Talking Minds: Featuring on Design Assembly


Talking Minds is a website we have co-designed with young New Zealanders who have experienced psychosis and their whānau. Its aim is to help inform young people in New Zealand and around the world about psychosis so that they can recognise the signs early on and be empowered to live their lives to the fullest. The website also provides information for families and friends who want to learn more about psychosis and how best to support young people who experience it.

Recently, this project was featured on Design Assembly. Read the full article here.



Three things we learned at EURO IA Conference

During a recent research trip, two of our designers attended the European Information Architecture conference (EURO IA).

The conference was held in Stockholm, after spending time with our colleagues at The Lab for Living in Sheffield.


What follows are our top three key learnings—in no specific order.

1. The role of a discovery phase in a design process:

Discovery is a set of activities that yield shared knowledge to structure and inform design decisions about a particular project.

If we think design or discovery is just problem solving—we can’t understand a problem until we try and solve it through a design process. Therefore a discovery phase is not just about ‘research.’ It includes any activities you need to build up the shared pool of knowledge amongst a design team. Discovery is chaotic and messy—because it reflects creative process. In one sense it's a compromise—in that we are trying to recreate an organic, explorative process in a corporate or consulting context.

Discovery is not a phase.
Discovery is a mindset.

2. How designers deal with Interactions and workspace.

The keynote of the conference was Stephanie A. Hughes speaking on how contexts can be designed to foster human interactions. She has a specific interest in how workplaces foster human interactions including collaboration, learning, creativity and innovation.


Context is what gives meaning to our interaction. As designers we don't design interactions—rather we design the context in which interactions take place. The role of physical space is three fold:
1: Backdrop to the activities of the people/interactions in the environment.
2: Communicator of values/strategy of the group.
3: Enabler of the type of activities that take place there.

Hughes advocates for people treating their works space as team member, and holding it accountable. We cannot design or force interactions; we can only design a context to foster interactions. 

Stephanie's talk resonated with the way in which we have viewed our Lab studio at Auckland City Hospital. We have built an environment that reflects the work we do and how we do it—experimental, optimistic and inspiring (we hope!) for both workers and visitors. Our space is responsible for communicating our values, signalling that it's safe for people to think and work differently.

Stephanie's design practise can be found here.

3. Working on mixed discipline design projects.

The speakers discussed an urban development for a new city centre to remedy an air quality problem. Their epiphany came when they were able to translate design patterns from the digital space (as Information Architects) to the physical space (urban development).

For example, their use of VR technology allowed them to engage the public and gather feedback on specific aspects of the design. They prototyped physical solutions as well, by blocking one of the streets that would no longer be available for cars. Working alongside city government and urban designers, they emphasised the end to end experience of engaging the public before, during, and after the design phase. 

The work we do to bridge design disciplines at the DHW Lab enables us to consider a problem before we decide exactly how it might be solved. This does not discount the need for specific design skill, instead it should encourage a collaborative approach across  design disciplines to create effective solutions.


We are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have been part of such an engaging international design conference in a beautiful city.






The lessons we learnt from prototyping Starship Outpatients.


We installed wayfinding prototypes in Starship Outpatients which has recently been refurbished. The department has a high number of different clinics running through this space on any given day. Due to this, there are a variety of patient journeys and processes. We needed to test our ideas to see what would work best to try streamline patient journeys through the space, taking into consideration current and future process changes. 

Tiled A3's were spray glued on coreflute and hung in the space. Rather than prototyping signage for the entire department, one route was chosen to test. When installed, we sought feedback from families and staff in the space, to gauge what was working, and what needed improvement. The iterative and low-fi nature of the designs meant we could quickly respond with changes.  

Going forward we're now consolidating the lessons learnt from prototyping, and incorporating these into the final design for install. 

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How can person-centred design help patients with dementia?

The hospital's inpatient mental health facility was undergoing refurbishment. As part of the revamp, staff asked what could be done to demonstrate a more person-centred approach to the environment. Patients may stay in the facility for short to extended periods of time, and are diverse in age, ethnicity, and diagnoses. Due to being a new and unfamiliar environment patients with cognitive impairment, especially those with dementia, can find it difficult finding their way back to their rooms.

Working collaboratively with a geriatrician and occupational therapist in the facility, we developed a collection of frames to identify patient rooms. For the frames, American ash wood was used to contrast the clinical feel of the environment. Due to the turn over of patients, the design inside the frame had to be simple to create and change. Working with staff, we developed a simple template that could be used and printed on the ward as needed. Working with a occupational therapist, patients could choose an image (either their own or one off the internet) and what font they would like their name. This would be collated and then placed in the frame by the patients door.

The frames have recently been installed, and next steps are to evaluate how effectively patients are finding their rooms, how the personalised frames make patients feel like they belong, and what impact they have on families visiting the space. 


Make Nice_ The journey to success by Lauren Stewart

Recently I had the opportunity to go to Sydney to Make Nice, an un-conference for creative women

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The conference was aimed to provide practical advice for women working in the creative industries, promote the importance of a thriving and supportive professional ecology and foster an ongoing dialogue between women.

The most notable difference with Make Nice, was the Town Hall sessions—everyone was treated like an expert with their own stories. If a speaker said something that wasn’t relevant for you, another person in the audience had something that was perfect for where you were in your creative journey.

My big takeaways from the conference are central to collaboration and pivoting. These were really strong themes throughout the day.

  • Collaboration is the key to success; it’s not lonely at the top if you collaborated to get there. Collaborate with people who are frustrated by the same things as you. Collaborate with people who inspire you.
  • We are learning along the way, all of the time. Life as a designer is often lateral—we are not always going onwards and upwards, sometimes it’s back and forth and side to side. This is central to allowing yourself to pivot on an idea. It is central to prototyping and it requires you to leave your perfectionism behind.

Finally, women in Australasia have a tendency to explain their success away, saying they are 'lucky' to be where they are. In reality, we have worked really hard, be confident in your abilities and celebrate your success along the way.






DHW Lab x Lab 4 Living

This week, some of the team from the DHW Lab are in the UK with our friends at the Lab 4 Living. Based at Sheffield Hallam University, the Lab 4 Living are a research programme who work on a diverse range of design research projects in the area of health and wellbeing. We have established a long term collaboration with the team, dating back to the formative stages of the DHW Lab in late 2013, and they have provided endless inspiration and support these past few years.

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The core focus of our time together has been dedicated to comparing and contrasting the different models, context and cultures of our respective design for health labs, and generating opportunities for future collaboration.  

One of the highlights of the week was the symposium held on Tuesday 19th September - 'Intersections of Practice.' Designers and researchers from both the Lab 4 Living and the DHW Lab discussed the nuances of multidisciplinary practice across design and health. We also had an outstanding afternoon spent with the virtual reality and digital designers from the Faculty of Health & Wellbeing, who are pushing the boundaries on how VR can be applied to both training medical staff and improving patient education.


The DHW Lab are incredibly grateful for the time taken to host us in Sheffield this week and for the investment the Lab 4 Living has made into us as Kiwi counterparts. We are looking forward to seeing the team again at the Design 4 Health conference in Melbourne later in the year,  where designers and researchers from both Labs will be presenting.