Todd Wilkinson found inspiration for his graduate creative work project in the Wounded Warrior Home Project, and in Richard Louv’s book The Nature Principle. He sought to facilitate outdoor activities, which according to Louv can restore a sense of health and tranquility, for manual wheelchair users such as returning veterans.
By investigating this problem and working directly with wheelchair users, Wilkinson found that existing wheelchair backpacks had a number of flaws, particularly for outdoor use. He decided to redesign the wheelchair backpack to accommodate the unique needs of users, paying attention to accessibility, security, and aesthetics.
Wilkinson’s research led to fruitful collaborations with the Whirlwind Wheelchair Program; with individual wheelchair users; and with local softgoods designers, among others. Throughout, he sought a solution that would facilitate outdoor recreation while still delivering a practical wheelchair bag with contemporary styling.
Faculty advisor Hsiao-Yun Chu said, “Many designers give lip service to user research. Todd really immersed himself in this work, spending countless hours interviewing and co-designing with the user group to develop a solution that both took into account their unique needs, and was feasible to manufacture. This is the gold standard for product design.”