Design Assembly recently got the opportunity to chat with AUT’s embedded multidisciplinary Good Health Design Team, about their research initiatives and how visual design can support our communities wellbeing.
What is your background and how did you get into design?
We are currently made up of designers (e.g. communication, product, digital, media), but also have diverse backgrounds in ecology, anthropology, human factors and psychology. These are our backgrounds at least, but we have found common ground in design for health. This mash up of backgrounds and different pathways form a team of designers and researchers who are interested in a transdisciplinary approach to improving health and wellbeing.
How can visual design positively impact peoples health and wellbeing?
Visual design helps us communicate complex ideas that are accessible to a wider range of people.
Giving form to ideas helps others to articulate their needs and what matters most to them. This is especially important in health, as users are often vulnerable and have a wide range of access needs. Also health systems are difficult to navigate and don’t strongly advocate for the needs of the users. Often those in healthcare don’t use language that is accessible.
Creative methods that are used in design are hugely important to help people think differently about what might be. In the context of health and wellbeing this is critical for us to better navigate towards inclusive, accessible, person centred and holistic services that work well.
Tell us about Good Health Design’s research?
We are involved in a heap of design research projects. A common theme of these is around collaboration and how to bring people from different disciplines and those with different perspectives together. This has led us to design specific tools to engage people in codesign processes.
Our work also includes a range of conceptual, explorative as well as more applied research. A current collaboration for Good Health Design involves working with AUT’s Sports Performance Research Institute and Surf Life Saving New Zealand to develop safer systems for lifeguards during IRB rescues. This has been an incredible opportunity to co-design a solution that could keep our valuable lifeguards safe in hazardous situations.
Some explorative work involved the development of ‘Exhibition in-a-box’. A discussion tool that recognises the role discussions play in shaping our experiences. Professions such as, anthropologists, archaeologists, psychologists, designers and philosophers have for a long time recognised and discussed the relationships between objects and meaning-making. This tool is used to promote conversation and discussion and as a way to build understanding of what people describe as being meaningful.
We’ve completed a programme of work with AUTs Person Centred Research around dementia and ageing, where we worked with researchers from other disciplines and a range of stakeholders and community groups. Designing online resources for people experiencing changes to their memory and thinking.
What drove you to this research area?
This is one area that matters to, and impacts everyone at some point in their lives.
Some of our personal experiences with the healthcare system have also given us drive to be involved in Design for Health.
We found it was a great chance for design/designers to show their potential in a meaningful way. It’s constantly evolving and hugely complex as healthcare itself is changing and no longer limited by old systems and thinking.
How has being in a multi/trans-disciplinary environment impacted your design practice?
When designers and health practitioners work in isolation, their efforts to address existing problems can often result in unread reports and shelved solutions. In successful design for health collaborations, by contrast, the emphasis is not on specific projects so much as on building the relationships that ensure effective working models. It is important to frame design for health collaborations in this way because good design is future-focussed, takes time, and requires ongoing teamwork and support.
Based on your research at present are there any discoveries that you can share with us?
Sometimes creative processes can take unexpected turns. Because they involve different kinds of expertise and ways of thinking, participants must be prepared to go in new and interesting directions. Design for health collaborations can be messy and uncertain but it is important to have fun and trust the process.
What factors do you think will have the greatest impact on the Health of our nation in the next 5 years?
No one discipline or practice holds the key to solving our global health challenges. Responding to Wicked Problems in health requires us to reach across disciplinary boundaries in order to develop a more holistic and sometimes tangential view of health systems, processes, and pathways. Doing so is necessary to ensure that our responses are appropriately flexible and adaptable.
How can people get involved with Good Health Design?
For those interested in a fun and hands on learning experience we offer Design for Health Bootcamps. For those who might want to extend their learning we have serval PG papers in this space. For people working in health or design contexts we are running a symposium in Sept that has just been launched.
For current students or those who might be interested can get in touch with us at… firstname.lastname@example.org