The Vicenza, Italy-based hardware producer pba has been promoting both inclusivity and sustainability in tandem through its design work since their inception in 1973, with that commitment evolving into their DFA Design For All international registered trademark. All pba products don this esteemed label, which represents they’re the same for all people, yet meet diverse needs. This rich history paved the way for the formation of the dream team that created their recently released TOCCO collection of levers and pulls.
With an eye for those leading the charge in universal design principles, pba partnered with London-based RainlightSTUDIO and HOK’s Kay Sargent as Cognitive and Sensory Wellbeing Design Consultant for this new line. Sargent has been a pioneer in educating designers and business owners on how to create environments tailored to the neurodiverse workforce. Her research was used as a foundation to develop TOCCO (which stands for Tactile, Only Regenerated Nylon, Colorful, Cognitive Wellbeing, One-World.)
“One of our first ideas was to use a non-metallic handle,” explained Yorgo Lykouria, founder and creative principal of RainlightSTUDIO, to avoid the shock of the sometimes cold, hard, unforgiving element. The group decided that ECONYL from Aquafil would be the perfect overlay for stainless steel, as a 100% recycled nylon made from old fishing nets, carpets and other wastes. The haptic quality of ECONYL allowed them to provide a secure grip and cater to both sensory seekers (those who take comfort in various textures) and avoiders (those who shy away from them), with a model that is smooth (yet slightly matted) and the other that is faceted.
“As you age, your sense of touch can also change and sensitivity to it can be different in women versus men,” explained Sargent, so the need for the line to be easily adjustable was crucial. And seeing as hardware is “agnostic,” the team used color to help direct users who might not be able to read or understand a specific language. For example, red can indicate a hazard, or specific colors can be used for different bathroom types. “There are ways that this can communicate on multiple levels to multiple different user groups,” she said.
As TOCCO was under development, the team made sure of that by taking great care to gather input from not just the design industry, but also the neurodiverse community on the various models and prototypes they were testing. They are also currently working with the University of Venice’s department of psychological architecture to investigate how the tactile quality of an object can communicate inclusivity, and help evaluate their final product choices to see what can be added in the future. Research results should be ready within the next six months, reports pba CEO Erica Anesi.
Because, “The TOCCO collection isn’t a ‘final goal,’” she said. Stayed tuned to see how it continues to evolve, but for now, choices are as follows:
2 grips (smooth and faceted)
1 coverage material (ECONYL), with endless color options
3 shapes of levers
3 shapes of pulls (two sizes each)
2 types of stainless steel (bright and satin)
5 powder coat options