Airbridge Safety by DHW Lab

This recently installed design focusses on improving the safety of nurses and doctors using the airbridge that connects the helipad to the hospital. Large environmental graphics highlight safety, warning, and danger zones whilst clear iconography is used to identify health and safety equipment. The corridor is treated as a 'shadow wall', with key items such as stretchers allocated to specific areas on the bridge to maintain an ordered and safe working area.






'The Present'_ Reflection by Eujeen Hwang by DHW Lab

Designing in the context of health and wellbeing has always been an interest of mine. Doing my project with the DHW Lab was a valuable design experience for me. Especially being able to design  in the field of dementia.

Having lost my family member to dementia made this project a very emotional one for me and it had acted as a motivational push for me. 

The design process was a challenge as usual. One side of me wanting to jump to conclusions and the other side knowing there is more possibilities in it. The feedback I got from DHW Lab team and my lecturers helped me push on, because they also knew there could be more done. When I decided to just let go of that final product image in my head, it was the scariest decision I made in a long time. My previous design which I called it to be final had so many areas that just didn’t seem right aesthetically and functionally, such as adjustable aluminium body with a wooden handle. The proportion of it also was disturbingly unsatisfying. Accepting that, and taking on board the feedback from DHW Lab crew required so much courage but I never regretted that decision. I gained trust in the design process and have become so sure of the “fail often and fast so you can succeed sooner” (-Tom Kelly).

I learnt that there is only a rough road to the design process but that makes it even more rewarding at the end.

I believe the result of my concentrated effort was rewarding. I used academic research on dementia  to inform my dual purpose walking cane design, which allowed me to produce a product that considers many of the complexities associated with  dementia.

The making process was rough, my plan didn’t go as I expected, I was denied access to machines such as CNC. Therefore my walking cane was 100% handmade. From the hand-making process I learnt so much in achieving a high quality, detail focused process. It was hard but worth it.

For further improvement, it would make sense to embed several more magnets on the wooden ball so that picking up process with the stick (with magnet also embedded) is much easier for the dementia patients. This would be necessary as for some patients it was distressing for them when they cannot pick it up immediately.

For further improvements in my next project (graduation project) I will get on with the design process, especially prototyping widely throughout the whole project. There is NO end to design!

Designing with the  DHW Lab was so valuable for my learnings and it was amazing to be designing in the context of health and wellbeing, which I always wanted to attempt. Thank you to the DHW Lab crew and my lecturers who pushed me on, thanks to my Dementia design team mates/friends/family for the moral support.  Last but not least, a huge thank-you to my granny who made this project more meaningful to me. Miss you heaps. 

I hope 'the present' will be the present for all dementia patients and their families:)

Design for Next: European Academy for Design Conference 2017 by DHW Lab

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One of our designers at the DHW Lab, Eden Short recently ventured to Rome to present her masters wayfinding work at Design for Next, the bi-annual European Academy for Design conference. This was a huge gathering with approximately 500 presentations over 3 days, with 9 tracks tackling different areas of design. The aim of the event was to be open, inclusive and international. It certainly achieved this, with presenters from around the globe and a mix of emerging and established academics. Seeing the design discipline on such an international scale was incredible, and highlighted that we are all facing similar complexities and challenges in the health and design space. There was a real sense of collaboration and community as people shared stories and strategies of what they had learnt through new projects and collaborations, as well as calls for action from education and industry. 

Eden presented in the ‘Design for Next Healthcare’ track, discussing how we might demonstrate future opportunities of wayfinding in healthcare, using a children’s outpatient department to prototype and test solutions. 

Yours. by DHW Lab

A group of third year product design students recently undertook a project investigating the experience of waiting at an oncology clinic.

Take a look at the work of Chelsea Pratt who took a unique and thoughtful approach to this design brief. Learn about it on her blog.

Healing Environments Exhibition by DHW Lab

The DHW Lab set up its first exhibition outside the lab, in the hospital waiting area on Level 5. Focusing on the privacy booth developed by the lab, we set up a display and feedback table to ask patients, staff and visitors to take a moment to tell us what they thought about, not only the privacy booth, but what a Healing Environment could be for them in the hospital.

The exhibition was an experiment in both presenting the lab’s work to a broader audience and as a way to gather feedback from the members of the public.

After lots of effort and excitement putting the display together, it was great to see the level of interest generated from a range of patients, staff and visitors. Responses were thoughtful and interesting, and very positive on the whole from those we talked to about the privacy booth and the Lab’s aspirational Level 8 Whanau space design.

The feedback we received through the exhibition has helped the Lab and the team working on the privacy booth validate its purpose and need.

Holding an exhibition in a public space in the hospital proved a great way to put one of the Lab’s ideas out there and get the public’s response. It was also a novel learning experience for the Lab in continuing to create opportunities for others in the hospital to be involved with the projects we do.

Check out the animation below for the full story of the exhibition.

Designing for the ageing brain_ Symposium summary by DHW Lab

The Designing for the Ageing Brain symposium held in collaboration with Centre for Person Centred Research (CPRC) and Lab4Living was an exciting initiative that brought together both international and local experts to share their work and discuss the challenges and opportunities for developing design-led solutions to promote well-being for people living with dementia and other ageing-related neurological conditions.

Through a series of expert talks and workshops, the symposium explored how good design can be implemented in hospital environments, healthcare services and community-focused interventions to help those living with cognitive impairment to experience better well-being.

Along with the DHW Lab and CPCR the key note speakers at the symposium were Dr Claire Craig and Prof Paul Chamberlain from Lab4Living, Sheffield Hallam University. This was a great opportunity to learn about the research and approaches being taken in the Northern Hemisphere toward dementia and other ageing-related conditions.  

The symposium covered three key themes:

·      Engaging people in co-design methods

·      Creative methods

·      Space and place

Here is a quick summary of our expert talks in case you weren’t able to make it on the day!

In his “ Engagingaging” presentation, Prof Paul Chamberlain talked about how we could go about designing products, services and environments to improve the quality of life and well-being for individuals.  We learnt how important it is to adapt the home environment to accommodate people as they go through age-related changes and challenges both physically and mentally.

Our very own Guy Collier and Nick Hayes’ presentation on designing for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) explored the strategies, supports, and resources older people use to ‘live well’ within the context of possible cognitive decline. Nick and Guy are currently working on creating an interactive online resource through co-design to help people with MCI as well as their whānau.

In her talk ‘The Whare Aroha Care transition study: A collaboration between industry and academia’ Kay Shannon described how industry meets research. This was a great real world example of how research impacted the conceptualisation of  Whare Aroha Care - a dementia-friendly care facility in Rotorua modelled on the acclaimed Dutch De Hogeweyk Dementia Village and designed to  look like a small New Zealand town that would provide a sense of independence in a home-like environment for its residents.

In “Re-designing dementia” Claire presented a vast body of research into new approaches to involve people living with dementia in the design of supported self-management, and how this helps enable fuller engagement with them and their communities and help all to contribute to more meaningful wellbeing.  

Richard Worrall and Justin Kennedy-Good “Community and commerce: Promoting universal design in hospital shared spaces.  Both Justin and Richard have been working on the public spaces and healing environments programme at Auckland City Hospital. Their presentation focused on the ongoing implications of design decisions when creating spaces, and how to make these better for people with cognitive impairment, to ultimately benefit all users of a space. The Auckland City Hospital is undergoing refurbishing of the retail area on level 5 of the hospital. This was a real-life example demonstrating how Auckland DHB  has applied design processes and methods to make the space more accessible for its users.

Rebecca Jury explored what everyone ought to know to design for people affected by dementia. While co-design is designing ‘with’ people,  not ‘for’ people, this is not always straightforward when working with complex user groups, including those with advanced cognitive impairments.  Her talk highlighted many pitfalls in the co-design process. However, a key theme was how listen carefully to people; they want to be heard and valued.

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Kate O’Connor’s talk on " Ethics for the ageing brain" challenged conventional thinking on research and health. “Health is designed by treatment, not by research”. Kate as Executive Manager of the ethics committee at AUT is constantly faced with difficult questions when research is needing ethics approval. She left us questioning the balance between research and consent and what is the right thing to when thinking of involving vulnerable individuals in research. Design research may be viewed within different ethical frameworks and these influence what might be ethical and moral to do. This can be made more complex when ethical research and design research are continually evolving as disciplines.  However,  design research is fundamentally important to improve the everyday situations of people living with dementia, but this should not compromise those who may be vulnerable as research participants.

Lastly, Hinemoa Elder began with a beautiful waiata, before exploring how understanding culture is crucial to the designing for the ageing brain. Design is not for a single person, but the whole whānau - how do designers consider language, cultural practices, symbols, cues and roles along with spiritual connections.  "He waiata, he akoranga. There is more to a song than it’s tune and actions".

Over 100 people attended the symposium.  They came from many diverse disciplines/specialisations, including architects, designers, clinicians, occupational therapists, music therapists, service improvement specialists, researchers and academics. It was a great way to share stories and explore how we might work together to explore new opportunities to develop design-led solutions to support people as they age.


Thank you to all the presenters on the day and also to everyone for attending! We can’t wait for our next symposium. Watch this space!

Au revoir, Josh! by DHW Lab

It’s hard to believe it has been nearly two and half years since I first started at the DHW Lab. To begin with, I would like to say that it has been some of the best years of my life. It’s a privilege working alongside the other members of the DHW Lab design team. They are all incredibly talented, passionate and friendly and I can’t thank you enough for their kindness to me over the years. And Steve, let’s not forget, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it!

In conjunction with my masters, my time at the Lab has been a huge learning experience. I have learnt a lot about the complexities of the hospital and challenges of practicing design in a large, well established organisation. Shifting people's mindset is never easy, but now, more than ever, I believe it’s worth it. Each project, actualised or non-actualised, is a step towards helping those involved in healthcare to see the importance and value of human-centred design.

Working with designers of other disciplines has also helped me to develop my design process and the way I work best as a designer. Particular highlights include working with Eden AKA ‘Illustrator & Wayfinding Sensei’ on the Rosella wayfinding project, working with Nick AKA ‘UX/UI & Coffee Sensei’ on the Script app and working alongside Reid AKA ‘Product & Life Sensei’ on the privacy booth.

Probably most importantly, the Lab has made me realise that this is the type of work I want to be doing, at least in the near future. I find it both morally and creatively fulfilling. The decision to leave the Lab was therefore not an easy one. It’s tough saying goodbye to my friends and family here in New Zealand. But, I hope that I can continue to find a similar sense of purpose in Toronto at Healthcare Human Factors, and potentially bring some of my learnings back with me. It will be a new adventure for my wife and I and one that I hope to share with you all when we get back.

To finish I thought it might be nice to list some of my key personal takeaways from the Lab. They are as follows:

  • Workspace is crucial. Make it cool, make it open plan, make it yours. It makes you want to come to work and do great work!

  • Hang out, talk to and ask for advice from your colleagues. If you want a true anti-hierarchical working environment you need to be mates! There is so much to learn from just chatting to one another.

  • Design success is measured completely differently to those in healthcare. Don’t let resistance to an idea get you down. Push-back is part of the job description, so learn to be patient and content with knowing you have tried, and continue to try, your best.

Learn to tell and ‘show’ non-designers what you do, how you do it and why it’s important. A huge part of this is making, even at the very beginning of a project. A shared understanding helps to better connect design problems with design solutions and enables non-designers to contribute more constructively to the design process.