UX Design | Strategy | Industrial Design


IxDA Interaction 17 Conference

I recently got a chance to attend the IxDA Interaction 17 Conference in New York City (interaction17.ixda.org). It was my first time attending a large international design conference and I'm glad I was able to attend, even if for just a few sessions. 

Since I was working during the conference, I was only able to attend a few sessions on the last two days. All the sessions I attended were in someway focused on positive social impact through design, which is what I'm most interested in. These are some of my notes and takeaways from each session.

Be Like Water: Strategies for Infusing Design in Healthcare Organizations

By Kathryn McCurdy & Jeremy Beaudry (University of Vermont Medical Center)

When the two designers arrived at the hospital, they were the only designers and everyone was used to the assumption that because of the large complex nature of hospitals, projects take at least 6 months, if not multiple years. This is at odds with the idea that using design thinking projects can have shorter cycles to create and test ideas. 

One project they presented had to do with the incredibly confusing wayfinding signage around the hospital that resulted in patients and visitors constantly getting lost. Their solution was to divide the hospital campus into a forest area and lake area, with a "river" connecting the two of them. People appreciated the calming feeling of natural elements and colors as part of the hospital.

My takeaways:

  • After talking to a different stakeholders and flushing out the issues, they took the hospital leadership on a walking tour of the hospital to experience the wayfinding issues themselves. This experience helped gain the buy in from the leadership that was necessary to implement the changes they wanted to make. 
  • They involved hospital staff in prototyping and testing the new signage in public hospital spaces. This got staff excited and invested in the project. More importantly, people got excited about the design thinking process and wanted to learn more and do more with the designers.
  • The title of their talk "Be Like Water" is about flowing through and around the large organization, transferring information, ideas, and new ways to get things done more effectively. 

Designing for Social Change: The New Principles for Design

By Masuma Henry (Artefact)

One of the stories told in this talk was about MicroEnsure, insurance for the world's poor. This is especially important because for many poor people, when a serious medical issue, natural disaster, etc occurs they have nothing to fall back on and fall hard. This population usually doesn't have insurance because it's too expensive, hard to access, and people don't believe it's accessible to them. 

My takeaways:

  • To make insurance accessible, the insurance company teamed up with a cell service provider. When someone bought airtime, they'd get a text saying they could get low cost insurance. By associating insurance with something they could afford (airtime), people believed they could have insurance.
  • Make it easy for people to buy. The company provided literature and education at stores where people buy airtime so that customers can talk to someone and ask questions about the insurance at that same location. This made getting over fears and signing up easier. 
  • Address needs as soon as they come up. The company sends agents to disaster areas, hospitals, etc to process claims on site so that customers get the cash they need sooner rather than later, because that's when they need the money. 

Designing for Rural Farmers

By Elena Matsui (Rockefeller Foundation)

This was an interesting story about how, for even the poorest people in the world, form cannot be pushed to the side in the name of pure utility. The backstory is that the Rockefeller Foundation was working with rural farmers in different parts of Africa. They found that 70% of harvested crops are lost due to flooding, rats, etc when farmers stored the harvest (usually grains) in large plastic bags. Additionally, they sprayed pesticide onto the crops before bagging them to prevent pests from getting in, but this meant they had to pay for pesticide, then wash all the crops before selling them at the market. These bags were the main way poor farmers stored the harvest because they were cheap, but the 70% loss meant that despite them producing plenty of food, many still go hungry because so much of their produce goes to waste. 

The Rockefeller Foundation's solution was a triple layered bag that would bring crop loss down to 10%. But, despite understanding the benefits, people weren't buying them. 

My takeaways:

  • Form follows function, but form is still important, even when your customer base consists of some of the poorest people on the planet. The new bags didn't look new or different enough from the old bags to justify the price difference, even though it was a very minor price difference. The farmers were far more interested in the bulky metal silos that cost way more, but they looked new, different, and better. The difference was obvious.
  • Also reinforcing the idea that form is important, is that Chinese knockoffs starting entering the market for much less than Rockefeller's bags, which made their bags seem even more overpriced. The knockoffs didn't work because they were cheaply made, which confused farmers because they lumped Rockefeller's bag with the knockoffs because there was no way to tell them apart. 
  • We can't just make a good product, we have to understand the economics around how customers are going to buy it. They would show the bag to the farmers, they'd get a lot of interest, but if the farmers were seeing it before the harvest time, that's when they have very little disposable income because they're running off the money from the last harvest. After learning this they started offering payment plans
  • We need to understand the psychology of people who are making a decision to buy. These new bags would take about two years to break even compared to using the existing bags. The farmers knew this and knew that it would be better long term, but paying some now hurts more than ending up paying more later. 
Found some old pictures
Anuruddha JayasingheComment
Prototypes: Insulin Pump, CGM, Controller (Diabetes Project)

These are prototypes for the insulin pump, CGM, and the controller. I looked at how children color and put stickers on their insulin pumps today to make it their own. I felt that there was an opportunity to create a product that was a blank canvas for the children to make it their own, undeterred by a cluttered design. So, I made these prototypes as simple as possible to push that concept. 

The one exception here is the cylindrical controller. That was an idea I was playing around with to create a highly tactile experience when using the controller. However, I don't think it's the best form for accurately selecting units of insulin or other important inputs. 

After I made these and got feedback on them I've realized that a completely blank canvas may not be the best idea. Next I'm thinking highly stylized products could be interesting by taking these medical devices from uninspired to a cool device children get to wear. 

Insulin Pump Accident (Diabetes Project)

Today I was with a friend who has Type 1 Diabetes. She was checking something on her insulin pump and accidently injected a lot of insulin. She did it by accidentally turning a knob that sent so much insulin at once she felt it going into her body. She was able to guesstimate it was around 9 units of insulin, but there was no way to tell for sure. She decided to eat soon so that she wouldn't risk her blood glucose levels dropping too low. 

This is definitely something I need to keep in mind when designing, especially for children.

Talking to an American Diabetes Association Representative (Diabetes Project)

I talked to a representative from the American Diabetes Association today. I asked him what he would tell me if I had recently found out my 10 year old child was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and was looking for information to help learn what to do. He gave me four resources that they have to help:

Everyday Wisdom Kit

  • They send a kit in the mail that would take up to 10 weeks to arrive
  • The kit is designed to help each family member and the child with diabetes learn about the disease and how to live with it
  • There is a family card game to help them learn
  • There is a DVD with real life stories from others who have Type 1 Diabetes and have learned to overcome it
  • I asked to get a kit, but the semester would almost be over by the time it got here

Family Link Program

  • Connect you with other families in the area who have a child with Type 1 Diabetes
  • Get a parent mentor who can help guide you
  • Family Link social events locally

Diabetes camps

  • Childrens camps where everyone has diabetes and children learn how to overcome their disease

Safe at School Program

  • Program to help parents communicate with school teachers and administration on how to help their child continue receiving quality education while attending to their medical needs.
  • Big issue here is making sure schools cooperate and provide the necessary support to the child


Prototyping Freelance Work

I've been using InVision to make a rough prototype of an app I'm designing for a client. It's been a few years since I've used InVision so it took some getting used to, but I finally figured out how to make my wireframes work with InVision. Now I just got to go through and modify and link all the screens. Then it's time to start user testing!

Anuruddha Jayasinghe
Article: Cellnovo Insulin Pump (Diabetes Project)

The Cellnovo system is the first system I've come across that is similar to what I've imagined for an interconnected diabetes system. It looks like it has good data analysis tools, a small pump, and a wireless pump remote.

The remote is the most interesting part of the Cellnovo system.

  • It has a built in blood glucose meter and can also receive the data from a continuous glucose monitor. 
  • You can log food and exercise on the device. 
  • It has a data connection and syncs the pump data to be accessed on a web browser. 

I think the main design advantage my system will have is being an artificial pancreas and using a phone for all the analysis and non-glucose data tracking. Using a phone would reduce the bulk the child would have to carry and act as a collection point for data from any other devices.

Article: Tight Control Of Type 1 Diabetes Saves Lives, But It's Tough (Diabetes Project)

Some quotes from an article on Type 1 diabetes from NPR.

Those with [Type 1 diabetes] still die about a decade sooner than those without.
Controlling Type 1 diabetes is a tough job. Just this morning, my blood sugar was 211 mg/dl. That's too high.
The fear of not waking up in the morning because of low blood sugar is a constant in the life of those of us with Type 1 diabetes, and it's one of the main reasons we struggle to stay in control.
What I'm Designing (Diabetes Project)

I've done research and thought through what I want to do for my project. I'm approaching this as a system. There will be two separate parts of the system with multiple products in each part.

Technologies in the works that I will take advantage of:

  • Artificial pancreas project
  • Non-invasive blood glucose meter
  • Real time health data

What I will design:

  • Artificial Pancreas
    • Non-invasive Continuous Glucose Monitor
      • Design the sensor, transmitter, receiver, and basic UI
    • Insulin pump
      • Design the pump that links to the CGM
  • Analysis app
    • Way to easily import different sources of data
    • See raw data
    • See analyzed data with suggestions