The School of Design presents new welfare designs where innovative research and design improve life for patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and their relatives. A pharmaceutical company was the key partner in a project where students from The School of Design used design to promote understanding of dementia.
Denmark has a lead position in Alzheimer’s and dementia research, and now design researchers and design students are adding their contribution with tools aimed at improving quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients and their relatives.
In autumn 2010, The School of Design partnered up with a pharmaceutical company, as a team of students and researchers took at close look at the day-to-day life of patients and their relatives, equipped with innovation models and design tools.
A jam-packed toolbox
Ten design students worked with Associate Professor Eva Brandt, Associate Professor Thomas Binder and Lecturer Morten Noer (The School of Design) to identify problems, carry out field work and visit patients in order to define the issues that patients, health care workers and relatives encounter on a day-to-day basis. A pharmaceutical company were involved from the outset, and throughout the process they were presented with prototypes in web conferences, visits and workshops at corporate locations.
And the team was impressed by the students’ ability to grasp and design a toolbox that would
have meaningful use over time and across a variety of Alzheimer’s disease patient situations.
“The students displayed sensitivity and openness as they approached patients and their relatives and caregivers. It was this attentiveness to details related to the personal situation, disease symptoms and practical aspects of the day-to-day life that enabled new insights into the unmet medical and societal needs. The interpretation of these needs and the creativity in coming up with practical solutions for certain aspects of the disease coupled with the artful design of prototype tools enabled the great outcome of the project.”
- Troels Degn Johannsson, Head of Research, The School of Design.
On Tuesday, 25 January, the team presented a box full of tools, practical solutions and creative ideas for living with Alzheimer’s. In this full-day event the design students presented their projects and debated with researchers, users and experts. The pharmaceutical company was particularly well represented at the event, with several staff members physically present.
And the reception was enthusiastic. As science advances around the world, new therapies will allow people to live a long and quality life if they adhere to therapy. Designing experiences that enable good health behavior is an emerging field and one that design students are well equipped to make contributions.
Innovation model offers new healthcare solutions
The success of the project stems from the process-conscious approach and the blend of design thinking and explorative studies. But why not leave the explorative studies to the health care sector? ”Our goal is not to provide a new approach based on healthcare methodologies but rather an approach based on everyday life with its experiences and hopes – which persist despite the illness. Our goal is to create a kit that will make it easier for outsiders to understand and engage in dialogue with those affected and thus also to help improve the quality of everyday life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease,” Eva Brandt explains.
The project lasted for ten weeks. The design process fell into three stages:
- exploration, tool development and first prototype of the box,
- research, patient visits, workshops, exhibitions and re-design of the box and
- final design, completion of prototypes and the preparation and presentation of a report and a method book to pass on the acquired knowledge.
All of this is combined in the box that the pharmaceutical company can now draw on in their future efforts. And everybody involved hopes to continue the collaboration in 2011. This means that we may see the very promising concepts implemented in future holistic healthcare solutions.
Sensitive decoding of issues
Representatives of the pharmaceutical company were present at the final presentation along with Anne Arndal (President of the Danish Alzheimer’s Association), Neel Sylvest (Danish Alzheimer’s Association), Karen Skjřtt (Demenskontakten / Danish Dementia Contact), Pedro Zagal-Faris (Danish Alzheimer’s Association) and Bent Thylř (Danish Alzheimer’s Association).
Anne Arndal looking at the tools from the toolbox
Anne Arndal of the Danish Alzheimer’s Association says about the presentation:
“I was impressed and excited. In a relatively short amount of time the students have managed to locate the problems and decode the field in a very sensitive manner. We are seeing here a range of tools to help patients, relatives – and the general public – broach the topic. Now, of course, we need to see the products in use, if the pharmaceutical company decide to develop the prototypes in the box, but they’re definitely suited for facilitating dialogue about a difficult and often stigmatising topic.”
”Those of our members who were involved are happy to have contributed to a project where young designers offer ideas for solutions and products to aid communication and demonstrate that one can actually have a life with dementia and Alzheimer’s. That can help us raise awareness more broadly in the general public. And it can help us, as patients and relatives, to live our life.”
Co-design creates welfare design with international reach
”The Alzheimer’s project is an excellent example of the ambition of The School of Design to generate development projects where teaching and research help drive development in key areas that are going to provide Denmark’s livelihood in the future. It sprang from our research cluster Co-design, where design, research and our many business contacts help achieve the welfare innovation that is so essential for Denmark”
- Rector Tine Kjřlsen
The Co-design research team previously developed The Design Anthropological Innovation Model (DAIM) – including a pilot project on waste handling. Based at The School of Design, the project cooperated with a Danish incineration company, municipalities and citizens to explore new opportunities for waste reduction and recycling through user driven innovation.
The project is presented as one of the Danish cases at the INDEX: Design to improve life website.
Facts about Alzheimer’s disease
By 2050 the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease globally is expected to reach 106.2 million, compared with 26.6 million today.
Students and staff involved
Rie Maktabi Grue, Johanna Paulsson, Sofie Holm Larsen, Monika Havn, Suzy Attah Mikkelsen, Lilith Louise Lysgaard Hasbeck, Emmy Linde, Mikkel Straarup Mřller, Nathalie Hedin and Gudrun Risak Schou.
Lecturers: Eva Brandt, Thomas Binder og Morten Noer – The School of Design.
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