Doc­tor of De­sign

As direc­tor of Emily Carr’s Health De­sign Lab, Caylee Raber works to turn the of­ten de­hu­man­iz­ing health-care ex­pe­ri­ence into some­thing bet­ter.

Vancouver Magazine - - CITY - by Michelle Cyca

Q: What does “hu­man­cen­tred de­sign” mean?

A: It means mak­ing sure that the things we’re de­sign­ing are grounded in an un­der­stand­ing of the peo­ple who are go­ing to be us­ing them by in­volv­ing those peo­ple in that de­sign process.

Q: How does that method look in prac­tice, when you’re work­ing on a project?

A: We’ve had a group of stu­dents work­ing with the St. Paul’s re­de­vel­op­ment team on how we might con­sider the front en­trance ex­pe­ri­ence of their new hos­pi­tal. Part of that work was de­sign­ing tools to fa­cil­i­tate con­ver­sa­tions, so not just go­ing in with flipcharts and a board­room ta­ble, but think­ing about how we can cre­ate in­ter­ac­tive tools to en­gage peo­ple in draw­ing out their de­sires and needs. We’ve used ev­ery­thing from string and wooden blocks to col­lage ma­te­ri­als and dis­pos­able cam­eras.

Q: So de­sign isn’t just about the fi­nal prod­uct; it’s also about the process.

A: Ex­actly—that’s a re­ally big part of the work we do. Some­times we’re just de­sign­ing tools for con­ver­sa­tion. In this case, we de­signed a tool kit that in­cluded a set of icons, in­spi­ra­tional photo cards, Post-it notes and a grid tem­plate in or­der to en­gage par­tic­i­pants in the mak­ing and ex­press­ing of an ideal floor plan.

An­other part of our process on this project was do­ing on­site ob­ser­va­tion at hos­pi­tals across Van­cou­ver—just spend­ing an hour sit­ting and ob­serv­ing how peo­ple in­ter­act in that space.

Q: What kinds of things did you no­tice dur­ing that ob­ser­va­tion?

A: The no­tion of “wan­der­ing” as a pos­i­tive ac­tiv­ity and form of dis­trac­tion. Not ev­ery­one likes to sit while wait­ing. One group in­cor­po­rated a wan­der­ing loop into their floor plan de­sign, while an­other cre­ated an art gallery space. An­other in­sight was that most hos­pi­tals have very large wel­come desks at the front, but these of­ten end up be­ing va­cant or un­staffed. We ob­served that hav­ing an empty desk ac­tu­ally feels less wel­com­ing.

We brain­stormed ideas such as hav­ing smaller desks lo­cated di­rectly be­side self­serve ori­en­ta­tion sta­tions, as well as the idea of pop-up stands, or move­able desks for when greeters are ac­tu­ally avail­able and most needed.

Q: Ev­ery time I’ve been in a hos­pi­tal, it doesn’t seem like peo­ple thought much about de­sign and com­fort. Are these new con­cepts for hos­pi­tals?

A: It is work that ar­chi­tects do and have done for years. But I do think there’s an op­por­tu­nity for dif­fer­ent de­sign meth­ods that ar­chi­tects aren’t nec­es­sar­ily fa­mil­iar with. That’s what’s been fun about this project—the op­por­tu­nity to do that.

And when you only have health-care pro­fes­sion­als in­volved in try­ing to make the sys­tem bet­ter, their per­spec­tive is im­pacted by their ex­pe­ri­ence as work­ing pro­fes­sion­als and what they know. They can no longer re­ally put them­selves in the pa­tient’s shoes. It helps to have these out­siders come to fa­cil­i­tate in a dif­fer­ent way and have a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

It helps to have these out­siders come to fa­cil­i­tate in a dif­fer­ent way.”

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