Design can play the vital role of making healthcare more efficient, human-centred and a pleasant experience overall by providing new perspectives and opportunities. We see examples of technologies that aim to change behaviour to improve health, for example, the Fitbit and Misfit Shine solutions to track activity or smartphone applications to monitor food intake. However, when people grow older such preventive strategies might not suffice and we need to look at design to enable and empower them at that moment. This is exactly were I position my work as you might have seen in the portfolio examples.
In this area of design for older adults there are many stakeholders at play, for example, care providers, family, ICT companies, municipalities, insurance companies, community services and many more. These stakeholders all have their personal ambitions and goals, whereas when these parties would collaborate great things can be developed that would both increase the quality of life for these people and create revenue.
My goal is to design to enable elderly to live with a high quality of life in this complex network of stakeholders. Most examples of my work are conducted in the european project Innovate Dementia and focus therefore on people living with dementia. This is challenging as cognitive impairment is difficult to design for.
I’m educated in Industrial Design (TU/e) in this department I learned how to combine the competences of user-focus, technology and business to design products, systems and services to address societal challenges. As technology keeps advancing at a staggering pace, the user needs to plays a critical and eminent role in these development processes. Over the course of my research I aim to understand how we can design proposals in such a way that impaired users can use and benefit from them. Design than becomes more than just creating new things; we use design to meaningfully address societal challenges.
Traditional innovation processes can take several years; however, the world is moving much faster. Therefore, we take a more pragmatic approach in design. In these design process we aim to quickly evaluate how creations match needs and fulfil new opportunities. We do this on a trial and error bases by creating prototypes that can be experienced by users. Thus this design is highly iterative and thus faster, or as IDEO’s ex-CEO Tom Kelley puts it, designers should “Fail often so you can succeed sooner” (Kelley, 2007).
Because we design for a difficult to understand target group in this project we cannot predict how our design solutions will operate in practice. This is why we need to experimentally put our prototypes in the field. The newly developed method of experiential design landscapes proposes such an approach in research. By developing ‘Experiential Probes’ we can evaluate our design proposals in a realistic context while maintain both a high level of control and a high ecological validity.
In the context of dementia we see a resemblance between designing for people in the field and the emerging trend of Person-Centred Care (Clarke et al., 2003). In both we should aim to understand the first-person perspective and make it possible for this perspective to inspire our design and care decisions.