There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, the condition comes with its individual challenges and can have a huge impact on everyday life, including within sports. For someone with autism and their family, going to watch their favourite football team can be overwhelming and stressful. The noise, sights and smells of a stadium, as well as the uncertainty of what to expect, can cause sensory overload.
As a graphic designer, there is an opportunity to make a difference to life through design, which I use as the driving force for my work. Based in Ayrshire, I am a designer who has recently graduated from Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, where predominately I like to work within the print sector although I am open to projects that are more digital. As such, being both a designer and a football fan, I used my honour’s year studies as an opportunity to look into how design can play a part in helping those with sensory issues get more out of football.
From being a football fan, I was aware of sensory rooms that are becoming more present at clubs across the world and coupled with sensory packs that can be used at live games made me question whether there was anything in place to help those at home. The positive reviews of the sensory rooms and packs highlight how well these items can work in helping those with autism, and was originally where I started my project. At the beginning, my initial plans were based on creating a box that could be sent out to younger football fans with autism to use at home when watching the game and start to introduce the matchday experience
As part of my research, I looked into other similar boxes that feature a health issue and discovered boxes that focussed on helping those with dementia and mental health. This then highlighted how I could go about altering them to suit the football and autism side of my idea. The next stage was then to look into specific items that could be included in the box and would be of benefit to the cause. At this stage I looked into breaking down the live match experience to find out what areas could cause issues and then looking into how this could be overcome.
As a result, within the box, there are toys to use if the occasion is getting too much. Or to introduce the stadium atmosphere, the smell and sight pots along with the spotify playlist will help create your own version where you control exactly what you hear, smell or see. There is also contents that can be personalised to again create your truly unique experience that you are comfortable with. The tools are there to build up the live football experience at a level the user is comfortable until one day they can attend the real thing.
Although this was just a concept for a possible box, the work and research I completed lead me to believe that this has the potential to actually make a difference in the real world. It also has the potential to work across sports, with tweaks to suit sports like basketball, rugby or golf for example. Hence why I decided on the name “From the Stands”, which highlights the idea of being in the stands to watch the game and its openness to cover a variety of sports if the concept was live.
To view more of this project and how it would look, check it out here: https://craigeccles.myportfolio.com/from-the-stands-a-sensory-football-experience-box
Instagram – @craigecclesdesign
Website – www.craigeccles.myportfolio.com
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig’s design was chosen as one of Design Week’s favourite graduate projects you can read more here – https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/3-9-august-2020/design-week-favourite-graduate-projects-2/