude their comments with ‘and [they] look great, too.’ ”
Transforming Furniture Design for Stryker Medical
Graves also is partnering with Stryker Medical to create a suite of hospital room furniture that he believes transforms the patient and caregiver experience. Again, he designs from first-person perspective:
“When I spent two years in and out of eight different hospitals and three different re-hab facilities, I knew healthcare design should be our next focus,” said Graves.
"In addition to the general ugliness all around, I struggled with the furniture, the layouts of the rooms, poorly designed bathrooms, inaccessible fixtures, impossible to reach light switches - the list goes on and on - many designed by so-called healthcare design ‘experts,” said Graves.
"I vowed to change that. Luckily, we made a great partnership with Stryker Medical and we're on our way to transforming the patient room experience. In addition, we're working with a visionary developer on re-inventing ambulatory care from the building to each piece of equipment, technology and furniture that goes into it.”
Michael Graves has much more to come in a changing world.