Research project

Hands of X

‘Hands of X’ by Andrew Cook, investigates prosthetic hands, identity, fashion, and ownership.

On this page
a row of hands
Status

Completed

Start date

June 2016

Completion date

February 2020

‘Hands of X’ (Pullin and Cook 2016-2020) investigates prosthetic hands, identity, fashion, and ownership.

Cook co-conceived this research, and led the design and manufacture of the research tools, prototypes, services and exhibitions. Hands of X deviates radically from current practice in prosthetics design and research, where consideration of aesthetics is generally impoverished, or even absent, by arguing a prosthesis can be viewed as an accessory to be worn as much as used, seeking to explore how aesthetic choice can impact a wearer’s relationship to their prosthesis.

Challenging conventional prosthetics research, the project was driven by co-design methods, using workshops and exhibitions involving prosthesis wearers, designers, prosthetists and materials experts. Whilst designing and making prototypes was an important mode of enquiry, the prototypes were themselves fundamentally research tools intended to engender insight from co-designers.

The project culminated with two service prototypes where participants explored and prototyped a bespoke hand from a nuanced collection of materials. Wearers could specify a hand that felt ‘theirs’; materials that were obviously artificial, yet familiar from the language of everyday objects. Around 40 people tested the service, discussing their relationship with prosthetics, materials, disability, and fashion.

The insights, captured and disseminated in two documentary films, were often profound, and unexpected, with wide implications for design for disability.

The project won the University of Dundee Stephen Fry Award for Public Engagement Project of the Year (2018) and was highly commended in The Herald’s Higher Education Awards Research Project of the Year (2018). Cook co-curated and designed a touring exhibition of the project at Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian, NYC (2018), V&A Dundee (2019) and

V&A London (2020) with an estimated 140,000 visitors, 7,500 completed co-design exercises, which continue to inform ongoing research. The team have published on the project internationally, in both the design and prosthetics press.

People

Project lead(s)

Dr Andrew Cook