Posts Tagged design

Own Your Health

Over the years I’ve come to notice that confidence is really the root of any behavior change, especially for changes that affect your health. I also think that there are residual cultural norms here in the US which discourage self-empowerment regarding health. However, I’m happily observing that many online health resources are both democratizing decision-making and eroding those cultural norms to finally give Americans a greater sense of health ownership.

Online searches for “health ownership” will give you different interpretations of what that phrase means but to me it describes the self-confidence to participate in decisions about your health. This participation is in part the result of a more democratic relationship and greater partnership with our doctors, but it also comes from personal investment.

The more time spent researching conditions online, or tracking them via downloaded apps or embedded sensor technologies, the more invested in the experience we become. It’s the same strategy Mint uses to suck you in; the more data you invest, the more control you feel you have of your financial destiny.

What if a reliable and easy to navigate Personal Health Record (PHR) interface were available to aggregate health data – and they are coming – then those who opt to use it might feel as in control and excited about managing their health as they do now about managing their money.

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A Maker’s Approach to Health

I’m noticing a bit more of a shift toward self-reliance in what is known as the “maker movement” and highlighted by events like the Maker Faire in San Mateo each year. This observation might be more of a symptom of living in the Bay Area, but I’d like to think that the increasing popularity of steampunk is also fueling the fire of a do-it-yourself culture.

I’ve always had a propensity to want to make things, partly because of my creative background and inclination but also because the process and tangible end product are so much more rewarding than just throwing down a couple bucks. I have mountains of crafts projects stashed away but an equal number in everyday use or pulled out for special occasions like this past weekend’s Steampunk Exhibition in Emeryville where I decked out in regalia that I had partially made, modded and refurbed myself.

So, why couldn’t we take a similar approach to our own health? Where we spend time carefully crafting the food we eat, or the containers we carry our lunches in (steampunk lunchbox anyone?) In our increasingly virtual world, creating tangible things is hugely gratifying, and making things that make you happy AND healthy are the most valuable way to spend your most precious commodity – time.

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Design and the Art of Complexity

DMII recently attended the Design Management Institute’s annual meeting titled “Design Complexity and Change” at MIT. Without a doubt, this was another call to action for great design minds to help save our increasingly complex world from destroying itself. The message was echoed by speakers from corporate design centers within Nike, Virgin Airlines, and GE, within design education by John Maeda at RISD, and also from a political source pushing legislation to form a US National Design Policy to create national design standards within the government.

The motivation to engage design and designers in solving some of the most complex problems from pollution to social justice has finally come, even if only from a place of desperation. The decades of excess and deregulation have given way to economic hardships that demand more creative problem solving to ensure survival. Corporations have been discovering that design often provides a competitive advantage, but how many more times must we endure requests to make whatever we are designing look like it came from Apple? And really, does Apple-style design solve all problems?

Virgin DesignFor some, yes. Joe Ferry, Head of Design at Virgin Atlantic stated simply that they “design to survive.” A competitive advantage based solely on design (of every aspect from crew attire to corporate website interaction) has allowed the tiny airline to not only survive, but also remain profitable while almost all other airlines are stuck in the red. Virgin has transformed the unpleasant experience of flying back into a glamorous event by eliminating complexities and coveting details from mood lighting to the sexy leather bomber jackets pilots wear.

However, design thinking can be used for much heavier lifting than a sexy user experience or sleek interface. Nike is in the process of redesigning their products down to the component level to reduce waste and energy via a process they coined “considered design.” Lorrie Vogel, GM of the program, explained how integrating environmental impact into each step of the design and production process has yielded dramatic returns in reduced company-wide energy and water consumption and increased recyclability of their products.

But what stuck me as the most valuable use of design thinking was Dori Tunstall’s presentation on her work to form a National Design Policy. This document (and subsequent organization) would be responsible for creating national design standards for communications and materials produced by the government.

Dori emphasized that design plays a significant role in social inclusion as it translates values into tangible experiences. As an example, government butter and its generic, uninspiring package design pronounces to the consumer that they are not worthy enough to get a color picture on their food package like everyone else. National design standards could also help with daunting problems like simplifying the complexities of voting though coherent page layout and typography. Guidelines would set standards for legibility, literacy and accessibility for all government communications.

Alan WebberSo many of the complexities we deal with in modern life can be simplified though design if we choose to engage our creativity. As Alan Webber noted, design can be used to solve problems, initiate change and announce innovation but, at the same time, change only happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the cost of change…

Article published on the DMI site here.

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Top 10 Health 2.0 Buzzwords to Look Up

Lots of new phrases are cropping up in the fledgling world of technology-driven healthcare reform….oh, but please can we call it “improved quality and experience DESIGN” healthcare reform?!

Top 10

  1. Meaningful use
  2. Participatory medicine
  3. Open-source healthcare
  4. The Medical Home
  5. CCR (Continuity of Care Record)
  6. EHR (Electronic Health Record)
  7. The consumer patient
  8. Proactive health consumer
  9. Disruptive techology
  10. Patient-centric approach


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    “Some of the Things I Look For in a Designer…”

    frog designI was lucky enough to get a few minutes on the phone today with Catherine Sun, Principal Designer at frog design here in San Francisco. I was picking her brain for what skills and attributes she looks for as she interviews designers (mostly from an industrial design perspective). The below summary starts with junior level skills to what she would expect from a senior design manager and executive:


    • Hand sketching, conceptualization, 3D CAD rendering.
    • Design research and observation, responding to competitive landscape.
    • Strong communication skills: be able to produce a cohesive presentation of their work (clarify role, tell a good story: what was the problem, process, solution and result) and then be able to present a clear case for why a particular design is important by phone or in person.
    • Resume must be well laid out, portfolio teaser should be clear and engaging.


    • Leadership, initiative, depth to mentor others, management style (which they should be able to demonstrate through a case study).
    • Personality traits – what are their motivations to want to be a manager (use a hypothetical situation to gauge their response).
    • Design managers must be willing to deal with people issues, how much time will they spend on their people? (personnel management, creative management and working hands on).
    • Need to understand negotiation and have an approach for time and resource issues (team, client, vendors).
    • As a creative leader, a person’s credibility needs to be established with the team to form trust. This can be achieved either through reputation or demonstration.

    VP of Design

    • The most senior positions are more about leadership style, personality, charisma, confidence.
    • Must be an excellent communicator, listen well, address and prioritize multiple needs to balance different demands of the organization, project and client.
    • Be persuasive (consensus building), collect all info, make assessment, be able to present back so that everyone understands and feels like they have been heard and are on board.
    • Must have vision.
    • Need a sense of humor…

    Of all these attributes, I asked Catherine to list what her top 3 would be when considering someone and she listed accomplishment (must have the skills), interesting ideas, and good communication. Now if only there were some jobs out there to interview for!



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    Interaction Design – A rose by any other name…

    IxDAUntil recently, I’d had essentially no contact with the concept of Interaction Design (IxD) since it became a new discipline only about 5 years ago. From what I’ve seen, it is really about creating a brand experience, but to get the inside scoop, I decided to crash the Interaction09 Redux Conference on Saturday, an event sponsored by the SF chapter of the national Interaction Design Association or IxDA).


    So what did I learn? It seems that everyone has a slightly different definition of what IxD is. I tend to lean toward the way Wikipedia defines it: “Interaction Design is the discipline of defining the behavior of products and systems that a user can interact with. It defines the behavior (the “interaction”) of an artifact or system in response to its users.” My perception is that the interaction design experience should take place at every customer touch point – from the tangible product, package and literature to intangible website and promotions.

    But it seems that the purists at IxDA say “Interaction Design defines the structure and behavior of interactive products and services. Interaction Designers create compelling relationships between people and the interactive systems they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances; Interaction Designers lay the groundwork for intangible experiences.” This sounds like it only relates to interactive products like websites, games and such.

    And how is this all different from experience design? Our friends at Wikipedia say it “is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions, with less emphasis placed on increasing and improving functionality of the design.”

    I can’t say I’m any clearer on exactly what IxD is after having shared the same space with about 100 people who have it on their business cards. However, the group did have a sense of solidarity grounded in the belief that what they are doing is a critical and often omitted component in the design process. Even though the exact definition is a bit hazy, I realize that this is a discipline I need to dig into more deeply because IxD uniquely focuses on that critical moment a consumer forms her opinion – whether sweet or not.

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    I Made a Protocell!

    Well, in a virtual sort of way. I was at Scott Snibbe’s studio in San Francisco yesterday where he showed me his team’s latest interactive creation: Looking for life.

    Scott getting zappedOur protocell!This piece is a visual representation of primordial goo that invites you to interact by first self-assembling a lipid bilayer around you and then zapping some lightning to get the generative process rolling. By touching a neighbor you can join membranes and form a protocell that floats up the wall. It’s addictive and possibly coming to a museum near you.


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    DMI 2008 Remix Conference – A Social Contract for Design Thinkers

    Posted on DMI website:

    DMII was inspired to see our industry leaders go out of their way to volunteer their time and skills to improve a system for the benefit of all, just as Marcia Lausen and Susan Verba have done in their Design for Democracy campaign presented at the DMI Remix conference in October. Their presentation on redesigning the 2008 presidential ballot illustrates that, as design leaders, we not only have the ability but also a duty to facilitate the communication process beyond day-to-day client demands, to causes bigger than ourselves.

    The intensity of the participants at DMI certainly demonstrated no shortage of passion for good design. What is more, it isn’t hard to find poorly designed processes, products or communications against which to leverage this passion. Like Susan’s approach, it is a matter of selecting an issue that your experience and knowledge could best benefit from and then just diving in. For me, improving wellness, the healthcare experience and medical technology are areas in which I have found endless design holes in desperate need of emergency care.

    I discovered at a lunch during the conference that Darrel Rhea from Cheskin also has taken the healthcare issue to heart. Several years ago, after giving a lecture at the Harvard School of Design, Darrel was introduced to and became involved with a group calling themselves “The Collaborative at MIT” which has a goal of taking on large social issues through design thinking. As their first area of focus, this group chose to tackle the issue of stroke treatment. By re-conceptualizing the stroke victims, caregivers and the healthcare institutions as an ecosystem, over the last three years they have been able to create real breakthroughs in the redesign of the model for care.

    The greatest challenge is not coming up with the ideas but rather to get the system to endorse and integrate the seemingly obvious improvements. Like many visionaries, both Susan and Darrel have beaten their fists against institutional walls, and on occasion brute force and a very squeaky wheel worked. However, the Collaborative found that enrolling industry superstars and thought leaders have made the pill of change a bit easier to swallow. With the support of luminaries from leading hospitals, stroke treatment centers, government institutions, insurers, and corporations, progress is starting to be made which could translate into thousands of lives saved every year. Buoyed by that success, the Collaborative is now embarking on yet another important cause: childDMI Remixhood obesity.

    Despite the seemingly endless list of next projects to which you can selflessly donate your precious time, there is respite in that you do actually get something out of it. Flexing your design-thinking muscles for the greater good serves to reinforce and deepen your understanding and value of the process itself. As Darrel puts it, “getting involved in this project has shown me how scaling up design thinking really can help solve the world’s problems, and at the same time makes me a better practitioner on less grandiose daily work.”

    Without a doubt we do have the ability to make a difference. We have the obligation and must muster up the motivation and carve out the time. Perhaps applying some design thinking to your own interests and then mapping causes to them will light the path to solving a social issue.

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    Don’t forget that the Arts and Sciences are still BFFs

    Article published in the Design Management Institute’s Quarterly Newsletter, Q4.2008

    @ BIL conference in Long Beach 2.7.09

    Just as DMI’s Remix conference recently shed new light on the mixing and converging forces within Design Management, another interesting conference held in mid-November at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View explored the connective tissue forming between Nano, Bio, Info and Cognitive (or NBIC) technologies. Although these two conferences, Remix and Converence08, were held on opposite coasts, their nature and societal implications are actually much more intimately linked than one might think.

    It’s not by coincidence that classical education has consistently partnered the Arts and Sciences under one roof. As we know, many great scientific discoveries come from leveraging design thinking rather than from analytical brute force. However, over the years we have squirreled our scientists away in labs and transformed artists into commercial tools. But times are changing, and it is exactly in these labs that radical technologies are brewing along with the growing need for an artist’s sensitivity and intuition to help make these new resources and their benefits accessible to a wider audience.

    For example, some of the technologies discussed at Convergence08 were AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), which pushes machine intelligence beyond single-skill proficiency to a more robust and sensing interface capable of helping humans make better decisions. On the Nano front, substrates developed with nanotech coatings form materials with luminescence, strength, weight and conductive properties unimaginable even 5 years ago. Developments in Biotech offering personalized gene sequencing for an entire family shed light on what inherited land mines may await. Where it really gets interesting is when these fields converge, as in DNA computers that replace silicon with DNA or in nanomedicine, which uses machines the size of cells to carry out medical procedures.

    But really, what do NBIC technologies have to do with Design Management? Well, opportunity for one. User interfaces have to be designed, the data portrayed in the most intuitive and useful way possible, the benefits, functionality and risks communicated visually, and radical new products branded. These technologies are no longer amorphous what-ifs but rather have very real applications, many of which are already seeping into daily use within our electronic gadgets. As futurists such as Ray Kurzweil like to point out, we are at the point in the curve where exponential technological growth is about to shoot through the roof, and now is an excellent time to think about how we plan to manage the future.

    So shouldn’t the design thinkers, who are experts in modeling products, services and communications precisely to the needs of humanity, have a greater role in directing the way society interfaces with the exploding new science and technology? Right now we have the opportunity to help design a positive future by choosing first to be aware of what’s being developed and then actively participating in how and where these scientific advances are applied in our products, services and daily life. This partnership between design thinking and scientific thought was once the norm; maybe it is time to rekindle the friendship.

    Natalia Ilyin responded to my article in her blog…

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