Objects as Dialogue: Lab for Living

Recently, some of the researchers and designers from the DHW lab spent time in the UK with our colleagues from the Lab for Living in Sheffield. This opportunity arose from the successful Catalyst Seeding Grant: 

Catalyst: Seeding funding is provided by the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. This programme is aimed to facilitate new small and medium pre-research strategic partnerships with a view to developing full collaborations that could be supported through Catalyst: Strategic over time.  The application centered around developing the partnership the DHW lab has with Sheffield Hallam University’s Lab4Living, and AUT Centre for Person Centered Research and will explore design opportunities for people living with dementia in hospital and the community. 

One of the specific learnings for us here at the DHW lab was the research they are conducting around 'objects as dialogue' i.e. how objects and exhibited artifacts might facilitate user engagement around a specific social issue or research question and provide valuable inputs to a design process. 

In a session with a community support group for elderly and dementia sufferers, the ‘Exhibition in a Box’ was introduced; a specific discussion topic was given to the group, and in pairs we took turns using an object from the exhibition to interpret the discussion topic.


The ‘Exhibition in a Box’ exercise was developed as a portable version of the successful 2012 ‘Engagingaging’ exhibition; a series of everyday timber furniture pieces modified in some way to provoke discussion about the needs, preferences and aspirations of older people in the home, in order to design better products and services that support independence in later life.

Instead of bringing elderly people to an exhibition, the ‘Exhibition in a Box’ transforms the environment of the elderly person into the exhibit. The product is now being used across Europe by clinicians looking for creative new ways to connect with their elderly patients.

Engaging Aging Exhibition
Engaging Aging Exhibition
Engaging Aging Card Deck.
Engaging Aging Card Deck.

3D scanning

As an environment, the lab strives to foster collaborative working relationships between design and health. Dave White, an Engineer at Auckland University of Technology, works in the area of respiratory mask design and has received funding for a 3D scanner. The device is able to map three dimensional objects accurately, and translates information into a CAD file. Technology like this is not confined to developing new concepts in the field of resipratory health, but can be used in any number of health product applications.

DSC06306 Edited

These types of technologies are of significant benefit to researchers looking to explore new ways of designing health products. Helen Cunningham, pictured in this photo is currently developing her PhD in Respiratory mask design and is stoked to have access to kit of this quality!

Visit from the Director General of Health

Recently the Director General of Health Chai Chua and Michael Hundleby visited the design lab as part of a recent ADHB visit. CEO Ailsa Claire and Andrew Old, along side Lab directors Justin Kennedy-Good and Stephen Reay presented the vision for embedding design in the hospital experience. Its a honour to have visitor like this to the design lab and we appreciate them all taking time to come in and see us!

Visitors Edited with Names

LAB Friends: Air New Zealand

Recently Air New Zealand visited the DHW lab, interested in its approach to in- house innovation at the Auckland City Hospital.  More specifically, we discussed the agency of a studio space within the hospital and how an unused storage space was converted into the pop up work environment. Following their visit to the hospital, Air New Zealand hosted the some members of the Lab team at their innovation and event centre in downtown Auckland. We look forward to maintaining this relationship as both creative spaces change and develop in the coming months!

air nz at the lab

LAb at air nz