Empathy In Design: Michael Graves’ Personal Journey Inspires Our Commitment To Delight for All

In the world of design, Michael Graves Design stands out through our focus on purpose and personality in the products we design, and for our deep commitment to inclusivity, driven by personal experiences that have shaped our mission. At the heart of this mission is a dedication to designing products that enhance aging and home healthcare experiences. Our mission stems from Michael Graves' own health challenges that made him a paraplegic for the last twelve years of his life. Inspired by his experiences and advocacy, Michael Graves Design strives to empower individuals with disabilities, and an aging American population that will not be defined by their age, by fostering independence through products that balance utility and aspiration; safety with style.

Michael Graves' personal healthcare journey played a pivotal role in shaping our brand's focus on inclusive design. A world-renowned product designer and architect, in 2003, at the age of 68, Michael Graves developed transverse myelitis as a result of a sinus infection run amok, that lead to paralysis from the chest down. This transformative experience not only highlighted the gaps in the healthcare system, but also ignited a personal commitment for Michael, as well as all of us at Michael Graves Design, to focus on individuals with disabilities in creating more thoughtful designs.

After paralysis, Michael Graves maintained his design faculties: the ability to be curious about the world, observing challenges, thinking through solutions, and utilizing drawing to sketch through them. He also inspired his design partners to understand the obstacles of navigating the world with disability, including weeklong empathy developing exercises like working in a wheelchair and continuously using a cane. 

For the last two decades, Michael Graves Design has created products that seamlessly integrate into people’s lives and home environments, promoting independence and improving overall quality of life. The brand's designs reflect an empathetic approach, inspired by our understanding that in order to extract the utility of a product, people must connect with it on an emotional and an intellectual level. While a cane, shower chair or raised toilet seat may be a product one needs, a Michael Graves Design cane, shower chair or raised toilet seat allows people to live well, because people relate to them and want them in their lives. This is our standard for a great product outcome.

As America’s population ages, needs are evolving, while taste and style remains fully intact.  This creates an urgent need for innovative and inclusive solutions for the home and healthcare environments. Michael Graves Design recognizes this demographic shift and designs products that cater to the evolving needs that naturally emerge from an older generation. From age-friendly details of everyday products to home healthcare products that enhance accessibility, the brand's creations contribute to an environment where aging individuals can age on their own terms while maintaining their autonomy and self-identity. 

Our commitment extends beyond mere functionality – it encompasses a holistic understanding of the emotional and psychological aspects of aging and living with disabilities. By collaborating with individuals who have diverse life experiences, Michael Graves Design ensures that its products resonate with the diverse needs of its user base, reflect their personal styles, and  exceed their expectations. This collaborative approach results in designs that not only serve practical purposes but also bring joy, dignity, and a sense of pride to users.

Being the biggest brand driving this message today, we are determined that a “rising tide lifts all ships.” In the early aughts, we pioneered the democratization of design with Target, proving that design can enhance value to both businesses and their customers without having to be expensive. Today, great design is everywhere, at every price point, and consumers simply expect it. We know inclusive design will become the cost of entry competitive norm in the near future, and we won’t rest until universally and adaptively designed products that enhance people’s lives, and connect with people emotionally, is as expected as the well-designed housewares we see today. 

Michael Graves Design's dedication to inclusive design is a fusion of personal empathy with good business strategy driven by consumer expectations and changing demographics in America. Inspired by Michael Graves' own health challenges, the brand's designs go beyond aesthetics, aiming to empower individuals with disabilities and support the aging population in leading fulfilling lives. In a world where design is a bridge to understanding, Michael Graves Design stands as a testament to the transformative power of empathy in shaping not just spaces, but lives.