Design is having a Macbook Air and wearing black designer glasses right? Not really!

Dear Medical Designer

“Learning to Design is Learning to See”

This blogpost was created for a class I am teaching to the entire 1st year medical student class at the University of Michigan as part of the leadership curriculum later this month. This is required reading and homework (see accompanying google form) for the students, however I would welcome insights from anyone willing to “see like a designer”!

Hello First Year Medical Students!

“You may not have realized this but you are all designers!”

As healthcare professionals you will be designing the healthcare experiences of your patients and caregivers on a daily basis. Therefore, it is critical that you learn how to “see” like a designer. (FYI: Seeing like a designer has nothing to do with wearing a black turtleneck and designer glasses. It’s a mindset.)

I started on my design journey a couple of years ago, and along the way I have been learning from many talented designers, including Jan Chipchase, who leads Studio D Radiodurans. He and his team conduct design research across the globe to develop a deep understanding of human behaviors, providing insights that can be used to inspire current and future innovations in service and product design. He describes himself as a “professional observer of the ordinary,” noticing things that most people take for granted.

For example, on an ordinary day, you might pass a car with this numeric artifact in the window without even giving it a second thought.

https://vimeo.com/31436844

Task #1

Watch this talk by Chipchase to understand the purpose and the cultural and contextual significance of a seemingly unremarkable artifact.

For more examples of “seeing” beyond the video, check out additional photographs and insights on his blog.

Now let’s think about artifacts you might encounter in healthcare. If you are in the diabetes clinic, you might not bat an eye at the artifacts you see below in the figure.

Figures 1A-1D

Figure 1A shows a typical written log brought in by patients during their visit to the endocrinologist; 
Figure 1B shows a drawer full of cords that the Medical Staff must use to download blood sugars from a blood glucose meter or pump;
Figure 1C shows a computer screenshot during the meter/pump downloading process;
Figure 1D is a picture of a sign on the wall of the room where the meters and pumps are downloaded, indicating which blood sugar printouts with glucose visualizations might be useful.

Task #2

What do these artifacts tell you about the current state of diabetes care? Please share your design observations and insights with me.

If you are an M1 who cannot attend my class, then please go to this Google Form to register your name and response to this question. If you are an M1 who plans on attending the class, this homework is optional, but I would welcome your participation and responses regardless!

I welcome comments via Twitter from the larger virtual community as well! In the tweet, please mention handle @joyclee and use the hashtag #umichmed. Students, if you aren’t on Twitter, I encourage you to join and learn more from my Twitter Superuser social media guide!

If you have time read Jan Chipchase’s fascinating book, Hidden in Plain Sight, where you will learn a ton about how to see and think like a designer.

I tweet and blog about health, technology, and participatory design as “Doctor as Designer”. Sign up for my Tinyletter here!

Click here for information about creative commons licensing.