This Agency Designed Hard-to-Use Objects to Foster Empathy for the Disabled

An uncomfortable path to understanding

In this PSA from Brazil, the chairs are twisted, the glasses and cups guaranteed to cause spills, and the knives look like tools from an auto-body shop. 

They don't function as they should, if at all, and their use creates significant consternation. 

Such "Empathy Objects" were deployed in São Paulo bistros by ad shop Z+ as part of an effort to raise funds for the AACD, an association that helps people with disabilities, and to demonstrate how some people struggle with everyday activities the rest of us take for granted. 

Diners were initially confused and frustrated. After grappling with the strange situation for a while, they received this message: "Your world is not like that. Theirs doesn't have to be either. Help AACD to keep helping. Donate." (The organization's workshops manufacture 55,000 orthopedic products each year to help people with disabilities overcome daily challenges and lead happier lives.) 
The designs were inspired by The Uncomfortable, a collection of "deliberately inconvenient objects" from Athens-based architect Katerina Kamprani. 

If the stunt feels familiar, that's because it's similar to WhiteGrey's "This Bike Has MS" from 2015. Created for an Australian non-profit, it featured a standard-looking bicycle that functioned in wonky, unpredictable, maddening ways, mimicking the effects of multiple sclerosis. 

Was Z+ inspired by that campaign? "Not at all," says Z+ creative chief Alexandre Vilela. "We actually were not aware of this work." 

"Before the experiment, we tried to anticipate the reactions," Vilela says. "We were wondering if people would be mad at the waiter—that was the concern for some of the owners of one the restaurants—or be amused, or annoyed or whatever. No one got mad, but in a way, we can say everyone was intrigued by the weird shapes and unusability of the objects. And after one of the AACD's patients brought a leaflet revealing they were taking part in an experiment, they got really touched. It was like wearing the patient's shoes, even if for a brief moment." 

The film appears on AACD's YouTube channel and social feeds. There's no paid media budget, so Z+ is working hard to place stories on local news outlets. 

"When we do something like that, it's not about the 20 or so people you do the experiment with, it's about the story you share," Vilela says.


Agency: Z+ 
Chief Creative Officer/ Creative Director: Alexandre Vilela (Xã)
Creative Directors: Alexandre Vilela (Xã), Celio Salles, Tarso Soares and Rico Lins
Content Manager: Vanessa Rodrigues
Art Directors: Alexandre Lage (Boca) and Rodrigo Seixas
Writer: Gustavo Zotini
Project Head: Rafael Coelho
Project Managers: Danilo Ferreira and Alexandre Negrão
Production Director: Diego Melo
Senior Producer: Caroline Reis
Producer: Jessica Ramos
Editor / Motion Designer: Francisco Filho and Rafael Rangel
Graphics: Carlos Vieira
3D Illustration: Theodoro Zanotto
3D Illustration / Post-production: Fujocka Creative Images
Customer Service: Roberta Sanches and Adriana Aprigliano
Directors: Lucas and José (Cinza – Trio Full Service)
Executive Producers: Marina Bortoluzo and Lola Santos (Trio Full Service)
CCO Trio Full Service: Luciano Mathias
Audio Producers: Fernando Canedo and Rafael Gomes (Trio Full Service)
Object Designer: Katerina Kamprani
Knife Production: Renato Hollanda Cavalcanti, Tatiana Machnicki and Michelle Rodrigues (Ateliê Miniart)
Knife Finishing: Geison Genga (Ateliê Miniart)
Mug Production: Roger Mutua (Ateliê Miniart)
Mug Painting: Ricardo Muniz (Ateliê Miniart)
Chair Production: Marcelinho Fernandes (Ateliê Miniart)
Glass Production: Elvira Schuartz (Ateliê Espaço Zero)
Color Grading: Marcio Pasqualino (PsychoN'Look)

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is managing editor at Clio Awards.

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