Introducing Rama Gheerawo, V&A Innovate Judge 2021 – 22

Learning & National Programmes
December 14, 2021
© Lars Brønseth

We’re delighted to announce that Rama Gheerawo will be a judge for our V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge 2021 – 22.  

Rama Gheerawo is Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, and is an RCA Reader in Inclusive Design. 

Rama is an international figure within design – in 2019 he  won a  Design Week ‘Hall of Fame’ award, and in 2018 was named a Creative Leader by Creative Review. He addresses diversity through age, ability, gender and race, and is a serial innovator in the fields of inclusive design and design thinking – having led over 100 international projects with government and clients such as Samsung, Toyota and Panasonic. He also runs highly acclaimed workshops in creative leadership.  

We are incredibly excited for him to bring his wide-ranging experience and expertise in inclusive design to the judging panel this year. 

We spoke to Rama about being on the panel, and the importance of design to him:  

What are you most looking forward to as a V&A Innovate judge, and why? 

I grew up in London and the V&A was a firm fixture in my life, providing cultural and creative inspiration as I stepped towards adulthood.  The V&A Innovate programme promises to continue in that personal vein for me, with a range of inspired and inspiring ideas being presented. It is an honour to sit on the panel and I look forward to having my perspectives expanded, my mind nourished and my creativity enabled. It is always life-affirming to see the brilliance of other people, and the awards will be a great chance to see new ideas from new people and soak myself in creativity and innovation. 

What do this year’s themes of Renew, Connect and Move mean to you? 

In a word …. ‘empathy’. Empathy is at the heart of sustainable renewal, meaningful connection and moving in a way that is enabling and equitable. Renew, Connect and Move are possibly three primary activities we have been missing in the last two years, and empathy will ensure that we activate them in a powerful and meaningful way – and that no one is left behind or excluded by our creative visions and endeavours. 

Why is design important to you? 

Design can make every conversation better. Yet it is often ignored, or seen as a last resort when dealing with some of the strategic and structural issues that we are looking at. Most of the world around us has been through a design decision, whether good or bad, enabling or disabling. So design carries a potency and importance that can support us personally, socially, economically, and environmentally.  

What invention / innovation could you not live without? 

Inclusive design. This is the design that we practice. It looks at including people across age, ability, gender and race. This is a baseline for inclusive consideration. There are many other qualifiers around it. But inclusive design is something I love. I am entirely passionate about it, and it is a major part of my life. Projects that deal with inclusivity always make my heart soar and sing. 

Can you share any top tips for students taking part in V&A Innovate this year? 

Do not be afraid of showing a little of yourself and a lot of passion in your work. This will come through – and how – you present, what do you design, and how much you believe in it. Make sure that your work is bigger than yourself. Hero the project, and the rest will follow. Ensure that what you are doing is meaningful for you, is enabling for people and beneficial is for the planet. 


© Lars Brønseth

Could your students’ inclusive design ideas amaze Rama? Register to take part here and enter your students’ ideas by 7 January 2022.  

Hear more from Rama about his Inclusive Design approaches with our Innovate talk:

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V&A Innovate is the V&A’s annual National Schools Challenge offering students in years 7, 8 and 9 the opportunity to design a solution to a real-world problem inspired by the V&A’s collections. 

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