Inclusive tool for disability

Glifo is a lightweight, customizable and tailor-made writing tool realized thanks to 3D printing technology. It allows people who suffer from cerebral and physical disorders to write and draw freely, without the help of parents and therapists. Is has been designed so that it doesn’t stimulate the inner part of the hand, not affecting the progress of physiotherapy sessions.

A co-design process since the beginning

Glifo, born as a university project under the guidance of Enrico Bassi, co-founder of Opendot Fablab, has been designed in collaboration of Opendot and TOG Foundation. Opendot is a Fablab in Milan, a place where people work together learning how to use technology to build their ideas. TOG is a foundation that through years has been taking care of hundreds of kids with disabilities giving assistance to them and their families thanks to a rich group of experts and caregivers.

Glifo is part of UNICO – The Other Design, a platform of products-services created by Opendot and TOG Foundation, that gathers a collection of objects co-designed by makers, designers, therapists, kids with disabilities and their families. The goal of the project is to make life easier to who has special needs, through products designed in a careful and specific manner. 

Research & development

The TOG Foundation had immediately found a limit in the functionality of the tutors on the market designed to help people with disabilities in design and writing. The main problem lies in the fact that most of these stimulate a stiffening of the muscles of the hand that progressively extends to the rest of the arm, counteracting the daily effects of therapy. 

During the first phase, we tried to figure out which could have been the best way to accomplish the requirements we set and how to avoid constraints or make them guidelines. Rounded shapes were essential not to cause kids involuntary hurt themselves while using the product. On the second hand the eye contact was a fundamental goal to achieve in order to make the physiotherapy sessions more effective.

All the development process was done by editing the main ideas and comparing them with the requirements. As soon as we progressed we have left behind many designs, and we tested out many others with kids and their therapists. With the passage of time, we assumed that the final design should have looked simple, playful and easy to wear.

Glifo 1.0

The very first version of Glifo was made of 3 components: the handgrip, which originally included a TPU inner ring; the stick, which helps the pencil to be straight and secure; a tiny handle, that allows to tighten or loosen the pencil against the stick according to its diameter. The handle detail was designed taking inspiration from animals, flowers and other images easily recognizable by kids. The device lets kids choosing their favourite tool and then leaving a trace on a piece of paper freely, without any support from their parents or therapists.

As part of the Opendot crew, we had the chance to exhibit Glifo during the 2016 Rome Maker Faire at stand B1 inside the Sanofi Genzyme pavilion. That was an important step for us because we met many interested people, some with disabilities, and talked about the project, getting feedback and suggestions for further improvements.

We also took part in an on open contest, posted on MyMiniFactory platform which required the submission of inclusive tool for disability able to solve a daily problem. We won the first prize and the platform, in collaboration with Barclays Eagle Labs and Ultimaker, sent us as a prize a brand new Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer. With this machine, we began the redesign process and beta testing of the new version of the product.

Glifo 2.0 & beta testing

Approximately 3 months later, after a summer spent redesigning the product, we came up with the latest (and actual) version of Glifo. We fixed some issues like the handle, that required us to glue a screw on it and a bolt-on the handgrip. We also reconsidered the stick functionalities, making it easier to adjust the height according to the tool dimensions. And to conclude we also conceived a new shape for the handgrip, adding a tiny “Ω shaped” housing for pen and pencil which was flexible enough to embrace different diameters.

As soon as we published Glifo online for the first time we had a huge wave of appreciation and interest towards this innovation. Many people started wondering if the product was available but we weren’t ready at that time for a production line. When we launched the second product we immediately reached out all those who were interested in the product and started with them a beta testing process to get as much feedback as we could, sending them the Glifo in preview.

For this purpose we had to imagine a branding identity of the product, a packaging, produce certification and set up a delivery plan to ensure each one (also very far customers) could receive their piece.

After the redesign, Glifo received some important awards. The first one was a national prize called PNA which is awarded once a year to a deserving university.The second prize was awarded by Talent Garden Torino in the Up 4 School contest, which awarded projects that brought innovation to the school environment.

During the Milan Design Week 2018 we also participated together with Opendot at the XXI Triennale, exhibiting the project in the Micro Factory space of the exhibition “999 questions on contemporary living” designed by Stefano Mirti. During this occasion we designed a large coloring book in collaboration with two illustrators, Fonzy Nils and Silvia Mauri, who have created for us special illustrations for this event.

During the Milan Design Week 2018, we also collaborated with the Franco Albini Foundation, the historic Milanese archive and design studio. Together with them we structured and held two creative workshops to make children reflect on the meaning of inclusion and we encouraged them to imagine solutions for children like themselves, who are however marginalized because of religion, nationality or psycho-physical conditions. Glifo, from a rehabilitation tool, has become a case study to explain to the new generation the value of attention for others, beyond any difference.

Project infos

Year: February 2016 – April 2018
Project duration: 4 months
Client: TOG

Partners: Opendot, UNICO
Collaborators: Sara Monacchi, Andrea Pelino
Contributors: Fonzy Nils, Silvia Mauri, Fondazione Franco Albini
Awards: Enabled by 3D 2016 (1st place), Piano Nazionale delle Arti 2017 (1st place), Up 4 School 2017 (2nd place), New York Design Award 2018 (Gold prize)
Exhibitions: XXI Triennale 2018, MUSE (Trento), PNA (Faenza), Milano Design Week 2018
My role: entire project management