On Tuesday, February 17th, Evening Rounds was joined by Jonathan Aitken, Director of the Health Design Lab at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Jonathan gave an insightful presentation on the role of design in the product development process, and the value of design thinking.
Why involve design at the start?
All too often, projects (and communicators) focus on the production of a health product or campaign. Design is the ingredient that’s usually added at the end, with designers being asked to “make it pretty” or “make it clear”. This can lead to poorly-designed technology and communication tools, ranging from ineffective hand hygiene posters to operating room design errors that can have serious consequences.
Design thinking takes a formal, practical approach to creative problem-solving and generating solutions based on an end goal and desired future situation. The inclusion of design at the outset of a project can help to frame the problem, map the problem space and identify underlying issues and opportunities. The application of design thinking to very complex problems (or “wicked problems”) can discover truly creative and innovative solutions.
Health Design at ECUAD
The Health Design Lab follows a design thinking approach to communication design research. The Lab focuses on evidence-led, participatory and action-based qualitative research to challenge assumptions about the problem in question and how it is defined. Brainstorming sessions describe the audience and generate solution ideas and concepts, which are then tested and refined. In essence, the design never ends.
Jonathan described a number of projects that the Lab has recently undertaken: boosting hand hygiene compliance, promoting the use of automated patient lifts among Resident Care Attendants (RCAs), and increasing patient safety and engagement. Visioning on these projects ranged from elevator wraps and interactive dispensers for a hand hygiene campaign, to scenario mapping and a mentorship system for RCAs, to cognitive mapping and brainstorming sessions for patient engagement.
What’s the take home?
When approaching a communication design problem, ask these key questions:
What does success look like?
Who are you trying to reach?
What are you really trying to accomplish?
Embrace design at the beginning – it’s as important as research and development.
Design starts as soon as you identify the problem.
Insist on a participatory design process.
It’s not about the poster!