Personas and Problem Generation Part 1

By Aaron Heskes

Design is not a linear process. Rather, research, need-finding and incremental product development (via prototyping) all move cyclically to identify a set of problems. These activities all go hand in hand in closing in on solutions as design teams repeat these

As we look at the best starting place for the design process, I think it’s important to emphasize that all these processes are repeated several times in the iteration of a design thesis and later of a product.

Since people are always at the center of the problems we’re designing for, it’s best to start by understanding those individuals. A good understanding of who someone is can come through several different lenses, depending on which attributes and behaviors are relevant to the need or task.

For instance, the initial goal might be to make living with type 1 diabetes easier for teenagers. Although it’s a broad goal to start with, it allows the potential solution to take any form. This means that the solution will not be predetermined. If a team were looking specifically into insulin delivery, they might come up with a more specific goal, such as…

“to make the best insulin pen.”

Although this seems like a perfectly fine goal, we can improve it by making the parameters more specific and the scope broader. So, a better goal might be…

”to make the most intuitive insulin delivery system.”

This way, the method of insulin delivery is left open, while the goal of making that system easy for first time users to understand is very specific.

Although we’re labeling personas as a good starting point for the design process through understanding the users, the finished personas in themselves are the result of measurable research and time.

For many first-year undergraduate projects in the studio, Proto-personas suffice as decent guides for the direction of the project. Proto personas are based on secondary research from other people’s conclusions. They offer valid, though general, information on a demographic. Some studies may offer good information, but relying on these sources to develop users and use cases will never bring anything new to the table.

As we’ve begun to discuss how design relies on an understanding of the user’s habits and needs, it’s important to note that marketing teams also make use of these tools to determine the types of customers they are speaking to, and the message they want to send with their product.

What separates a marketing perspective and a design perspective is that a marketing team works backwards. They have a product that they’re trying to sell to a chosen audience. In a way they define the audience, not the product. Marketers may care about demographic information, buying motivations and customer behavior, but it’s not within their depth to care why a customer makes certain decisions.

By contrast, an understanding of these motivations is particularly the insight needed to develop a product thesis. Design personas do not necessarily separate people by age or social views, but rather by ability, means and any other factors that would cause them to have different priorities.

This begins to answer our main question: Where does this solution fit into the user’s life?

 

So, we know that understanding our user’s behavior and needs is the best way to design a relevant solution, but you’re probably wondering what the best way to collect primary information is to build those personas? That’s coming up next time as we delve into the gritty task of writing, administering and analyzing surveys!

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Designing for Task Completion

By Aaron Heskes

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I want this phonograph, and I don’t even own any records. The Braun Phonosuper sk4 is a product of German postwar “geometric formalism.” Geometric formalism describes the school of design that governed the aesthetic and interfaces of Braun’s products for years under Dieter Rams’ direction. The straightforward layout of the controls and simple form language serve to bolster manufacturability and visual legibility.

A product’s visual and tactile details should tell a story about its use.

Rams’ phonograph looks simple, but his adherence to geometric simplicity and minimalism allows him to control what the product tells people about itself. Its simple and boxy structure might not speak to the music it produces, but rather to the environment it lives in. Consciously or not, everyone approaches a new gadget or appliance with the following questions. They might try to answer these questions mentally before trying it out, or as they go through the process of figuring it out.

What is your function?

What do each of your controls do?

In what order to I need to operate your controls to make you work?

Should I be gentle or particular with how I operate these controls?

We can look at a dinner party place setting the same way.... There are six utensils and four glasses to arrange for the diner. The order of these items on the table corresponds to the sequence of the courses, so that the diner only needs to take the outer most desired utensil during each course. Similarly, the champagne flute is the farthest to the right because it would be used for a toast at the beginning of the meal, and then cleared. Without this system, diners would not be able to use the proper silverware, making extra work for the help.

Within the world of electronic and mechanical products though, there is much more potential to make understanding from a two-way conversation. The designers can introduce details that give the user active feedback, such as an illuminating ON button when the button is depressed.

Passive feedback plays an equal or greater part, especially in a product that is as hands on as a phonograph or radio. Visually, the purposeful and minimal approach affords big opportunities to grab the user’s attention. Naturally, there may be a sparing use of color or visual mystique aside from the start point or end point of the interface.

Coming back to the place setting example, the same logic used there dictates how designers lead a user through any experience. The bright red button draws the eye in immediately. From there, even just by feel, the hand moves to the largest knobs. It doesn’t matter which the user chooses first (volume or tuning), because their functions become self-evident by simply adjusting them. The feel of the knobs punctuates this information, as the volume knob is smooth and linear, whereas the tuner is precise and notched.

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Plastic Straws and Product Lifecycles

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Plastic Straws and Product Lifecycles

By Aaron Heskes

Welcome to the design blog!

Here, we don't just talk about our world of consumer products and services, but also the thinking behind them. 

Every artifact has a specific purpose, and the initial presentation and packaging of it is usually essential to understanding how to use it properly. Unfortunately, it's often the simplest objects whose proper uses are neglected because people assume they already know how to use them.

Last week I was doing something I do a lot at my day job and this thought stopped me in my tracks. I was preparing a coke (actually it’s a pepsi, but no one would order it if they called it that). I don't have much to say about soda since I'm in no position to judge a sweet tooth, but I caught myself committing a minor hygiene violation.

I’m talking about straws here... plastic drinking straws with tidy paper wrappers to keep them clean.

These fancy straws are great for individual use because the crisp white packaging tells the end user, the soda drinker, where that straw has been. Its condition ensures that they’re the first one handling the straw.

This all falls apart in a restaurant setting.

I had to stop and think as I was preparing this “coke” because I realized that by tearing off most of the wrapping and leaving just an inch of sanitary wrap on the tip of the straw, I was defeating the purpose of the wrapper. Since tearing off most of the wrapper before serving it to a customer seems objectively illogical, I think an explanation is in order.

Restaurant staff do everything they can to make the patrons believe that they’re special and that the food/service/serving-ware is sanitary. While this is largely already true, sometimes working to uphold a perception of these values works against the end goals.

The paper wrapper communicates cleanliness so well that leaving a bit of it on the tip elevates the perception of cleanliness in the entire restaurant. This detail tells the patron that the server has considered their health.

Unfortunately, tearing off the wrapper forces the server to handle the straw more than if he had used an unwrapped straw.

All products have an intended life cycle, but few are interpreted properly at every step of the way. It’s important to understand whether or why people may misuse something as simple as a paper wrapper to design a complete process that actually accomplishes what it sets out to do instead of encouraging the problem.

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The Beauty of Knowing - Richard Feynman's throughts about science, art, and the beauty of a flower

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The Beauty of Knowing - Richard Feynman's throughts about science, art, and the beauty of a flower

By Gerry Hefferman

We at Design+Health are firm believers that different disciplines have a tremendous amount to add to one another. While many people share this philosophy, few have articulated the ways in which a deep understanding leads to a more profound appreciation of the beauty of the natural world than Richard Feynman in his 1981 BBC interview, 'The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.' The video above, by Frasier Davidson, animates one of Feynman's most thoughtful observations concerning science, aesthetics, and the beauty of knowing.

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Soundscapes in the Hospital

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Soundscapes in the Hospital

By Pranav Reddy

 

“All research into hearing seems to home in on two basic facts: 1) if a channel of information is available, it will get used by living things and 2)sound is everywhere there is life (and other places).” -Seth Horowitz

On September 25, 2013 we held our first Design and Health workshop. Led by Shawn Greenlee, a RISD Professor of Foundation Studies, we started a conversation that would encompass a broad spectrum of issues at the intersection of the often-disparate worlds of healthcare and design.

During this first workshop, we absorbed the “soundscape” in the hospital, adding sounds to recreate the atmosphere. Discussing the role that sound plays in patient and provider experiences, we unexpectedly delved into a ubiquitous yet often unrecognized factor.

Out of this initial exploration, a research study led by emergency physician Dr. Leo Kobayashi MD, Dr. Jay Baruch and Tony Zhang MD, MS along with Markus Berger, Professor of Interior Architecture at RISD was born.

Sound has been showcased to affect patient’s well being, and even more so in high-stress, error-prone medical environments. The focus of this study is on areas of transfer-of-care (“sign-out”) in the ED, where there is often sound leakage. Although patient privacy and confidentiality are held as cornerstones of medical practice, in reality studies show that 36%-45% of patients overhear provider conversations.

What does the sound landscape look like in the emergency department, especially near transfer of care areas? How much confidential information can be overheard?

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Design + Health @ Better World x Design

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Design + Health @ Better World x Design

By Elio Icaza

Design + Health will be participating at A Better World x Design conference held on the Brown and RISD campuses this weekend through to Sunday, September 21.  You can find us at the Expo, a space for speakers and other organization to share their ideas in greater depth.

11 am – 3:30 pm Solomon Hall Brown University Main Green

Please come speak with us about Design + Health, our course, workshops, and campus presence.  We’re excited to share ideas and continue building a stronger RISD/Brown partnership between the sciences and the arts. See you there!   Learn more about Better World and their impressive group of speakers: http://www.abetterworldbydesign.com/

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EMR Reimagined

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EMR Reimagined

By Pranav Reddy

A constant complaint of physicians is the difficulty of using electronic medical record. Far from contributing to the patient experience, EMRs often prevent effective transparency, decrease the “inter-subjective” connectivity of the healthcare encounter, and have low levels of user-friendliness.

EMRs could be so much more, if designed with care and thoughtfulness. We aspire to create an EMR that informs the patients, enables physicians’ diagnostic thought process, and is a collaborative effort between patient and doctor. Our Re-imagined EMR will have all of these facets within a framework that is as intuitive as an online social network.

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ColaLife coming to Brown + RISD, December 4th, 2013

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ColaLife coming to Brown + RISD, December 4th, 2013

By Ravi Sarpatwari

 

Interested in the intersection between global health and design? Come hear from ColaLife’s Public Health Adviser, Rohit Ramchandani, about an innovative public health solution to a global problem. ColaLife is an independent, non-profit organization that utilizes Coca-Cola’s distribution channels to bring oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements to remote areas in the world. These products are packaged into wedge-shaped pods which fit in the empty spaces between Coca-Cola bottles when they are transported in crates.

This event is open to all members of the Brown University and RISD communities. Dinner will be provided.

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013, 6:00-7:00pm

Alpert Medical School, Rm. 170
222 Richmond Street

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PAUSE EMOTE – Amy Goldfeder (RISD ’13)

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PAUSE EMOTE – Amy Goldfeder (RISD ’13)

By Anna Delamerced

n the U.S., there is a suicide every 15 minutes.  25% of deaths are related to drug or alcohol abuse.  And 1 out of 4 people have a mental illness.  But patients see their therapists and mental health providers for only 0.04% of the entire year.

Amy Goldfeder, a 2013 graduate of the Industrial Design masters program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), is a game changer.  With her brainchild “Pause Emote,” she is looking to revolutionize the mental health industry.

Pause Emote is an app that uses mobile technology to diagnose and treat patients.  To document life as it is actually happening in real time.  And to enhance communication between them and their therapists or psychiatrists.

Patients record their feelings at any given time in the day in a daily log.  For example, they can be at the gym or at a restaurant and log in how they’re feeling in those different contexts.  These key pieces of information can then be reviewed during sessions with their providers

A self-described designer, inventor, and problem solver, Amy kindly answered a few questions for D+H:

What sparked your interest in design in the first place?  Have you known since you were a kid that you’ve wanted to go into the field of design?

“I grew up in New Jersey and have pursued drawing and painting my whole life.  I’ve just always loved drawing and painting.  I took classes at art schools like the Pratt Institute, attended summer programs like Sotheby’s in London, then earned an undergraduate degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006.  I focused on interior architecture and after graduating I worked in architecture and branded environments.  I got to do really cool projects like working in a film studio that was all sustainable, really high-tech, and beautifully designed.  But at the end of the day, not many people had access to the building.  So I became more and more interested in industrial design and product design, and its impact on multiple people.”

Your current work, Pause Emote, provides a platform for people to record their feelings and aims to assist people with mental illnesses.  How did you become interested specifically in this field of emotions, psychology, and mental health?

“It really all started with this idea of mindfulness.  I personally got into meditation, and so I was toying with the idea on figuring out a way for people to become more mindful.  To help people pause their lives and take breathers.  I started thinking, how can technology be used to help people do that: for us to pause and reflect and be mindful.  Looking deeper into psychology, mindfulness, and meditation, I became interested in mental health as well.  With Pause Emote, I’m hoping to break the stigma around mental illness.  Ultimately this app could be used by anyone.”

Can you take us through the process of designing and testing your idea and product?

“There’s still a lot of beta testing to go through, but I’m happy with where my design is going.  I’ve tested the app with people but it’s not yet out on the market.  I need to tweak some things and refine some things.  For now, I’ve tested it with family members and friends, and am currently working with a hospital in order to test patients.”

What were some of the design challenges you encountered?

“(Laughs) There’s always challenges.  You think you know things and then you put it into people’s hands, and it’s cool to watch how people use your app.  For example, I thought people were going to touch the screen with their fingers in one direction but they ended up moving their fingers in the other direction.  People’s reactions definitely influence my design. Another example is that I thought my ‘Emotions 1-10’ scale would be great and easy to understand — people would rate their emotions (e.g. calm, anger, anxious, confused, sad, joyous) on a 1-10 scale — but when I went to test it out on people, in reality people didn’t get it so I changed the design.

It’s a great learning process.  I understood I had to change it.  So now, for example, I incorporated language instead of a ranked scale: “I’m really sad” to “not sad”.”

What’s the best part about the design process?

“I think really that’s the best part — learning.  Learning from my mistakes.  I love the challenges that come inherently with this whole journey.  I’ve learned to just put things out there really quickly (RISD taught me that), make a lot of mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and change things.

And it’s also fun to be surprised.  One thing that really stuck out with me is what one person told me after using the app.  She had been seeing a therapist once a week for a very small amount of time with the therapist; this person was quite depressed, and didn’t tell her therapist everything, but within the first few days of using Pause Emote, she logged everything down, like whenever she was happy after hanging out with her Chihuahua.  So people showed me things about my product that I didn’t even know, and it was enlightening.”

What kind of impact do you hope Pause Emote will achieve on people?

“There’s value in stopping and thinking about how you feel, so recognizing a feeling at a specific moment is very valuable.  Again, it’s about mindfulness.  And pausing.  And this pausing and logging the feelings (‘journaling’) helps change behavior, and communication with therapist is enhanced so therapy will be enhanced.  Moreover, the relationship and the trust between therapist and patient will hopefully build and increase due to Pause Emote.”

What do you think has been your most valuable lesson you’d like to share from your experience and journey with Pause Emote?

“Fearlessness.  If it could be summed up in one word, it’d be fearlessness.  It’s definitely a risky thing to do — trying to start your own company — but just go for it.  Take a stab at it.  Reach out to people as well.  I’ve learned that people are always helpful and willing to help and talk about things.  People are friendly.”

What’s next?  

“In the future, I want to do more studies and concentrate on getting Pause Emote out there.  I want to see it out there, test it, and refine it for improvements.

In terms of other projects, I see myself as an entrepreneur, innovator, and designer.  I wear a lot of different hats, and I’m interested in many different fields (technology, healthcare, and more).  I have some other ideas but right now I’m focusing on Pause Emote.  It’s been a great journey so far and I’m looking forward to whatever happens next.”

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Increment – Maeve Jopson (ID ’13) and Cynthia Poon (ID ’13)

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Increment – Maeve Jopson (ID ’13) and Cynthia Poon (ID ’13)

By Zoe Clark

 

The future of education and learning is both exciting and dynamic; it is a field in a continuous state of evolution. Pushing at the forefront of this change are two recent RISD graduates, Maeve Jopson (ID ’13) and Cynthia Poon(ID ’13), founders of the company Increment.

Maeve and Cynthia spent their senior year degree project developing a series of sensory learning toys for the blind and were able to test their toys (O-rings and Halflaps) at the Meeting Street School. Brought together by a shared passion to change the world and a love of education and health, these two Industrial Designers are pushing what it means to experience learning. Currently, they are Marker Fellows at Betaspring and further establishing Increment.

With the Toys for Rehabilitation workshop fresh on our minds, D+H was excited to asked Increment a few questions:

Your degree project was a partnership. How did you guys come to work together? What do you each bring to the group?  

The first class we had together was Production Ceramics during our Junior Year, and after that, we just kept running into each other. We were then placed in a group together in Design for Entrepreneurship. It’s all been very serendipitous. That was the project that started it all–the PlayMap. It’s our baby. Throughout the project we began to recognize the many things we have in common: similar core values, love of an iterative design process, need for collaboration, fascination with health and education, a desire to change the world, and the inexplicable need to regularly work until 5 in the morning.

Toward the end fall semester senior year, we discussed the idea of starting a company together, and we decided that the best way to decide if we really wanted to do it, was to do a collaborative degree project. Our chemistry as a design duo was just too much to ignore. We learned quickly how to balance each other’s personalities and work styles. Maeve is broad-thinking, word-vomiting, and multi-tasks a little too much. Cynthia is nit-picky, detail oriented, and hyper focused. Since meeting, our antics have rubbed off on one another, and together, we’ve turned into a weird, but balanced combination of opposing qualities.

While we are constantly collaborating, co-designing, and now cohabiting, it’s rare that one of us is seen without the other. We spend so much time together that we can start/finish each other’s sentences, and we somehow end up wearing matching outfits.

Were there any surprising constraints or requirements you encountered while designing for your user group (initially the blind)? Things maybe a seeing child wouldn’t be very aware of?

We began our degree project by revisiting research. Heavily. It’s something that we place a lot of value in, and especially with our user group, it is the best way to get to know their needs. Even though we had worked on a fairly similar project only months before, we knew there were still gaps in our knowledge of how these kids learn. We knew that there was more to it than just add textures to everything, and we wanted to gather as much information from users and experts as possible to avoid any incorrect or condescending assumptions. We met so many awesome people along the way, and building these relationships was a very humbling experience.

During our time at Meeting Street School, we spent a fair amount of time shadowing physical therapy in the Sensory Integration Gyms, which are rooms filled with mats, ball pits, swings, therapy balls, and toys that stimulate the senses. These rooms were fascinating to us because they were used by all of the children, with and without disabilities for therapy and play. These spaces are particularly beneficial for blind children (who often have additional cognitive or physical disabilities) to train their bodies to balance, orient themselves, and move around independently. The “why” behind this hybrid of play and therapy was what really inspired us: through this, kids gain skills to learn to walk with a cane, but even to develop pre-braille dexterity, and other skills for independent living.

It seemed that iteration and model making were really important to your process, usually met with many late nights in studio–any funny/crazy stories from one of these nights?

There isn’t really just one story, but our approach to senior studio got a bit nuts. Or we got a bit nuts. By the last few weeks of the semester, our play-mess had spread over several classmates’ desks… We would just kind of ooze over onto their workspaces when they weren’t in studio. We had one table that we had taken over, entirely dedicated to making the mold and casting the Half Laps. There was clay, and fiberglass, and plaster, and expanding foam EVERYWHERE. Eventually we actually just bought our own shop vac.

We had also stolen tools from just about everyone on our floor (and from some other floors as well), and consistently left these obscenely large messes in our wake. The cleaning staff actually just stopped cleaning up after us for a while. We don’t blame them. And of course it was awesome when, on that last night/morning, at about 5am before our crit, some of the cleaning ladies came in to wish us good luck (and good riddance).

You were able to test many of your ideas with a local user group at Meeting Street School. What was it like seeing your toys being used?

Incredible. It is amazing to be able to watch how our toys can fit into real-life education and therapy. Seeing a kid play with something you designed, with a huge smile on her face, is pretty much the best feeling ever. It’s a feeling that’s addicting, motivating, and so encouraging. It made all those late nights worth it, and we look forward to plenty more.

What can we expect from Increment in the future?

We’re currently Maker Fellows at Betaspring, taking part in the fall session as newbies in the startup world. It’s been an awesome experience for us so far, since we get to shadow all the events and programming, pitch with the rest of the cohort, and mingle with mentors, without having to deal with the investment/equity tradeoff. The program itself is a bootcamp environment, and it’s got us hard at work on fundraising, networking, and finalizing the O-Rings, which will be our first product to bring to market. Kickstarter coming soon!

On the product development side, we will be branching out to work with kids on the autism spectrum, as well as those with more physical impairments such as cerebral palsy, and creating toys and equipment accessible to their needs.

In addition to production and further product development, we’re really invested in the relationships we’ve formed along the way, so we are planning to hold some community based play events in the near future. Lots of kids, lots of play, lots of fun.

Anything else you want to comment on, or include?

We’ll be presenting at Betaspring’s Launch Day event on November 14th, and we’d love to have you there! Can we get some RISD folk to cheer us on?

Also, feel free to learn more at our super bare-bones website, incrementstudios.com! Contact us at hi@incrementstudios.com, follow us at incrementstudios.tumblr,com, and tweet at us @IncrementTweets! All of the social media!

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RISD Blockparty 2013

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RISD Blockparty 2013

By Zoe Clark

 

Design+Health was all work and no play at Tuesday’s block party…

Well, sort of.

We are so excited to launch our first class this Wednesday! We have a really exciting curriculum planned for this semester, starting with a workshop examining sound in the hospital environment–can’t wait to meet everyone and begin discussing and collaborating.

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Assembly: Creative Vernacularism – RISD Public Health + Public Space

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Assembly: Creative Vernacularism – RISD Public Health + Public Space

By Ravi Sarpatwari

 

12 – 1 pm, Contemporary Art Gallery

Part of Locally Made’s One Room.

In Assembly, gather for casual meetings of the minds and unexpected happenings curated by local artists and designers. Congregate for poetry readings, sonic performances, movement, projection, and more.

Patricia Phillips curates Creative Vernacularism from 9/24-9/29.

Locally Made invokes the situated conditions of people, practices, adaptations, habits, and innovations derived from a particular time and place. Contemporary concepts of creativity and vernacularism provide a platform to consider what it means to make and flourish locally. “”Creative Vernacularism”” is a dynamic convening of active initiatives and bold speculations in art, design, and public space that seeks to prepresent Providence’s distinctive critical and creative character. — Patricia C. Phillips

9/28: RISD Public Health Space featuring Nadine Gerdts, David Kim, Jordan Taylor, Julie de Jesus, and Noel Lefebvre.

The HAD (Health, Art + Design) Breakfast series develops a new methodology of community engagement utilizing the unique position of RISD, an art and design institution. The series works to immerse artists and designers in the perspectives of the Providence community. Through walking tours, collaborative brainstorming activities, and conversations over breakfast, the group will explore new ways of building sustainable relationships for future projects. — Noël Lefebvre

Free with museum admission.

Patricia C. Phillips’ research and writing involve contemporary public art, architecture, sculpture, landscape, and the intersection of these areas. Her essays and reviews have been published in Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Sculpture, and Public Art Review, as well as books and collected essays published by Rizzoli International Publications, Princeton Architectural Press, M.I.T. Press, Actar Press, Bay Press, and Routledge. She is the author of Ursula von Rydingsvard: Working (New York: Prestel 2011) and It is Difficult, a survey of the work of Alfredo Jaar (Barcelona: Actar Press, 1998). She recently completed essays on artists Mel Chin, Alfredo Jaar (for the 2013 Venice Biennale), and temporary public art for a forthcoming Companion to Public Art by Wiley Publishers.

Her curatorial and design projects inclued Disney Animators and Animation (Whitney Museum of Art, 1981), The POP Project (Institute for Contemporary Art/P.S. 1, 1988), and Making Sense: Five Installations on Sensation (Katonah Museum of Art, 1996). From 2002-2007, she was Editor-in-Chief of the Art Journal, a quarterly on contemporary art published by the College Art Associations.

She was appointed Dean of Graduate Studies at Rhode Island School of Design in August 2009.

RISD Public Health Space is an initiative focusing on how art and design can uniquely advance health in the public space of Providence. Funded through a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, the initial research phase is exploring new ways in which RISD can support and engage with the Providence community. The project will take place between June and December 2013 and has three main objectives.

Reposted from the RISD Museum Calendar.

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Comfort Devices – Wesley Chau (RISD ID ’13)

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Comfort Devices – Wesley Chau (RISD ID ’13)

By Zoe Clark

As the baby boomer generation begin to age, many are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Patients undergo cognitive and physical impairments that compromise  their minds and bodies, until they can no longer function independently.  These changes and losses are complex and painful for patients and also  for their  families. Wesley Chau, a recent grad of the Industrial Design department at Rhode Island School of Design attempts to make this transition easier using a unique weighted blanket. The Comfort Device is a wearable module that that integrates three multi-modal therapies: weighted blanket therapy, sound therapy, and heat therapy.

Wesley answers some questions D+H had for him:

A lot of your work focus on sensory design. What do you find so intriguing about this field?

“Before pursuing ID at RISD, I was leaning towards a health sciences/pre-med direction. The field of sensory design is really exciting because it grants me the opportunity to deal with related health issues through the lens of ID and creative thinking.” 

Your Comfort Object Project started in a self-directed senior studio, how did you develop the project idea? Take us through the process. When did you first become interested in designing for the aging population?

“Prior to senior studio, I took Leslie Fontana’s advanced studio “Designing for an Aging Population”. My interest in taking this course came from a curiosity in designing for consumers like my grandparents. Both my grandparents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. This personal connection informed my work with a level of empathy and drive. After spending a semester designing story-telling tool kits for A.D. families, I knew there were more design opportunities within the realm of dementia. Later, I submitted a proposal for the spring senior studio on designing for dementia patients.”

What were some of the design challenges you encountered? What surprised you most in your experience?

“Design challenges included balancing form with usability and being able to step away from a project phase and move forward. When I had the opportunity to have my working prototype tested on a long-term care resident, I had to hand my model off to the resident’s daughter and let the user react alone with the object. Being physically absent from testing was difficult and to my surprise, relieving. It allowed me to have complete faith in my work and to step away from the process for a moment, which is healthy.”

What Next?

“I hope to re-iterate the design once more. After consulting with other professionals in healthcare, I am getting new suggestions and ideas for simulating these sensations through alternative modes of sensory input. I am also keen on improving the product for manufacturability. The goal is to continue this project on the side and to acquire support and testing trials from nursing homes.”

Anything else you want to comment on, or include?

“The aging population (ie. the baby boomers) may not seem like a major demographic to design for today, but within the next 5-10 years, they will take up a huge portion of our population. They will demand exceptional design solutions to address their growing needs in all facets of daily life. It’s a really exciting area and I’m looking forward to seeing the design world embrace it.”

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RISD Receives Grant to Support Public Spaces / Public Health in Providence

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RISD Receives Grant to Support Public Spaces / Public Health in Providence

By Ravi Sarpatwari

 

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has received a one-year grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to support an initiative that will develop ongoing, connected, and sustainable ways that RISD – as a principal organizer and creative catalyst – can work in the City of Providence through its public parks and spaces and its wealth of organizations in common cause to create and sustain a vibrant, vital, and healthy living environment. The proposed project will position Providence as a national incubator and replicable model of how innovative community-based art and design interventions can transform cities into dynamic and effective sites for improved public health.

Over the next year, RISD proposes to identify ways in which it can, as a leading college of art and design, contribute to public health initiatives throughout Providence. Building on the intellectual, cultural, and physical assets of Providence and working collaboratively with local organizations and agencies, we will use the creative breadth and depth of RISD artists, designers, and museum art educators to develop interventions across the city. These pilot projects will strategically use Providence’s neighborhood public spaces to encourage and support healthy behavior and to enhance community health advocacy and assets. The initiative will be guided by our conviction that the vitality, diversity, and agility of the arts can promote and facilitate healthy living throughout the city’s many distinctive districts.

Background

RISD’s Strategic Plan (2012-17) places the highest priority on nurturing critical making, thinking, and innovation through immersive, disciplinary learning and engagement in the practice of art and design. RISD specifically includes healthcare as an area in which art and design can make meaningful contributions through core competencies of critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and public engagement and through increased emphasis on interdisciplinary study and collaborative research.

Supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in March 2011 RISD organized “Make It Better: A Symposium on Art, Design, and the Future of Healthcare” which brought together a diverse group of artists, designers, public health leaders, healthcare providers, entrepreneurs, and innovators for presentations and discussion on the intersection of art, design, and health. RISD faculty and students have frequently worked on wellness and health issues in Providence and other sites for several years, but the work has not been documented, inventoried, evaluated, and organized as a foundation for future work. The symposium was a galvanizing and expansive convening that has brought focus to RISD’s capacity and has served as a catalyst to inspire and guide current and future work.

Key findings from the Symposium that have shaped the development of this project and will guide RISD’s work going forward include:

  • changing preconceptions of artists and designers and reframing their role in health and healthcare innovation.
  • RISD faculty and students have introduced health challenges into our curriculum and demonstrated the benefits of art and design education to problem solving in health and healthcare.
  • health is more than an absence of disease: all individuals, including consumers, healthcare providers, researchers, artists, and designers can participate in public health.
  • making the healthy choice the desirable choice can promote health behavior.
  • the built environment can support healthy behaviors, impact health outcomes, and encourage engagement and participation.
  • interdisciplinary research collaborations between artists, designers, and health scientists promote health innovation and advance research.
  • art inspires community-based participatory models of health activism.

Since the “Make It Better” Symposium, RISD has developed a vision for utilizing Providence’s extensive network of public spaces to mobilize the City as a healthy community network.

Goals and Objectives

The overarching long-term goal of the project is to address living behaviors upstream before they become health care issues downstream. The project will explore innovative ways of using art and design and public spaces to promote health.

The requested grant will support the following objectives toward the long-term goals:

  • Assessment of current conditions in order to identify sites and opportunities to connect artists and designers with health experts, policy-makers, and community leaders.
  • Development and launch of a virtual “healthy community network” – an interactive map that integrates and overlays information about demographics and health data; available health related resources; and an inventory of current health projects in order to identify critical gaps, prioritize actions, communicate our initiative and gauge impact. The map will be available on the RISD website.
  • Roster of internal stakeholders (RISD faculty and students) interested in or already working on public health issues.
  • Roster of key external partners from across sectors (government, health, academic, cultural, corporate, creative) to create a network that advocates for and advances healthy activities and communities throughout the city.
  • Formation of an Advisory Committee, composed of internal stakeholders and external partners, to guide decisions between meetings.
  • Identification of platforms from Providence’s diverse palette of 80+ public parks and other public sites that will serve as an inter-nodal organizing network to develop, share, and distribute health incentives and wellness initiatives.
  • Facilitation of artists and designers working with those in the health field to develop the skills and knowledge needed to address health concerns that have been identified as the most pressing for the coming decades.
  • Support of 2-3 pilot interventions incorporating art and design that promote, encourage, and facilitate behavior that will lead to better health outcomes.
  • Development (with partners and stakeholders) of a prioritized plan (2014-17) of actions, interventions, and programs to make Providence a national exemplar of a dynamically arts engaged healthy city.
  • Positioning of RISD to develop the resources to sustain its efforts to create a vibrant urban environment that supports public health and wellness in Providence.

Reposted from RISD Academic Affairs

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Design+Health Elective Launches This Fall

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Design+Health Elective Launches This Fall

By Ravi Sarpatwari

 

[A]s more people develop a design sensibility, we’ll increasingly be able to deploy design for its ultimate purpose: changing the world. –Daniel Pink

 

Beginning this fall, students from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design will have the opportunity to work together in a new elective course entitled Design + Health.

Through a series of immersive workshops, the course is meant to expose students to the variety of ways that design can influence health–from community design that encourages healthier behaviors, to the design of medical products, to the role of design in communicating medical information. The learning objectives are based on the needs to not only facilitate awareness of design’s capacity to promote health, but also to advance research in this area and allow for increased utilization among the medical and public health fields. By facilitating collaboration among design and medical students during their formative educational experiences, the course is meant to stimulate discourse and creative thinking in addressing complex healthcare issues we face today.

The course is part of the larger Design + Health initiative established this spring. This partnership between AMS—a leader in medical education and biomedical research—and RISD—a leader in art and design education—seeks to combine the strengths of both institutions and represents a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of design and health innovation. Although academic precedents linking design and health exist, this collaboration would be among the first to actively bring together design and medical students. Conceived from its earliest stages as an interdisciplinary partnership, Design + Health is an experiment in creative thinking to inform a new approach to healthcare problem solving.

This website serves as the virtual space for the initiative and course, and provides a way for students, faculty, healthcare providers, designers, and community members to connect and share ideas.

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