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.






ID/Lab x DHW Lab collab


This past year the DHW Lab has been working on improving wayfinding at Auckland City Hospital. To provide expertise around the strategic elements of wayfinding, such as designing and problem-solving for a campus-wide system, wayfinding strategists ID/Lab were engaged. Specialising in hospital wayfinding, they have designed for over 40 hospitals world-wide. 

Unlike a traditional client/consultant relationship, this was a collaborative venture between the two studios. Strategists and designers from the firm worked over an intensive 7 days with designers from the DHW Lab. We explored the campus using journey mapping, personas, and prioritised areas for improvement. As part of this collab, ID/Lab coached members of the team in the dark arts of wayfinding, providing insight into their strategic approach and methods in solving complex, multi-layered problems.

For both studios this was a positive new experience, and we look forward to more collaborative opportunities like this in the future. The clarity they provided in their wealth of experience was refreshing and inspiring. As part of their time with us the wayfinding work the DHW Lab had completed to date was critiqued, and many of our ideas validated and made more robust. They will continue to support us till early next year, as we compile the wayfinding strategy, recommendations, and updated design guideline for the Auckland DHB to take forward.


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.

Multiple Sclerosis Guide Abroad

The MS co-design project supported by the DHW lab was recently presented at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Annual Meeting in Maryland, USA.

The banner that summarises the work was very well received at the conference, attracting a lot of attention which is hugely encouraging for project team. Out of 200+ posters, four awards were given and the MS Project banner won the Linda Morgante HOPE award for ‘innovations to impact patient care’. The event was a meeting attended by 2000+ MS Specialists: neurologists, nurse specialists, researchers and allied health so it was quite significant to receive this recognition! The judges described the project as ‘trail-blazing’ as nothing like this in the MS world currently exists.

It’s a great endorsement of the design work developed for the project banner and patient/GP relapse guides themselves.


International Connections

lab4livingheader As well as working on collaborative networks within the DHW lab, international collaborations with other ventures working in a similar areas are also vital. At the 2013 Design/Health Symposium, the DHW lab brought over Dan Wolstenholme  from the UK's LAB 4 LIVING, to share his insight into how design/health collaborations can work effectively. We look forward to developing a stronger relationship with the LAB for LIVING in months/years ahead.

Check out this write up in the link below:

Lab 4 Living: Connecting with New Zealand